Locke and Key Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft
Words by Joe Hill
Art by Gabriel Rodriguez
As we move into the last week of October I’m be spending the remainder of my time exploring some Lovecraft and Lovecraft influenced fiction. While not quite Lovecraftian in tone and theme Hill & Rodriguez’s series Locke and Key, the first arc of which is collected in this trade, name their island setting Lovecraft in honor of the New England author. The novel begins with an almost idyllic summer afternoon spent with typical teenage griping but veers sharply into darker territory as the father of Bodie, Ty, and Kinsey Locke is murdered by a deranged student. What appears at first to be a simple act by a deranged entity is slowly revealed to be something of dark portent and more supernatural bent.
Following the death of their father the remaining Locke family, the children and their mother, move in with their Uncle to the ominously named Keyhouse. There the graphic novel takes a rather poignant look at how each of the children is coping not only with the grief of their father’s death, but with the lingering fear left by the harrowing events that saw him dead. Each deals with it in a different way Ty’s quiet and somewhat dangerous stoicism and Kinsey’s desire to fade into part of the crowd but perhaps the most poignant and disturbing is that the youngest child Bodie.
Bodie is the first to discover some of the supernatural elements of the Keyhouse literally stumbling through a door way that unlimber his spirit from his body. It is during Bodie’s frequent sojourns as a ghost that Hill and Rodriquez are able to reveal each of the characters in their most intimate settings. In Bodie the reader gets a strong perspective to latch onto and an insider’s viewpoint on how each of the family members is handling their grief. In these section Bodie’s narration provides a frequently razor truth that is all the more powerful thanks to the unfiltered and unburdened mind of a child.
Of course Bodie is the first to discover the thing in the well house and that same childhood innocence becomes something less touching and more dangerous. I’m not going to spoil how things go from there but when things come to a head for the Locke family there are quite a number of unsettling consequences. Perhaps the most interesting part is that all the way though the novel only we the reader and Bodie remain certain and sure about the supernatural events that occurring. Even the older characters, when confronted face to face by the supernatural, eventually find a way to explain away what happens. There is a method to the madness here, relating to the as-yet unexplained powers of the Keyhouse, but is never completely explained.
My slip in using the word novel above wasn’t completely unintentional. Unlike many comic series, particularly by what I stand to be an ongoing series, manage to convey as sense of unity of development in terms of both plot and character development. I’m curious as to how the series actually reads in serial form as I am uncertain how each individual issue holds up one its own. Regardless, Welcome to Lovecraft feels like a complete volume and comes across as a tightly woven piece of fiction by two men with a plan. Hill’s writing is as superb as ever, more in line with his work in 20th Century Ghosts then with the still-excellent Heart-Shaped Box. Gabriel Rodriguez is a man with an impressively broad pallet of talent and skill. He is as adept at crafting a tense action scene as he as poignant character work. I admit the the latter, especially as it pertains facial expressions, is perhaps my favorite aspect here. There is one particular panel toward the end of graphic novel that, despite the character involved, is heartbreaking. As the final promo pages of the graphic novel show it looks like there is a lot more planned for the world of Locke and Key. I for one an both excited and terrified to delve deeper into halls and doors of mysterious Keyhouse.