The Old 52: Locke & Key

If you haven't read it, it's new to you. Every month I try to supplement the New 52 with a series from the Old 52. Series I've never read, but have always meant to.When it was new: It's still new and ongoing. It started in 2008, and has been published at IDW as a series of 6 issue mini-series that continue the same story, acting as easy sign posts for collections. Locke & Key is by co-creators Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, and is published every month or two. Between it's five arcs - Welcome to Lovecraft, Head Games, Crown of Shadows, Keys to the Kingdom, and the currently ongoing Clockworks - there have been 28 issues to date.

Premise: The Locke family moves back into Keyhouse, the family estate in the New England community of Lovecraft. As it turns out, the house is full of magical keys and locks that give entry to strange places or operate transformations on their users when they go through the appropriate doors.

Unlocking the secrets: I've recently read a recommendation for Locke & Key that was something like "the book I hand people who don't read comics", and yeah, it's totally got that kind of appeal. I like that Joe Hill is hiding behind a pseudonym and not trying to trade on his famous father's reputation, but really, I think the comic would get more attention if more people knew he was Stephen King's son. So I'm telling you. He is and it shows without feeling derivative of the Master of Horror's work. The story does have elements of horror to be sure, but it's more of a fantasy. As the book opens, the Locke family suffers a deep loss when the father is killed by a couple of insane kids commanded by some dark power. The survivors move to Keyhouse where the three kids discover the magic their father grew up with. Their distraught mother and gay uncle are too old to register what's going on. And what's going on is an interdimensional demon trapped in the wellhouse, and eventually, in their midst, and manipulating events for its own nefarious purposes. The kids are distinctive and endearing characters, and the other citizens of Lovecraft, Mass. all chisel a place for themselves. When something horrible happens to someone, you care.
Of course, 80% of the joy is in finding out more about this universe of keys and locks, the magical effects they have and the strange history behind Keyhouse and their father's childhood. As the series progresses, we find out more and more, and with the present series called Clockworks, we're finally delving into the origins of the keys (no doubt the recent Guide to the Known Keys special will be part of Clockworks when it is collected). There's tragedy and pathos, but also comedy and light-heartedness. The sense of the latter may be thanks to Gabriel Rodriguez' art which at first struck me as a too cartoony riff on Rick Geary's work, but he's gotten better with each successive issue. By reducing the size of eyes and using thinner lines, he's done away with anything I found overdone in the first collection. His exact draftsmanship creates a perfectly-engineered world, and repeated panels that highlight bodily and facial expression. Hill and Rodriguez could sit on their laurels and kept telling their story the same way, but they go above and beyond that, experimenting with such things as a "giant-sized" splash issue, the tribute to Bill Watterson, the one-panel-a-day issue, and the "war tales" pastiche. Keeps the series fresh as cream on berries. I've been converted. I love it. And I think you will too. Especially if you love things like Harry Potter, or Stephen King, or Stand By Me, or early Vertigo series, or Things That Are Good, Period!

Trade in for one of the New52? Easily. I'll read the adventures of Tyler, Kinsey and Bode Locke over every DC Dark series in the New52. (If you ask me to kill a DC Dark series to make some room, let it be Justice League Dark.)


Randal said...

OK. My local Frys Electronics has the entire hardcover collection (nice packaging on those IDW hardcovers...), so I'll give it a try.

Siskoid said...

I can't see how you'd be disappointed.

De said...

Checked out the previews on the IDW site. Combined with your glowing review, I'm definitely on board! Just downloaded the IDW app for my tablet and am now downloading the first book (only $5!).

Looking forward to reading this after work today.

Maricruz Villalobos Zamora said...

I LOVE this series. It is not released fast enough for the mystery. BTW, when I found out that Joe Hill is Stephen King's son my reaction was: "So, THAT's why"


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