• Locke & Key, volume 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
• Hardcover: 158 pages
• Publisher: IDW 2008
• ISBN: 1600102379
• Locke & Key, volume 2: Head Games by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
• Paperback: 160 pages
• Publisher: IDW 2009
• ISBN: 1600104835
• Paperback: 152 pages
• Publisher: IDW 2010
• ISBN: 1600106951
• Genre: Graphic Novel, Horror/Fantasy
• Recommended For: lovers of horror and fantasy; anyone who enjoys graphic novels.
Quick Review: Earns an 92 %, or 4.6 stars out of 5. Check out my rubric for my detailed assessment. Locke & Key 1-3 Rubric
This series is addicting and showcases what Hill is best at–characterization, and the mystery and magic within the plot forces the reader to imagine all the possibilities of Keyhouse. Highly recommended for readers of fantasy and horror as this series is highly imaginative and promises to be an awesome ongoing plot.
How I Got Here: I have read Hill’s two novels–Heart-Shaped Box and Horns— and would consider myself a fan of his work, eager to observe and support him as he develops as an author. So, it was only natural that I would check out his graphic novel series. Also, Locke & Key is huge at Comic-Con every year, so I have been wondering what I have been missing. Now, I can confidently attend the annual panel showcasing the series and hopefully MEET Joe Hill this summer and not be a total dingus. Finally, my girl Amy, from Lucy’s Football, is another Hill fan and highly recommended this series back in October when I was reading Horns. That was the kicker.
The Series: Synopsis from the Publisher, IDW
EISNER-NOMINATED BEST LIMITED SERIES!
EISNER-NOMINATED BEST AUTHOR!
Acclaimed suspense novelist and New York Times best-selling author Joe Hill (Heart-Shaped Box) creates an all-new story of dark fantasy and wonder: Locke & Key. Written by Hill and featuring astounding artwork from Gabriel Rodriguez (Clive Barker’s The Great and Secret Show, Beowulf), Locke & Key tells of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion, with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them…. and home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all…
The series kicks off with a violent attack on a family and their subsequent move from northern California to Lovecraft, Maine (love the Lovecraft allusion, of course). The mourning Locke family consists of the eldest son Tyler, middle daughter Kinsey, and the youngest son Bode, along with their very damaged and alcoholic mother. The Lockes move into Keyhouse, which has been in the deceased father’s family for centuries. Keyhouse has many mysteries, including keys which always seem to appear to the precocious youngster Bode. Lurking in Keyhouse’s wellhouse is a malevolent spirit who goes by various names, but I’ll associate him with his pseudonym Dodge. As the series unfolds, the Locke children will have to uncover the mysteries of the keys and go head-to-head with the scheming Dodge.
My Analysis and Critique:
I really enjoyed the first three books in this graphic novel series! Each book ignited my imagination as the Locke children discovered new keys which unlocked new powers and abilities for whomever turned them. This series is like the horror version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and through the Looking-Glass. It has everything my imagination craved as a young reader, but also the horror and adult themes for my adult self.
The pacing of the series is very tight, with back stories slowly unraveling, characters developing evenly, while action, horror, and mystery are sprinkled throughout. Basically, this series has everything that keeps readers turning pages ravenously and coming back for more.
Now my rundown on each book:
Welcome to Lovecraft:
This book served as the exposition to the series, providing the basic setup of initial conflict with Rendell’s (the Locke patriarch) murder and the family’s subsequent struggle in dealing with the attack and the loss of Rendell.
Welcome to Lovecraft also introduces us to all of the primary characters of the series. Readers meet the Locke kids–we see Tyler in his beloved Oakland A’s hat fishing, Kinsey with her dreadlocks and eyebrow piercing looking after her little brother Bode, who is using his imagination with a self-created treasure-finder. Throughout the rest of the book, the kids change due to the violence dealt to their family, yet stay true to their core personalities. I really enjoyed the character details throughout, and these characters felt very real–Tyler’s anger, Kinsey’s insecurities, and Bode’s aloofness as a young boy. The mother copes with her rape and her husband’s murder through drink, essentially abandoning her children to look out for themselves in their new environment in Lovecraft as she drinks her pain away. Again, this seems true.
Readers also meet the rest of the major cast of Locke & Key in this book: Duncan, the kind uncle who delivers the Locke family to Lovecraft and Keyhouse; Sam, the psychotic student killer of Rendell, who isn’t finished with the Locke family yet; and Echo, the strange spirit girl living at the bottom of a well at Keyhouse.
Hill’s greatest strength in this book is his characterization, but a close second would be what may be considered a character in its own right–Keyhouse. Keyhouse is an amazing old house full of colonial history and magical keys! Bode seems to be the “keymaster”, always uncovering the keys and discovering their uses. Being a child, he is, of course, more open to the idea of magic, so this makes sense. The keys are magic–and they are so cool! In this book, there is the introduction to five keys–the Ghost key (when turned in a certain door, the user becomes a ghost), the Gender key (changes one’s gender), the Echo key (I still don’t get this one, but it has something to do with echos, and it imprisoned the girl at the bottom of the well), the Anywhere key (it takes you anywhere!) and the mysterious omega key (it’s a mystery, I don’t know what it does).
Overall, I enjoyed this book as an introduction to the rest of the series, but, as usual, I don’t like book beginnings, so this book is my least favorite. Yet, it is a very good setup for the rest of the series.
Bonus Feature at the End: an awesome piece of artwork that features the inside of Bode’s head!
Here the series really picks up with a lot of back story on various characters. We learn more about the malevolent Dodge (who is Echo in book one and now goes by the name Zach in his newest incarnation). We also learn more about who Duncan is and are introduced to another key character, Ellie, who is very much tied up with Dodge. Via Ellie’s story, we meet her son Rufus, who promises to be a very interesting character throughout the series.
The book also centers around a new key that Bode has found–one that literally opens one’s head! The head key provides the opportunity for its users to add in and take out whatever they want from their own heads! Via this plot development, we get to see some really cool artwork of what the insides of our characters’ heads look like (for example, Bode’s is full of dinosaurs and robots and playing with his family). Obviously, this works really well for further character development. The head key also provides opportunities for mischief when Dodge gets a hold of it, as he moves throughout the book, tampering with people’s heads.
I really enjoyed this book as it stirred up my imagination and filled me with wonder. Also, there are so many good mysteries started, via the back stories, that I am curious to know more about what has happened before at Keyhouse, and with Dodge. Who is Dodge? What is his purpose? How did he get to Keyhouse?
Bonus Feature at the End: an awesome extra that focuses upon the history of the keys. Readers get to check out excerpts from the diary of Benjamin Pierce Locke, who created the keys during the Revolution. I loved this extra, especially since it only stirred up more curiosity and questions for me!
Crown of Shadows:
This book was darker as Dodge has discovered the Shadow key, which unlocks shadows to act at your bidding. Of course, Dodge uses it for his malicious purposes, unleashing creepy shadows on the Locke kids at Keyhouse as they are home alone. These were the best scenes of the book.
Second-best part of the book was Kinsey’s development. In this book, she earned the title of my favorite character in the series. She gets into some hijinks at the beginning of the book with some new characters, Scot and Jamal, and by the end of the book, these two quirky characters become her closest friends. I love these two boys, and I hope they become a major part of the storyline as their quirkyness will add to the plot. I’d love to see them joining forces with the Locke kids as they battle Dodge.
Finally, this book introduced some more keys that have exciting implications. As mentioned before, there is the Shadow Key, but the Locke mother (who is my least favorite character with her alcoholic self-pity) discovers a new key that fixes things. I’m not sure how this will be used, but I’m sure it will bring about some interesting plot development. In addition, Tyler found the Giant key, which was very helpful in the battle against the shadows.
Bonus Feature at the End: more keys added to Benjamin Locke’s diary! The excerpts from the history of the keys now includes the Shadow key, the Giant key, and the Mending key!
Miscellaneous Praises and Gripes:
– I still don’t get the Echo key. I don’t understand its purpose and how it works.
– I love scanning the books in the background of each of the comic’s panels. Among the books in Keyhouse, you’ll find (of course) Lovecraft, Bradbury, and Philip K. Dick.
– While Tyler and Kinsey are supposed to be in high school, it doesn’t seem like a high school. It comes off as more of a college. I guess it’s a private school. However, it keeps throwing me off!
– Along the same lines, it doesn’t seem like a high school because Scot has tattoos! What’s up with that? I don’t know of any high-school-age teens with a bunch of tats! That bugged me too. Is that an art issue? Or a characterization issue?
– Final gripe: why does the mom always have to be wearing tops with her boobs all out? Her boobs are her most defining feature (next to the ever-present wine glass/bottle). Confusing for a mother character to be treated so sexually. I guess it’s a comic book thing.
Things are still a little off with me. I’m no longer in a funk, I’ve returned to the gym, and my house is finally clean, but I’m still not all there. Now, it seems, I have a bit of blogger’s block. I sit down at my computer to write a post, and nothing comes to me. What I do write feels like crap. Yesterday morning, I struggled with writing my review for Locke and Key. It’s still unfinished, and I’m not quite sure how I want to write it, as the review covers three books. I think I need to outline.
So, to deal with my writing constipation, I’ve returned to my most comfortable and favorite writing medium–good ol’ pen and paper. It does seem to help, as I’m not struggling with writing right now. I guess that I’ll keep at it until I feel like my old self again.
At least, through all of this offness, I have been reading. Maybe too many books. Perhaps my divided attention is affecting my blogging focus. But, I am reading. Here’s what I’ve finished reading, am still reading, and just started reading.
• Mrs. Warren’s Profession– I finished this play by George Bernard Shaw last night, finally! I really enjoyed it, but, for some reason, was struggling with the drama format. Maybe, I’m out of practice. The themes were very interesting as the story dealt with prostitution in the Victorian era and gender inequalities. The play also featured one of my new favorite female characters–a young intellectual woman with a penchant for mathematics, working hard, and being independent. My kind of gal!
• I Want My MTV– This one is taking a while because I’m always stopping my reading to watch the videos on YouTube. It’s a lot of fun, and while the commentary on various videos, musicians, VJs, and events from the ’80s is interesting, a lot of the context of this book is old news for me. I was a huge MTV fan growing up, so this is more like a walk down memory lane. I tend to skim the chapters on the MTV corporate execs though. I’m not interested in how much coke those guys snorted.
• The Portable Dorothy Parker- This one I will be working through slowly. It is a collection of Parker’s short stories, poetry, and essays. Mainly, I read this one before bed, averaging a short story per day. I am loving her short stories! Actually, I am just loving Parker period–she just seems to be my literary soul mate. I really connect with her writing. She even provided the perfect quote for my title today, which sums up my issue with writing right now, as well as my issues with just about anything that I want to do, but can’t seem to do (I hate the gym, but I love having gone to the gym. I hate work, but I love having worked. I hate cleaning, but I love having cleaned the house. You get my drift…).
So far, I’ve read the following stories:
“The Lovely Leave”- Gah! I so related to this sad story of a woman who eagerly prepares for her husband, an officer away at war, to return home on leave. She has such high hopes for the 24 hours they get together, you just know that it won’t turn out well. Parker’s depiction of the woman’s insecurities and reactions to her husband’s life away from her are so relatable, I could easily put myself in her shoes, and I cringed often. This one really resonated with me.
“Arrangement in Black and White”- Ugh. A very short piece following a ditzy moron of a woman at a party who is eager to meet an African American musician who is the guest of honor. She falls all over herself for being so forward-thinking by calling him “Mister” and enjoys the novelty of the moment. This story reminded me of people I knew in college- rich kids who would “slum it” in San Diego for the novelty.
“The Sexes”- A cute, short dialogue between a young woman punishing a young man suitor for paying attention to another woman at a party. Their conversation felt so true, and I know I’ve had this conversation before. Oh ladies–why are we so neurotic at times?
• The History of English Literature by Perry Keenlyside and read by Derek Jacobi: I needed something to listen to in the car, so I went to the library and found this. It’s not too bad, kind of like having Derek Jacobi as your lecturer during a six-hour English Lit class. Snippets of literature are read, juxtaposed with the history behind it. I really liked listening to Chaucer read aloud- perhaps that’s how I’ll do The Canterbury Tales this year.
Also, today is Sunday, so tonight is television night! Why are all of my favorite shows on Sunday? I don’t know, but it’s good stuff.
• Season Finale of Downton Abbey: What’s going to happen to Bates? Will Mary and Mathew get together? Wasn’t I asking these same questions before the finale of season 1?
Yes, and I’m so glad that the same high drama is still happening. I can’t wait to tune in, and this is why.
• The Walking Dead: Finally, it seems that the living will be the bad guys on the show. Let’s face it- humans and human nature are way scarier than zombies.
I wonder when and if Shane is going to bite the bullet. As long as he’s alive, it seems that Rick won’t get his somewhat anti-heroic status that he maintains in the graphic novels. I love the actor who plays Shane, but I want to see Rick screw up more and be more tormented by his conscience. One of the major and most important themes of the story is what this apocalyptic world forces good people to do, and Rick is at the center of this theme, and I just don’t see it happening so fully with Shane being alive. It seems that the show has split the graphic novel character of Rick in half, with his good side going to TV show Rick and his tough decision-making side going to Shane. I want Rick to shoot some humans, so that he can start really dealing with morality issues. I also want the survivor crew to move on and away from the farm. There’s a lot more going on in the outside world than simply zombies…they need to start interacting with it!
So, that’s what’s going on with me right now. This is a pretty long post, and it wasn’t too hard to write on paper. I think this long-hand drafting might work out. Now, back to the Locke and Key review…