Locke and Key: Crown of Shadows (Volume 3)
Locke and Key: Keys to the Kingdom (Volume 4)
Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
While on vacation a couple of a weeks ago I stepped into a bookshop in Portsmouth, NH and while trying my very hardest to keep my hands jammed deep into my pockets and away from the shelves none-the-less noted the hardcover editions of volumes 3 and 4 of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriquez’s Locke & Key (signed by Hill) sitting on a display. My will was weak and in a near haze I found myself forking over a portion of my cash to the bookseller. My regret was minimal however as the third and fourth volumes of Locke and Key, Crown of Shadows and Keys to the Kingdom, are just as solid as the first two and I would say (surprising as it was) even better than I expected.
For those unfamiliar Locke & Key is one part family drama, one part horror, one part fantasy. The Locke family, after having suffered the loss of their father have moved to their ancestral home in the town of Lovecraft; a place called the Keyhouse. Over the course of the first two volumes the Locke children are gradually exposed to the secrets of the Keyhouse and the mysterious Dark Lady once trapped their who seeks the ominous sounding Omega Key. Of course the Omega Key isn’t the only key and each of the issue reveals one or several new mystical keys that have various powers when used in the correct lock.
As the series progresses readers continual learn, or are gently steered towards the notion that the Locke children may be following in their father’s footsteps. Tyler, Bode, and Kinsey each react to the keys in different ways. For Tyler finding the keys is a responsibility, for Bode it is a game, and for Kinsey it is a means to deal with her own emotional problems. While the keys, and the Omega Key in particular, serve as MacGuffins of a sort in truth Hill’s real focus is on the Locke family itself and how they are dealing with the recent and tragic events of their pasts. The thrust of the story isn’t so much the discovery of the keys but rather how that discovery effects the people who find them.
It is an important distinction and certainly to Hill’s credit that he has crafted a family with problems that, if tinged with supernatural, are the byproduct of psychological trauma. The members of the Locke family are not always likeable but Hill deftly makes them into believable human beings. Tyler’s confrontation with his mother about her drinking problem, and particularly the scene in which she calls him from a bar, are particularly heart rending. The combination of Hill’s writing and Gabriel Rodriguez’s ability to portray emotion through both facial expressions and body language makes for some supremely powerful work. Issue #4 of Keys to the Kingdom was also particularly powerful, a rendering and examination of childhood imagination combined with very adult fear proved to be a chilling combination.
If you’re a fan of horror, or a fan of excellent storytelling you should do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Locke and Key right now. Rodriquez and Hill are a deadly team that have crafted an amazing world populated with believable characters faced with impossible problems. You can never quite be sure what to expect when you turn the page in Locke and Key. This is one of the most entertaining and original series in comics right now and you will absolutely not regret giving it a shot.