Joe Hill’s “The Wraith”August 5, 2014
Avid comic book readers may recognize the name Joe Hill as being the writer of Locke and Key from IDW. Before he did Locke and Key, Hill wrote a novel called NOS4A2 about a man named Charles Talent Manx III and his mysterious domain called Christmasland. This graphic novel, The Wraith, serves as a prequel to NOS4A2 where readers will learn about the origin of Charles Manx and Christmasland.
The Wraith follows a man named Charles Talent Manx III who is a strange, creepy man with some amazing abilities and is also the keeper of a mysterious place called Christmasland. Christmasland is a place that only Manx can enter with his 1936 Rolls Royce Wraith. Manx is a problem solver of sorts who can make people disappear by taking them to Christmasland which seems to exist outside of normal reality. Manx, however, prefers to bring children there though, where they undergo changes and become corrupted by the bizarre world.
The story starts with Manx transporting a small child; the girl is scared and confused, but Manx convinces her that Christmasland is a great place and she will love it, but child undergoes physical and mental changes once inside. Charles Manx’s backstory is then laid out for us where we learn the origin of him, his car and Christmasland. It’s kind of a sad story where you will feel sorry for Manx and his early life. The main bulk of the story, however, begins when three convicts escape from a prison transport and are taken to Christmasland by Manx to hide out. The convicts learn that Christmasland is not a safe place for them; it’s a twisted place that they can’t easily escape from and must survive and find a way out. The denizens of Christmasland don’t want the people to escape and instead want them dead.
There are hints to the fact that Manx may be a vampire but it’s not specifically stated. The Wraith is a twisted tale and has some great elements of redemption from a few of the characters. The artwork and the writing are good and the story is also easy to follow. For anyone who has read NOS4A2 previously, they should enjoy this graphic novel and find a lot of value in it.
But, when it comes down to it, The Wraith is good, but not great. People that have read Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 will most likely enjoy this comic more than the casual reader. The story is mostly just an origin account of Charles Manx and Christmasland. While it does a good job of telling the reader how they both work, there isn’t enough character development to keep interest. There are a few nice elements in the story and the artwork is well done, but overall it feels like its lacking in some more exciting content, as well as some twists and turns that could be entered into the story. Instead, it’s bland and straight to the point, but it will likely still be a great read for any Joe Hill fan.