Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Locke & Key Volume 1: Welcome to Lovecraft

Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
Company: IDW Publishing

Summer's here and with it comes ample opportunity to seek out new books to wile away the hours of a day.  I mean really, who wants to be out on the beach, soaking up the sun or spending time with family when they could be locked away in a darkened room somewhere reading fantastical and thrilling stories?  The choice is simple, people.  Regardless of what you do choose, if you do happen to seek out a new title to peruse, my first suggestion would be Locke & Key, a supernatural suspense yarn by talented author Joe Hill.  Best known for his novels Heart-Shaped Box, Horns and the short story compilation 20th Century Ghosts, Locke & Key represents his first ongoing comic book series and let me tell you, it's a doozy.

The story revolves around two things:  A Gothic estate that holds countless mysteries named Keyhouse, and the family that takes up residence there, the Lockes.  It's a fairly straightforward story that gets under your skin.  It all begins with the cold blooded murder of Rendell Locke, a family man and a guidance counselor for a local high school.  It's a visceral scene, one portrayed realistically and contains ample amounts of emotion that the reader can get caught up in.  This is the event that predicates the rest of the family, the mother, Nina, and the three Locke children Tyler, Kinsey and Bode, to move to a small New England town and live in the house that their father grew up in.

The characters really do take center stage in the story, and each of their characterizations is fairly amazing.  Hill has the same ability as his father (Stephen King), which is to write a diverse and believable group of characters that you can connect with and root for.  The Lockes are those kinds of people.  He also distinguishes each of the characters with their own voice.  Sometimes writers end up creating a skewed and very unbelievable version of children and teenagers.  It's never done on purpose, I just think its one of the harder things to do in stories.  This is not something that Hill has a problem with however, as there is never a single time where I thought that what a character (no matter what age they were) was doing on the page felt forced or wrong.

As for the supernatural portion of the story that I mentioned earlier, that would come from Keyhouse itself.  It seems that scattered throughout the house are several keys.  These keys open objects and doors that have a mystical or magical property.  Appropriately, the youngest Locke, Bode, finds the first key which opens the Ghost Door and allows him to become a specter.  He also meets an entity that has been trapped in the house that may or may not be a villainous creature out for revenge.  All in all, the story is a layered thing and seeing all of these characters not only deal with life after the loss of a family member, but also with the discovery of magic and the possibilities that such a thing can offer is a page turner.

Handling the art portion of this affair is Gabriel Rodriguez, who's worked on things like Clive Barker's Great and Secret Show and has provided cover art for books like Transformers and Angel.  In relation to the story, he may have been the perfect artist.  There is action to be found here, but Locke & Key, but characters are a big portion of the story.  Hernandez is a smart storyteller, one that can form a scene in such a way and sell the emotions that Hill has set up in unique ways.  They work so well together that the story is elevated because of it. His line work is also distinct, it's tight feel creating very real environments.  The way that he actually drafted the layout of Keyhouse (which you can see here) probably helped as well, as the house really is just another character in the story.

All in all, this is one of those books that fit a lot of different criteria.  You want something spooky?  Has character depth?  Humorous?  Has a great story?  If the answer to any of those are yes, then seek out Locke & Key.  Your summer will be better for it.

1 comment:

  1. I recently downloading this on a whim for my ereader, and wow, what a great story, chilling and exciting. I had no idea Joe Hill is Stephen King's son. Interesting! I'm looking forward to reading the next volume in the series.