February 20, 2012
• Hardcover: 158 pages
• Publisher: IDW 2008
• ISBN: 1600102379
• 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:
My favorite of the series! The Locke kids are finally getting it together and finding strength and developing into firmly-rooted characters!
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.
- Welcome to Lovecraft
- Head Games
- Crown of Shadows