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Joe Hill – Locke & Key Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft

September 7, 2012

96. Locke & Key Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez (2010)
Locke & Key, Volume 1

Length: 168 pages
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy/Horror

Started/Finished: 30 August 2012

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? Recommended by one of my comics-reading friends.

The right key will let
you open any door, but
some are better shut.

Summary: When their father, a high school guidance counselor, is murdered by a deranged student, Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode Locke relocate from California to Lovecraft, Massachussetts. They and their mother are taken in by their uncle Duncan, who still lives in their father’s boyhood home, named Keyhouse. The children are just trying to survive and move past their horrible trauma and lead normal lives again, but Keyhouse is not quite normal. It is a house in which certain keys open certain doors, with certain strange powers. Bode, the youngest, discovers The Ghost Door, which will (reversibly) kill anyone who tries to walk through it. But there’s also something strange living in the well house, something that wants Bode to help free it… and if that’s not enough, Mr. Locke’s murderer is still out there, fixating on the Locke family.

Review: I stopped being a horror fan sometime around the time I graduated from junior high, so I can understand why I’ve never read any of Joe Hill’s (the son of Stephen King) work. But while I don’t tend to seek out horror as a genre, there is a way to write horror that I respond to, and Locke & Key absolutely hit the mark. It’s got a bunch of different horror tropes – deranged murderers, creepy old houses, malevolent ghosts, etc. – but they’re combined in a new and interesting way. In particular, the idea of the magic keys that can turn any door into a special door gives the whole thing enough of a fantasy flavor to take it out of the realm of pure horror. It doesn’t hurt that the characters are incredibly sympathetic as well; watching the kids deal with the violent death of their father (and the repercussions of their own actions during and after the murder) is horrific enough without any of the supernatural stuff, but it’s presented in a way that’s empathetic and heartwrenching.

Rodriguez’s art was also not what I was expecting, although it suited the tone of the story perfectly. In fact, it actually heightened the drama and the pathos of the story, rather than just complementing it. The color palette adds to the creepiness factor without overselling it, and the sheer fact that Tyler can’t see his own reflection without envisaging himself holding a bloody brick just about broke me. (Here’s an page, featuring the equivalent situation for Kinsey, so you can see what I mean.) The book is fairly gory (unsurprisingly), but I appreciated that the gore didn’t really feel gratuitous, or like it was just there for the gross-out factor (I’m looking at you, Chew).

Overall, this book was an exciting surprise, and full of some really great potential. I can’t wait to see where it goes next. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I don’t know that I’ve been this excited by the potential promised in the first volume of a comic since The Unwritten – and I think it’s likely to appeal to the same sort of people.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Bookshelves of Doom, The Little Red Reviewer, reading Thru The Night, Stella Matutina, and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
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4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 7, 2012 2:47 pm

    I felt the same way after finishing this one, and now that I’ve read the fourth, have felt that it’s been sustained very well. The fifth volume is on its way to me now, and I’m kinda excited and kinda sad, because I think that’s the last one.A final full-page image in this first volume, (of the boy’s brain) really made me smile, and I think back to it periodically in completely unrelated situations (though you’d think it’d be the gory images that’d’ve stuck)!

    • September 13, 2012 3:10 pm

      BiP – My library had lost it’s copy of the second volume… but after I finished this one, I asked them very nicely to replace it… so it’s on my holds list!

  2. September 9, 2012 6:32 pm

    I read the first volume and liked it, but I haven’t been able to get the subsequent volumes at the library. I didn’t know he was Stephen King’s son! I haven’t read anything by Stephen King, but I thought Hill did an excellent job making everything quite, quite creepy.

    • September 13, 2012 3:11 pm

      Jenny – I read some (not a ton) of King back in my junior high/early high school horror phase, but not anything (in prose form) by Hill. Guess it runs in the family, though!

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