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Stella Matutina
books and stories and musings, oh my!
Some Thoughts On Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez 
29th-Jan-2013 07:00 am
Cover art for Welcome To Lovecraft, featuring a skull-topped key overlying a tall wooden house. The cover is in tones of red. Cover art for Head Games, featuring a head-topped key overlying a rocky, seaside cliff. The cover is in tones of green. Cover art for Crown of Shadows, featuring a flame-topped key overlying a narrow gate in a stone wall with a lighthouse in the background. The cover is in tones of blue.
Cover art for Keys to the Kingdom, featuring a key topped with a music note overlying a round, snow-covered building. The cover is in tones of white and grey. Cover art for Clockworks, featuring an hourglass-topped key overlying a garden containing a state of a woman with her right arm raised. The cover is in tones of grey and orange.

We had a blizzard a couple of Saturdays ago. I took this as an excuse to hole up inside with every published volume of LOCKE & KEY.

Y’all know about LOCKE & KEY, right? It’s a horror comic that follows the Locke family (Tyler, Kinsey, Bode, and, to a lesser extent, their mother Nina and uncle Duncan) as they move to their ancestral home in Lovecraft, MA, after their father is murdered. They soon discover that Keyhouse isn’t just a creepy old mansion--it’s also the repository for a series of magical keys that give their users an assortment of useful, and potentially dangerous, powers.

And deep beneath the house, a dark force works to harness the keys to its own purpose.

Let’s make one thing clear, right off the bat: LOCKE & KEY is not a nice story. Truly terrible things happen to good people, sometimes at the hands of other basically good people. Violence and intolerance are ever-present entities. The series needs a hefty trigger warning and should not be undertaken lightly.

If you think your mental health can handle it, though, it’s so totally worth it. Here’s why:

  • It’s about family. Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode look out for one another. They have their differences, just like all siblings, but at the end of the day, they’re there for each other. They aren’t about to give up, even though they’ve been thrown into a nightmare that’s already robbed them of their father and might very well take the rest of their family before it ends.

  • The art and the script work together. LOCKE & KEY is one of those rare, wonderful series where the art and the script are in perfect sync. There’s no disconnect between what we see and what we read; or if there is, it’s entirely intentional and works well in service to the plot.

    While we’re on the subject of art, and recently removed from the subject of family: Rodriguez does a bang-up job of making all the Lockes look like they’re related. The kids resemble both of their parents, as well as the ancestors we see in flashbacks (and, of course, each other). Ditto every other family we meet.

  • These are puzzle books. Hill and Rodriguez clearly know exactly where they’re headed. My first time through, I had to space the books pretty widely apart due to library availability, making it difficult to see exactly what they’d done. This time, I picked up on many (though I’m sure not all) of the clues strewn throughout the text. Many of these are visual--a key we can see but the characters can’t; a background detail that takes on new significance once we learn a little more of the family’s history. They might seem minor at the time, but small details often pay off in a big way down the line.

    You can’t turn your brain off when you read LOCKE & KEY, because everything means something.

  • The answers, when they come, are unexpected. Everything we learn, every piece of the puzzle we unlock, adds another dimension to the story. As one character says, children always think they’ve come in at the beginning, when in fact they’ve almost reached the end. The overarching tale Hill and Rodriguez have set out to tell is more than just Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode’s story, though they’re certainly at the crux of its current act. It stretches back centuries, and the weight of the past is an ever-present influence on the future.

  • None of the horror is gratuitous or titillating. The violence and intolerance are never, ever condoned by the text. We’re meant to be horrified by Sam’s actions; Dodge’s cruelty; the betrayals the kids face; the racism; the homophobia. It’s terrible, all of it, and it’s never presented as cool or fun or acceptable. We’re meant to hope and pray the Lockes can escape it, even as we know that much of it is down to the imperfect world we live in, not the supernatural horror that plots their demise.

  • It’s genuinely moving. I hadn’t read CLOCKWORKS before this most recent binge, and I’m still shocked at how deeply one of the revelations about the antagonist affected me. And it’s far from the only place where the text shook me.

LOCKE & KEY needs one hell of a trigger warning, but if you can handle it, it’s awesome. I urge you to seek it out.

4 stars to volumes 1, 2 and 5 – loved them
3.5 stars to volumes 3 and 4 – really liked them

Back In the Day:
30th-Jan-2013 01:10 am (UTC)
Aaaaaa, my library only has the first volume in this series! And I wasn't sure enough about it to be like, Yeah, okay, I'mma buy all these volumes! I want to read it before I (maybe) buy it, and I don't know where I will ever read it. Woe.
31st-Jan-2013 05:50 pm (UTC)
Yes, this's definitely something you want to try before you buy. :( Maybe borrow the first volume from the library to see if you like it, then go to the Strand and read the rest very, very carefully so they can still sell them afterwards?
30th-Jan-2013 01:43 am (UTC)
My library has it. It's a Christmas miracle.
31st-Jan-2013 05:50 pm (UTC)
Christmas in January. A Ukranian Christmas miracle!
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