January 5th, 2011

Locke & Key

review By Bernice Watson

This is such an easy and fun read but it’s over too soon!

When a writer pulls something like Locke & Key out of his hat for his first comic book project I think almost everyone has to take a moment to feel the fierce burn of envy. I know I did. Actually I probably took a bit more than one minute. I took a few. This isn’t to say that author Joe Hill is a fresh-faced literary newbie, no sir. With a handful of novels and short stories to his name he’s far from it but Locke & Key is his first crack at a comic series.

With Gabriel Rodriguez on side to take care of the visuals, Hill masterfully crafts a tale of three American kids, Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode Locke, who, after the brutal murder of their father at the hands of an psychotic student, move across country to the family mansion, Keyhouse, with their mother. Starting life anew in Lovecraft, Massachusetts is hard enough when everyone knows their names from the news but when six year old Bode discovers that Keyhouse mansion contains magical secrets and clues to their father’s past things begin to get even more interesting for the children. Scattered around the house are keys, some only open one door while others can be used on any door but each holds a power of some kind. As the Locke children discover the keys and their functions however, history is already catching up with them.

Joe Hill’s narrative finds its pace early on and remains engaging throughout. Not surprisingly given his father is Stephen King, Hill shows himself to be a master of when to reveal plot points and key information to the reader but with every piece of the puzzle that comes to light more questions clamour to be answered. I found myself tearing through these two volumes hungrily, desperate to discover what answers lay beyond the next panel.

In spirit the story has some C.S.Lewis-esque overtones, the children discovering whole new realities in the mysterious old mansion and the inability of the adults to connect with these events. For the two older children there is the emotional journey from childhood to the world of adults which is made even more fraught by the horrific events surrounding their father’s death. The emotional vulnerabilities of Tyler and Kinsey are inescapably entwined with the magical events taking place in the house as their fears and insecurities influence their decisions.

Chilean artist Gabriel Rodriguez captures the childhood/adulthood tension perfectly with artwork that is wide-eyed, bold and innocent and yet manages also to capture clearly the more sinister and violent elements of the story. The attention to detail and intricate design of the house and the keys are immediately compelling. Stylistically Rodriguez harks back to the American Gothic tradition in his approach not only to the house but also to the magic and dangers within it. The scenes of Bode talking with Echo in the Well House create a wonderful tension in the reader as Bode’s childish body language clearly indicates his unawareness of the danger he is in.

On a related note, apparently Dimension Films have snapped up the film and television rights for Welcome To Lovecraft from IDW Publishing and will develop the property as a feature.

Here is to hoping that this world has much more to go in the form of comics in the meantime.

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