Summary: Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke & Key unwinds into its fourth volume in Keys to the Kingdom! With more keys making themselves known, and the depths of the Locke’s family’s mystery ever-expanding, Dodge’s desperation to end his shadowy quest drives the habitants of Keyhouse ever closer to a revealing conclusion.
Locke and Key: Keys to the Kingdom, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez 8.25
Honestly, it’s hard not to be excited about a new ‘Locke and Key’ collection; even at its worst it’s at least a solid book. At its best, it’s a creative endeavour that’s stimulating on many levels. And such it is with ‘Keys to the Kingdom’, a set that departs from the storytelling style of the previous books in various ways and yet manages to keep it entrenched in the tale told thus far.
One perfect example is in the first volume (of six), which is a little breezy, development-wise: we’re suddenly in midwinter (it was October in the last volume – what happened in between?), and events don’t necessarily make logical connections (ex: how did Lucas know to follow Bode and go about doing so unnoticed by anyone at the house? Let’s not even talk about him getting back before Bode…).
But the concept of making that episode look like a four panel comic strip overlayed over delicious backdrops was utterly brilliant, breath-taking even. And adapting Bode’s segments as a simile-‘Calvin and Hobbes’ was pure genius – it’s so appropriate and so much fun! This is some of Rodriguez’ finest work to date. So, while the writing is a bit flimsy, this was massively satisfying anyway.
The next episode delves into racism, with the introduction of Erin Voss, an African-American character that Rendell Locke once knew. She’s now in a seniors’ home and some of the minders are bigoted, uneducated sleezebags, talking crap all the time. Then Kinsey and her friends discuss racism amongst themselves, questioning perceptions and the power of language.
Later on, Kinsey and Bode, with the help of their new discovery, the mirror-like Skin key (it’s not established where in the house it’s from), transform into African-Americans themselves, which helps them understand what racism is like. Of course, there is also danger, in the form of Dodge/Lucas. Of course. All in all, it’s a decent storyline, but it’s stronger because of the racism stuff.
Then the book gets frustrating with the third volume because every page features a different day, covering the whole month of February in one issue. While it works, what bothered me is that there seems to be a lot of exciting stuff going on, many confrontations that simply are not explored; it felt like a highlights compilation – and that wasn’t satisfying to me at all: I wanted to know more.
This episode also left me with the nagging feeling that Hill and Rodriguez did this on purpose to be able to revisit it someday or to leave room for development by television writers if the proposed show ever finally gets off the ground (a pilot was filmed for Fox in 2011, but the show has not yet been picked up). Fine, but for now I feel like I’m missing out, and I wonder what impact these moments have on the long-run.
Thankfully, the rest of the book is more typical in its structure, but it feels like a lot of time is passing with nothing going on, with no significant impact taking place. Really, how much time does Lucas need to figure things out, to get the keys he’s looking for? Why doesn’t he just show his hand and torture or kill all the people that are in his way? At worst, he would have the house to explore by himself…
And how long does it take for the others to realize that he’s not the friend that they think he is? A lot of unresolved matters are sitting around for far too long, as if the characters are forgetting what’s happened in the past. Why isn’t Kinsey returning to the cave, for instance? What happened to Erin Voss? A lot of the emotional stuff is slightly gutted by virtue of the fact that it’s not explored fully.
Still, the book is filled with exceptional moments and it’s got plenty of tricks up its sleeve, including three new keys: the Animal key, the Music Box key, and the Skin key – plus which the back of the book also hints at three more keys that are yet discovered. (as a side-note, a company has been engaged to reproduce these keys for fans to purchase – they’re so beautiful that I just might get them…)
Volume 4 of ‘Locke and Key’ culminates in one heck of a dramatic closing segment, one which would lead anyone in their right mind to go running for ‘Clockworks’, Volume 5 of the series. I’ve been waiting for a while for it and I know that I’ll be gobbling it up the moment I can get my hands on it. Hill and Rodriguez have me in their clutches; there is no escaping them now. And why would I want to?