by Joe Hill, CP Wilson and Jay Fotos
It is not terribly surprising, after seeing some of the places that Joe Hill took readers in the pages of both The Cape and Locke and Key, that his new series would feature unsettling material as well. In The Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland #3, Charlie Manx, ghastly white and long-toothed, arrives to help the cast of fugitives disappear. Manx was introduced in the series’ prologue and from the opening pages, readers will be uncomfortable knowing that things are not as they appear.
As the issue begins, Chess Lewellyn has gotten to the hospital with his son, who had collapsed at a baseball game last issue. The events are dated 1988, and readers are reminded that this story is taking place in the past. As Chess is turned away for a lack of current insurance with his son hangs limp in his arms, readers will be irate. It’s an ugly situation, and to makes Lewellyn’s present situation all the more sympathetic, knowing his crime was one that most would argue on some level to be justified. Hill does a great job generating emotions from his readers, and finding reason to be invested in Lewellyn makes what follows all the more impactful.
Wilson and Fotos have created a fantastic character in Charlie Manx. He looks very much like a classic horror villain. His skin is almost void of color, and his teeth extend far beyond any actual level of realism. But for these fugitives, he is a way out of their incarceration and that is all that matters. As the story progresses, readers learn a bit more about the other members of this group. Dewey Hansom describes his time in Hollywood and how he first came to know Charlie Manx. It is a chilling story and through some very odd lines, the audience is made to feel uncomfortable and a sense of dread. This only increases as the drive continues and readers may start to figure out where this drive may be headed. In one fantastic sequence, the story plays up the illusion of The Wraith that Charlie Manx drives and how it is viewed by the rest of the world. There is something very simple but also very sinister about this unexpected moment. It is a collaborative from script and art and it pays off well.
The issue is mostly without any visible violence. Joe Hill does a great job at telling stories and presenting situations that strike a chord that is much more primal and effective than leaving it to some overly graphic image. The book is not without its ugliness’s, and it certainly has many chilling elements. Pairing the ongoing tale of Charlie Manx, his car, and Christmasland, The Wraith is a superb twisted new title. Wilson and Fotos add to the script, creating fascinatingly creepy visuals. The total package of The Wraith comes together wonderfully and for fans of Hill’s writing, The Wraith is absolutely a book to follow.