Review - Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland #1

"We're on our way to Christmasland! It is a real place, you know. The Arctic Eye...the Ice Maze...the Great'll see them all come sun-up!"

Christmas brings with it a sense of joy and safety. Getting together with family members, exchanging gifts, decorating...everything that good consumers do for pretty much the entire month of December. For some though, the thought of Christmas isn't quite so endearing. Especially for consumers who have been ripped off when buying into a place called Christmasland, prompting them to pursue a less merry path. Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland #1 from IDW offers one such tale. The issue is written by Joe Hill, with art by Charles Paul Wilson III, colors by Jay Fotos and letters by Shawn Lee and Robbie Robbins.

Charles Talent Manx III is a man with a very troubled childhood and even more more troubled adulthood. He's had his fair share of hardships, including a prostitute mother, a wife who grows to despise him and falling for a grand con. All of those events (and more of course) push Manx into a very dark place that happens to be a rather black corner of his mind. It's here that he stumbles upon Christmasland, a world that's a far cry from the positive image one would associate with a time of year that typically engenders merriment and love.

If you know Joe Hill, then you know what to expect in Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland #1 and boy, does he deliver. Watching Manx's descent into madness is terrifying, as he starts off as just another kid looking for the simple fun of riding a sled down a hill. Instead, he's forced to experience things that most people only have nightmares about experiencing, prompting him to find solace in some rotten thoughts. His trip into mental destitution is the true horror of the story, with Hill creating a monster out of a man. It's very plausible that someone like Manx would snap at some point along his rocky life and the Wraith itself proved to be the final piece of the puzzle that would catalyze that transformation. And the fact that Christmasland becomes his happy place is a last sort of twist of the emotional knife, as he sullies what is supposed to be something happy.

While Hill's story ventures into some pretty dark recesses, Wilson III's art is what really pushes it over the edge of madness. He depicts Manx showing a physical transformation as a manifestation of his mental degradation, until he's no more than a terrifying creature who drives an ominous black car. At first, the art felt a little too grave, but as the story progresses you see that Wilson III is the perfect artist to illustrate Hill's burgeoning evil. There are some really ghastly images near the end of their road trip with teeth falling out and hands disappearing that hammers home how much reality is separating from evil fantasy. Wilson III stacks the pages with tried and true rectangular panels, all of which frame the goblin-like appearance of Manx.

Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland #1 is a very intense book that requires you pay attention. There's a ton of dialogue and story on display and it's definitely a lot to take in as the reader, but the reward is well worth it. The pairing of Hill and Wilson III create a very devastating book about one man's coping mechanism for a life of bad luck. It just so happens that it presents itself as an explosion of ill will on the part of Manx towards himself, as well as towards many of those around him. This is not really a book for the faint of heart as it delves pretty deeply into the shadowy corners of one man's tortured soul.

Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland #1 is in stores now with interiors below.