Locke and Key, vol. 1

Locke and Key 1Summary: 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, 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…

Locke & Key creator Hill has received the Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection, the British Fantasy Award for Best Collection and Best Short Story, and the Sydney J. Bounds Best Newcomer Award-2007, among his growing collection of critical accolades. This collection of Locke & Key, in development as a major motion picture by Dimension Films, features an introduction by Robert Crais, author of the best-selling Elvis Cole novels.

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Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez 8.5

I knew nothing of Joe Hill before I read this book, a few years ago. I don’t even know how it fell into my hands – likely I was still in that period when I requested everything under the sun from the library, just so that I could have it in my hands and know about it. Sometimes I would throw these items back right away, but at least I had been exposed to them.

My world was larger that way.

I’ve since run out of time to do this, but I’ll always make time for Joe Hill. Having read the first two volumes of this excellent series, as well as his collection of short stories, ’20th Century Ghosts’, I have to declare myself a fan. I was particularly taken with this first volume of ‘Locke and Key’, which reminded me of some of Stephen King’s earlier, more compelling works.

Of course, this was a rather fitting assessment, because as I discovered through my research, Joe Hill is none other than Joseph Hillstrom King… Stephen King’s son.

Now, I’m not saying that Hill is emulating his father’s work (the fact that he decided to not trade on his father’s name is indicative that he plans to go his own way as much as he can), but there are similarities between this book and King’s own. This may of course simply be due to King having had such a massive impact on the genre that he’s shaped it to his own image.

Perhaps that’s it . Or perhaps Hill meant to get that Stephen King vibe in ‘Locke and Key’. Because, as I read ’20th Century Ghosts’, I couldn’t quite make the connection. Had I read that book first, King would not have come to mind and I would have been floored to find out that Hill was related – whereas now it made sense (plus which I felt proud to have seen the link).

In ‘Welcome to Lovecraft’, the first story arc of this continuing series, we are introduced to the Locke family, who are moving to Lovecraft, MA, in an old family mansion, Keyhouse, after a vicious attack on them by two teenagers. Seemingly irreparably wounded, they are trying to start a new life, away from everything they once knew. But little do they know of the mysteries lying dormant in Keyhouse…

This first collection , which is composed of six individual comics, essentially sets up the back-story for all of the characters, alternating between the present and flashbacks to what took place, to what brought them to Lovecraft. It also brings the ghosts from the past back, taking the Locke family full circle, just as it opens up new doors for them – in the form of some supernatural elements.

To divulge any more would do new readers a great disfavour, as this is a book that is worth discovering and savouring. Hill not only put in place all the perfect elements for future stories, but he served up a self-contained story as well. He created relatable, sympathetic characters, provided an excellent setting, added mystery, a couple of touched of evil and a few surprises.

For a first comic book, Hill exploded right out of the starting gate.

It helps that he is collaborating with what is probably one of the best in the genre, Chilean artists-extraordinaire Gabriel Rodriguez. He likely couldn’t have done better: Rodriguez is not just an exceptional penciler and inker, his breakdowns and characters designs are absolutely fabulous. He does it all exceptionally well:  people, places, vehicles, furniture, details… everything.

He is even unbelievable good at showing the passage of time, reusing the same panels but making small changes to them (such as long shots of the Keyhouse ground, showing water flowing, or moving a butterfly around in a jar). His skill is almost unprecedented, given that he does all but the colouring and the lettering. This must take up all his time – which might explain that it’s his main project right now.

I don’t know where he got started and what his background is, but Rodriguez is a powerhouse, and ‘Locke and Key’ would not be anything without him. I spent so much time looking at his artwork, the construction of each page, the beautiful rendition, the amazing inking job, all the details he put in each panel; he simply does not skimp on his craft. His only sin is a small penchant for posing his characters – but given all the rest it’s entirely forgivable.

I have to rate the book extremely highly because of the package deal of Hill and Rodriguez: while the story is approximately an 8.0, the art is a 9.0 or 9.5. Even the presentation is fantastic: the first printing of the collection comes in a beautiful hardcover with a string bookmark – just like hardcovers of yore. I’m a huge huge fan of this book, and look forward to reading future installments – even if they don’t come close to matching its genius.

But, given the devotion and thought that these authors (they collaborated on the series – it’s not just one supporting the other) put into ‘Locke and Key’, I’m sure that they will deliver. We’ll soon see…

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