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‘Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland #1’ – Advance Comic Book Review

I have not yet read Joe Hill’s novel NOS4A2, a horror tale about a mysterious dark man who kidnaps children, drains their life force, and takes them to his demented amusement park called Christmasland, but I was still intrigued by the concept of a comic book prequel exploring the villain, Charles Manx; however, as I read through Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland’s short first issue, I realized that I was missing something by not knowing the original story, and it made the comic less enjoyable.

The premise of Wraith is quite simple: Charles Manx is explaining his backstory and the creation of Christmasland to yet another of his young victims. It follows his depressing childhood sleeping in a coffin at his mother’s work place, a combination brothel, bar, and mortuary, through Manx’s final break from our reality and creation of his own via Christmasland. Most of the plot is told via Charles’ narration, which I usually dislike, but it works for Wraith solely because it is such a dark, introspective piece. The creators illustrate some of the action to highlight important scenes from Manx’s life, but they choose to not linger over small details.

The art for this issue is very reminiscent of old silent films, which makes sense since Manx’s Wraith’s license plate is the closest you can get to “Nosferatu” with only six characters. There is a sense of foreboding and menace even in static panels, and the casual death of a rabbit in the road in the opening pages even as Charles reassures his young passenger about the wonders of Christmasland reveals that this world doesn’t believe in pulling any punches. Ironically, the cheeriest sequences occur in the main character’s horrible childhood, and the color somehow seems warmer even when the dialogue is harsh. Splashes of reds appear in key scenes to highlight the violence following Manx and how his internal thoughts are darker and more disturbing than anything he shows externally.

Overall, reading Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland just made me want to check out the novel it proceeds, because I didn’t entirely understand Charles Manx’s terrifying tale of his life. Readers of NOS4A2 should find this a welcome addition to the world, but I don’t understand this world’s popularity. Maybe I should wait for the trade, so I can get the full prequel in a single book.

3.75 Black Fantom Sleds out of 5

Jodi Scaife, Fanbase Press Social Media Strategist


Mid-30s geek type with a houseful of pets, books, DVDs, CDs, and manga


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