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June 2, 2011

Review: Locke and Key

Posted by on Jun 2, 2011
Locke & Key

Talismans of power figure prominently in fantasy environments – from the Rings of Middle Earth to Morpheus’ sand, mask, and ruby in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. The powers granted vary widely, but one thing is constant: they can be used for good or ill, depending on who wields them. The keys of Locke & Key by Joe Hill are no exception.

Set in a world that is at once familiar and magical, with characters who are strikingly human, Locke & Key is a must read for everyone. Trust me – you will not be able to put it down.

Locke & Key opens with the Locke family, a seemingly normal family with three children and their associated teenage angst and drama. When things go south (as they do – no spoilers here), they move back to their old home, the Keyhouse, in Lovecraft MA. Here the children begin to discover Keys – talismans that open doors to the mind, doors to death, and doors to anywhere. This might seem like an old and trite concept: “these here are magic keys and they do magic things”, but Locke & Key isn’t willing to fit quietly into that tired old role. No, in fact, while the overall concept is not terribly new or striking, Joe Hill manages to deliver a breath of fresh air, a dose of excitement, and quite a bit of fear.

Just like real teenagers....

While graphic novels (good ones, anyway) always have a great story, the characters are often more stylized than human. It’s rare to find an author/artist pair that can produce a great story combined with characters who are unabashedly human. The team behind Locke & Key manages to do so, and the result is that you become wholly engaged in and enveloped by their world. It’s rare that I’ll be drawn past curiosity into actual concern for the characters in a story, but I can’t help it when reading Locke & Key. I actually found myself talking to the characters, trying to warn them about things (I promise I’m not crazy – it’s just that engaging).

The art is nothing to sneeze at either. And by nothing to sneeze at, I mean incredible. Gabriel Rodriguez does an amazing job of bringing the world of Lovecraft to life – no easy feat given the magical properties of the Keys.  He also deserves a ton of credit for making all of the characters seem so real. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to draw emotion onto a person (if you’re me, just drawing a person that doesn’t look like the Michelin Man is impossible enough), but it’s incredibly difficult to do effectively. Rodriguez has that gift in droves.

In case you couldn’t tell, my ultimate point is that Locke & Key is one of the best graphic novels I have read in my life. I bet we’ll be talking about it in the same vein as Sandman one day, so if you haven’t read it, stop reading now and go find a copy.