Locke & Key

I love the idea of horror in the comic book medium.  It used to be quite prevalent, but has in recent decades mostly faded to the backdrop of the industry, so it is quite refreshing to have recently read and enjoyed a horror comic series.  This is particularly the case with how disappointed one of the most popular horror comics made me.

I first caught wind of Locke & Key the way I Joehilllockekeyfind out about a lot of things– through Wikipedia, specifically on Joe Hill’s page.  I fairly recently read several of his books– to date, I’ve read all but his most recent book, N0S4A2— and really enjoyed the strong writing.  I was very pleased to see that his writing is very strong and was worthy of publishing on his own merits and not his father’s (Stephen King).  He was scary, funny, sad, and compelling.  His characters were vibrant, his plots unexpected and exciting.  As a side note, I particularly recommend his collection of short stories, 20th Century Ghosts, especially the titular story from that collection.  Anyway, I was curious if he had done even more good writing for me to enjoy, and when I saw that he had written a comic series, my interest was piqued.

A few months after that I stumbled upon the first four collections in the comics section at my local library.  I was looking for Batman (which the library satisfied my craving for) but also came home bearing a stack consisting of far more comic titles than The Dark Knight’s adventures.  Volume 1 of Locke & Key was actually the first graphic novel I picked up from the stack, and I consumed it very quickly and was glad that I had brought home the second volume as well.

The idea of the Locke & Key is fairly easy to explain without lockekey_vol4tpbany notable spoilers.  Basically, it’s the story of the Locke family who, in the wake of tragedy, move to their father’s childhood home where they find numerous keys with magical powers that can do everything from changing a person into an animal to lifting off the top of their head to put in knowledge or remove unwanted memories of character traits.  So, much of the story is the adventure of discovering more keys and their purposes.

But, as I said before, this is a horror comic, so it isn’t all a big whimsical fantasy adventure.  There  is also a dark force at work in Keyhouse, who seeks to serve their own vile purposes through manipulation and force and, of course, the keys.

Pretty much everything about the series is very strong.  All the characters are very well thought out, dynamic, with believable motivations and powerful action.  The story careens in unexpected ways at a breakneck pace.  The dialogue is strong and drives the story forward.  The art– well, actually, I didn’t care for the art while reading the first couple of volumes of the series, but over time it grew on me.  Gabriel Rodriguez definitely paid a great deal of attention to details, and it really shows while you read it.  He very meticulously planned out the house, the grounds, the appearance of the keys and characters.  He really filled the world and vividly breathed life into Joe Hill’s scripts.

One thing I also LockeKey_KeystotheKingdom05loved is that the details of the plot spanned over generations, and was presented very seamlessly– the storytelling and presentation of key concepts is subtle, and subtlety is a rare commodity in comics.   We have the magic explained historically and as the characters learn about it through trial and error.  Each character’s personality is shown through sections of the comic– for example, there was a tribute piece to Bill Watterson that showcased the perspective of the youngest member of the Locke family, Bode, flying around as a sparrow that was drawn in Calvin and Hobbes style.  We get a feel for Bode’s humor, innocence, personality, and vibrancy with how that piece was presented, all while it very interestingly furthered the plot.

To get to the point, I highly recommend the series.  It was recently completed and the first 4/5ths of the story is available in graphic novels.  It’s a great series for lovers of comic and/or horror fantasy.


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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I LOVE THIS SERIES! I just need to read the last one…

    • You definitely need to read the last one, it is a very excellent conclusion to the series.

  2. Never even heard of this but it sounds like it’s up my alley.

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