Summary: New York Times bestselling writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez, the Eisner-nominated creators behind the acclaimed Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft, return with the second hardcover L&K collection. In Head Games, we are introduced to some new characters, explore the backstory of the town and the Locke family, and experience a second magical and mind-altering key. The collection also includes bonus sketches and backup material from Rodriguez.
Locke and Key: Head Games, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez 8.25
Hill and Rodriguez do it again! With this second volume of ‘Locke and Key‘, which collects issues 7 to 12 of this wildly imaginative tale, the duo have managed to, not only follow-up on their first story arc, but set up the pieces to an even more intricate game of good vs. evil.
In ‘Head Games’, Lucas Caravaggio, now freed from Wellhouse, plays a larger role in our rapidly unfolding suspense story: we begin to discover about his past connection to Rendell Locke and learn what he’s got planned for his old friends and colleagues – how he intends to use them to further his aims.
With the use of some of the many magical keys from Keyhouse, Lucas changes his identity and begins to get closer to the Locke family, befriending Ty and Kinsey, in the hope of discovering many of the other secrets of the old manor. Or would the correct term be… rediscovering?
Meanwhile, Bode is finding new keys in the old house and, wide-eyed with wonderment, tries to figure out what they unlock. Little does he know that his curiosity is serving Lucas’ purposes – he’s doing the villain’s groundwork and quite literally handing him the keys to powers untold.
While I found this volume slightly less engrossing than the first, particularly because we don’t learn as much about the lead characters this time around, I was blown away by Hill’s creativity, his ability to pull unusual ideas right out of his head and put them on paper in a coherent way.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
In particular, there’s the notion of the key that provides access to a person’s memories, and does so in the stunningly horrific way of opening up the top of that subject’s head, while they remain conscious, via a small keyhole at the base of the skull.
From there, everything that they remember can be seen and accessed.The most astounding moment in this whole book comes after Bode first opens up his head and shows it to his siblings. The look of absolutely horror on their faces as they see his skull exposed and look inside at the circus-like atmosphere of his childlike recollections is unforgettable. While he considers this a game, their minds are boggled.
What makes it so fantastic is how Hill conceived of this key’s magic in such a way that it allows anyone to remove and put in whatever they like in the subject’s memory. If you have a bad memory, you can forget it forever by pulling it out. If you want to learn something, you can simply insert the knowledge into your head.
Of course, this raises all sorts of ethical questions, because one could easily use this key to erase important moments in a life, for good or bad. But it also brings up the prospect of danger, because one can so easily be manipulated by someone who has access to our memories – someone who doesn’t have our best intentions at heart.
Someone like Lucas.
I loved the touch that most (all?) of the magic is inaccessible to adults, that they don’t even recognize what is going on before their very eyes. The moment when the Locke brood try to show their mom that Bode’s head is completely exposed was a priceless one. And a clever little touch by Hill, because in so doing he’s left the kids to fend for themselves.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
I was utterly blown away by Gabriel Rodriguez’ ability to amass a jumble of memories for so many of the characters. It was exquisite to see all the detail he put into each set of memories and how he gave each individual a very distinct flavour and collection that was totally indicative of who they were. These were some of the most revealing moments in the book.
Clearly, he and Hill conferred beforehand, to ensure that these memories didn’t divulge too many secrets, and to ensure that they all remained true to the characters and plot. There’s an obvious method to their work and I’m wholly impressed with how this is coming together so far; we’re twelve issues in and I think that the overall construction is rock solid – something that few books can boast.
And while I found that this volume left me less satisfied, like an appetizer with so much more to come, it had so many great ideas thrown into it that it’s difficult to be disappointed. Further enhanced, brought to life, by Rodriguez’ exceptional artistry, the series so far is a masterstroke that one rarely encounters in the comic book world.
I am eagerly looking forward to the next installment, which I will be reading very shortly.