If anyone has read the comic series Locke and Key, then you know the immense skill in which writer Joe Hill has in spinning suspenseful and good tales. If anyone has read Hill's bestselling novel NOS4RTU, then you know that the leading bad guy, Charlie Manx is one nasty guy. Now, if anyone has been reading Hill's prequel to NOS4RTU, Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland, then you know that Hill's amazing writing combined with C.P. Wilson III's stunningly horrific artwork has created in Charlie Manx a boogeyman extraordinaire, that is the stuff of nightmare. I am happy to report that as issue three unfolds, Hill and Wilson III are still rolling in their portrayal of the vampire which feeds off the spiritual essence of children to prolong his life. The kids are alive and living a life of eternal bliss at a place called Christmasland, an amusement park where Christmas occurs every day. Transport to the magical park has occurred courtesy of Mr. Manx and his Rolls Royce Wraith.
With this issue however, children are not the quarry of Mr. Manx. No, Charlie is transporting three escaped prisoners and two prison guards to his magic land that he assures will be a sanctuary for these wanted men who have escaped. Issue three follows the travail from the California desert to the snowy confines of Christmasland. Along the way, we have dialog, dreams (maybe), and the drop off where our prisoners get to meet the children that Charlie Manx has liberated from a life of sorrow and misery.
The artwork of Wilson III has a wonderfully ghoulish feel of all of his depictions of the characters within this story. What makes this issue particularly good is the slow transition that occurs as the group travels to Christmasland. It starts out like an old violent movie from the 1970s with brutal natural light, but it slowly becomes more dreamlike and surreal. A very nice touch as we recognize where the men (and one lady) are going.
Joe Hill's script really takes off here as though he is dealing with violent hardened criminals; Charles Manx is clearly the one in control here. Hill's writing feels like a cat (Manx) playing with mice (the criminals) and it really plays to the story as it starts to establish the evil that Charlie Manx is. He is one to be reckoned with in your dealings. You get the feel that pending doom awaits our convicts here.
If anyone thought or thinks that Hill is simply a one hit wonder with Locke and Key, then you are mistaken big time. I offer you this little story. Take a ride in Charlie Manx's Wraith. You will be happy that you did.
Writer: Joe Hill Artist: C.P. Wilson III Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/15/14