Ok, first thing to say about this series is that even if you’re not a comic book person (which I am not necessarily, despite the growing number of graphic novels in my bookcase) you might love this as I do! If you like fantasy/whimsical/horror-type stuff, this is definitely for you. Honestly, it took me a while to get into the graphic novel format. I’ve always been a reader, and illustrations are fun, of course, but I’m not a big superhero person and most of the superhero stories are so developed that I felt like I couldn’t jump into the stories without knowing soooo much background, and that kinda turned me off. However, when I discovered these alternative comics with more fantasy-type stories that I could read from the beginning or that were one-offs, some of which had really amazing art, I started to get into them more and more. I can thank my friend Dannie for that, and for introducing me to Locke & Key specifically, which is one of the very best GNs I’ve read, and one of my favorite stories, period.
The basic premise is that there is a place called Keyhouse, a mansion on an island off of Massachusetts, in which there are magic keys that can make certain things happen when turned in a lock. Now, keys are just cool to start with, both because of their symbolism and their aesthetic beauty, and the designs of the different keys in this series are sooo neat! Check these out:
And of course, you can buy physical keepsakes of these keys, too. Sweet, sweet merchandising!
The series starts with an attack (this is where the horror/gore part comes in a bit) on Rendell Locke and his family in their west coast home. He, of course, is a member of the ancient Locke family who designed and made the keys of Keyhouse. Eventually the story brings us to Keyhouse and reveals the backstory while unfolding the conclusion in the present. I think the story is really well balanced with action/gore, psychological intrigue, mystery, and emotion.
It’s also really suspenseful. In fact, readers are currently anxiously awaiting the last two issues of the series!! Yes, that’s right, the series is ending. So for those of you who (like me) don’t know where to start (or end) with Spiderman or Batman or a longstanding series like that, this series might be good for you in that way. I was interested to hear Joe Hill (the writer) make much of this at the panel where we heard him speak at Boston Comic Con last weekend. He specifically mentioned Spiderman as an example (which I found interesting considering that he sold some of his first writing to Marvel for Spiderman) and argued that when you have a series that doesn’t end you lose all stakes for the characters. You know that they’re going to come back somehow, some way, and go on, so the emotional impact of all of their tragedies and victories become reduced over time. I totally agree. And I think it’s just easier for me to read. (Maybe I’m a completist. Is that a thing? My word processor doesn’t seem to think so, but I mean that I don’t like to miss parts of a story. I like to start at the beginning and read to the end and let it be over. Hard to do that with Spiderman.) Anyway, JH said the he had always planned for this series to have an end in the not-too-distant future.
I’ve read (and own) the graphic novels 1-5 as shown above, and the first issue of what will be book 6, which is the cover with the keys. There are 3 or 4 more single issues out, and I may have to go buy those instead of waiting for the book because I’m so excited about the end of the story right now. That’s something that Joe Hill talked about in the BCC panel as well-the challenge of a good ending. I couldn’t help but think of Stephen King’s Gunslinger when Joe Hill was discussing endings, because I’m sure he heard about that kind of thing from his father (didn’t I mention JH is SK’s son? Quite a shadow to work under, hence the alias, I assume, but he’s really a good writer in his own write, er, right if this story’s any indication, and a bit more comfortable in the spotlight if that panel was any indication. Actually, seeing JH with his kids at the booth made me think about stories that SK sometimes told about his early life when his kids were small, and they look quite a bit alike, so it was almost like time traveling watching them.)
Anyway, there’s not much else to say because I don’t want to give anything away for those who might read the series, and there is a lot to spoil, but read these, seriously. The story is great and the art is beautiful. Gabriel Rodriguez, the artist, is really talented. He was also at the panel, and it was cool to hear how much they had collaborated on this project. Apparently they wrote a Locke & Key Bible for themselves to get the backstory straight. THAT is something I’d love to see in print someday!