Monday, July 21, 2014

The Wraith: Welcome To Christmasland

 Joe Hill's creepy antagonist Charles Talent Manx III, villain of his brilliant novel NOS4A2 (Review HERE) returns for a prequel/origin story in IDW's THE WRAITH: WELCOME TO CHRISTMASLAND.

 I really can't stress enough what a huge "Get" this book is for IDW. Joe Hill is a major player in the Horror industry, and NOS4A2, in my opinion, will stand as an enduring classic of the genre as the years go by. So for IDW to get Hill himself to write a new NOS4A2 story is pretty big stuff. This is not a bestselling author supplying an idea that another writer does the heavy lifting on, which is something comic book fans have had foisted on them for years...this is the actual bestselling author, contributing his ideas, in his own words. Hill's love of comics is no secret, and his partnership with IDW has brought his fans some great stuff (Especially his LOCKE & KEY series), but this book is a whole different beast. If played correctly by IDW's marketing department, this has the potential to be a huge crossover hit, potentially reaching out to fans of Hill's original novel that have never read a comic book before. And that's pretty exciting stuff.

 All that aside, nothing matters if the story isn't up to snuff, and Hill, ably assisted by artist Charles Paul Wilson III (Billed here as Charles "Talent' Wilson III), has delivered a whopper. The main story is bookended by a pair of shorts that delve into the past of Charlie Manx: The opening story is a straight origin story, as Manx reveals the story of his life and the creation of "Christmasland", the otherworldly amusement park that is home to the transformed children that he abducts. The story that closes out the volume is heavily tied into the events that led to the creation of Christmasland. Sandwiched between those two shorts is a five-part story that gives Hill's readers all they could ever want of Christmasland, and then some. A trio of convicts, being transported to prison, manage to overcome their guards and crash the prison truck, leading one of the cons to call an old acquaintance for assistance in "disappearing". They're soon picked up by the familiar Rolls-Royce Wraith, driven by a happy fellow with a pronounced overbite.

 The convicts, guards in tow, find themselves disappearing more fully than they ever intended: Manx is taking them to Christmasland, where they can play that classic childhood favorite, "Scissors for the drifter" with all of the park's jolly little residents. Oh, joy!

 Mixed in among the copious horror and Gore, Hill also delivers a heartfelt tale of the love between a father and his tragically deceased son. Hill writes great crazy, but his non-crazy characters are genuine and believable, which makes their horrific circumstances all the move emotionally disturbing. On the art front, Charles Paul Wilson III makes Christmasland his own, wonderfully realizing all of the outre descriptions that Hill dropped in NOS4A2. There's a double-page spread towards the end that is absolutely breathtaking, both in terms of detail and layout, as Manx's children pursue a pair of escapees through an ice maze. I would buy a print or a poster of that spread in a minute. I've never heard of Charles Paul Wilson III before now, but I'm going to predict that we'll all be hearing a lot more from this talented young man.

 Fans of NOS4A2 will love this trip back in time with Charlie Manx, and new readers will find the story totally accessible to anyone who hasn't read the novel. Highly, highly recommended stuff.

 IDW provided a review copy.

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