Art by Charles Paul Wilson III
IDW, out now
Meet Charlie Manx and his Rolls Royce Wraith – you’ll have a scream of a time at Christmasland!
One of my favourite novels from last year was Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 (NOS4R2 in the UK so the pun in the title worked), the tale of the demonic Charlie Manx, who took children to his home of Christmasland. Hill doled out various pieces of information about Charlie in the course of the story, but much was left to be discovered.
Many of the lacunae are filled by this seven part series from IDW, now collected into a gorgeous hardback, with Charlie in chauffeur uniform inviting you to step inside the titular car. The first and last chapters fill in much of Manx’s backstory, from a couple of different perspectives – or rather more than that, given that the illustrations often indicate just how unreliable the narration is. These two chapters would be worth the price of admission alone – Hill’s turns of phrase suit both the different forms of presentation (one is traditional comic book, the other… isn’t) – but encased between them is a five-part story about revenge, desperation and hope.
Charlie Manx isn’t someone with whom you strike a bargain unless you are prepared to give him exactly what he demands, and to follow his terms, and it becomes clear during the course of this story that some of the people he has brought with him to Christmasland have singularly failed to do so. The denizens of the funfair – the children whom Charlie has brought there, as well as the beasts and other inhabitants – are going to have their fun too, and there’s accordingly a liberal use of the colour red!
There are a couple of not-so-innocents caught up in this, and it’s their struggle to find a way to escape from Christmasland that drives the story forward more than the retribution being doled out. If you know the original novel, chances are you’ll get more out of this but the rules, such as they are, are made clear and the sheer ferocity of the story will not allow you to put the book down.
Charles Paul Wilson III’s art is a natural lock with Hill’s off-kilter text: just when you think that everything is going to look skewed, you realise that this is a clever use of perspective, and the surrealism has a terrible beauty to it. I’d very much like to see an adaptation of NOS4A2 itself…
Verdict: A terrifying ride which works well as a complement to NOS4A2, but stands as its own frightening spectacle. 9/10