Summary: The third storyline in the Eisner-winning series by Joe Hill (Horns) and Gabriel Rodriguez. The dead plot against the living, the darkness closes in on Keyhouse, and a woman is shattered beyond repair. Dodge continues his relentless quest to find the key to the black door, and raises an army of shadows to wipe out anyone who might get in his way. Surrounded and outnumbered, the Locke children find themselves fighting a desperate battle, all alone, in a world where the night itself has become their enemy.
Locke and Key: Crown of Shadows, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez 8.25
Oh, what a wonderful web of spectres, shadows and secrets Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez are weaving with Locke and Key. In ‘Crown of Shadows’, this third collection in the series, the duo have put together another fine set of mystery, twists and evil shenanigans – all wrapped up in gorgeous eye candy.
This collection begins with a wicked duel of souls between Dodge/Lucas and Sam Lesser. It’s a spirited fight (snort!) that hinges on Rodriguez’ breathtaking abilities (how does one translate souls fighting on the page?) and he comes through brilliantly. Still, I can’t help but wonder how it is that Lucas can creep about the house without being caught. Is the house so big that noise doesn’t get around?
For every unanswered question, however, Hill counters with more brilliant bits. There’s this one sequence when the kids are attacked by all sorts of shadow monsters that Lucas has conjured up. What made it especially delightful is when Kinsey discovers that intense light negates the shadow creatures, so she uses a flashlight to blast beams at them and get by. Brilliant!
Hill also tackles Nina’s alcoholism far more directly for once – and it was about time, given that it had been a problem from day one. It was a tough moment, though, because it created conflict between her and the kids. And, although nothing was resolved, at least it wasn’t left to the fringes – after all, her alcoholism is essential for explaining why the kids are all left to their own devices.
Speaking of Nina, how is it that she, an adult, can suddenly see magic? I realize that finding a key is a different thing than witnessing a supernatural event, but why wouldn’t Nina simply ignore it, just as she had ignored Bode’s head being wide open in ‘Head Games‘? The notion that she would even use it, and that it would work for her (or that she would see that it works), also baffled me.
Essentially, this all seems inconsistent with the mythology that had been created thus far, which is that adults simply don’t see the magic around them – or even before them. Strangely, in a weird twist at the end, she doesn’t notice another key sitting in the middle of a broken urn that she just dropped – which she should naturally have, given how noticeable it was. What the…?
Maybe Hill was merely slipping in his writing (too busy, perhaps?), because there was a whole issue that took place in the Drowning Cave that was rather contrived to me. For example, some of the kids were exploring this cave, and then the railings just fell apart – with barely any warning or prompt. Maybe it’s just me, but at no point did I believe that these steel supports would suddenly crumble.
I also didn’t buy into the notion that no one would see that Dodge/Lucas was behind the shadow monsters. There was a kid next door watching the whole thing intently, so surely others would too. What about Kinsey and Bode? Weren’t they watching while Ty was fighting Lucas? And what about the aftermath, the destruction in their wake? What? No one noticed that this either?
From an artistic standpoint, however this episode was pure joy: Rodriguez had Ty fighting the shadow creature/Lucas in large, full-page, wordless panels. It was perfectly-designed, because Rodriguez considered that they were both giants and suitably translated the enormity of what was happening. It was fun scanning the page for all the little details scattered about in the background. Yum.
Bizarrely though, for all the genius work, some of the body proportions and angles were off at times, in other parts of the collection. Perhaps Hill and Rodriguez were rushed in the making of these books, because cracks are starting to show from time to time. Still, in this case, Rodriguez made up for these relatively minor issues tenfold with his duel of the souls, creepy shadows and giants battle. Impressive stuff!
At the back of the book, there’s a small tally of the keys that have been discovered so far. This tally has existed since the first collection, but they’re constantly being updated to include new ones. In this volume, we have been treated to far more new keys (the Shadow key, the Giant key, the Mending key and the mysterious Omega key) than in previous ones, and it’s beginning to get mighty interesting.
In fact, the next volume of ‘Locke and Key’ was already in my hands by the time I had finished this one, and I was all too eager to get to it: it is getting far too intriguing to hold out; ‘Locke and Key’ is turning into quite a memorable series. Sure, it has a few flaws along the way, but the imagination and creativity that flows through this piece are a crowning achievement , a feather in the cap of any author.