A Love Letter to Locke & Key

Locke & Key, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…or I’m just going to tell everyone it’s amazing and one of the best series of graphic novels EVER. Fact.

Don’t believe me? Well let me tell you how it’s so different, why it should be on the national curriculum, or at the very least stuffed in hotel drawers as an alternative to the Bible or 50 Shades of Grey.

Lock & Key is the brainchild of Joe Hill, writer of the incredible novels Heart shaped Box and Horns (if you haven’t read these go get them…now…I mean it, GO! But don’t forget to come back).

The story follows the three Locke family children, Tyler the eldest and world-weary one, Kinsey the spunky teenager and the youngest: innocent, adorable Bode. The family relocate to their estate – the Keyhouse in Lovecraft – after the brutal murder of their father; a seemingly random brutal act which as the story progresses becomes clear is rooted in the supernatural, with a vengeful spirit acting as puppetmaster.

The artwork is by the supremely talented and all round lovely bloke Mr Gabriel Rodriguez, and his drawing makes the book really come alive. His art is so expressive and visceral; he really doesn’t shy away from the violence and gore.

The facial features are so detailed you see every line and expression with, at times, too-stark clarity. Rodriguez’s backgrounds are meticulously done, especially within the supremely gothic Keyhouse itself.  I can’t help but be enthralled by the huge 1700’s house made of a labyrinth of corridors and rooms built from wood, with  towering stone and cavernous ceilings – plus the washed out colours in the house add a sense of dread while keeping a fairytale aesthetic.

Everyone loves a fast-paced start, and Locke and Key throws you straight into the action within the first few pages. We see the Locke family on vacation, which turns ugly when two strangers show up.

Bloodied bodies in a pick up truck are juxtaposed with unaware children playing by a lake, with Tyler lamenting his boredom and berating his father for using them as ‘child labour’. This is swiftly followed by their Dad, Rendell, walking into the house; we see an axe, a gun, then the book cuts straight to his funeral.

It’s a shocking opening but in the best of ways. We get a clear sense of the characters’ personalities and feel their terrible loss straight away.

The shock then gives way to mystery as the reader is gradually clued in to what happened during the attack. We see and feel the overwhelming fear of these deranged attackers, the horrific violence encased in vengeance as members of the family fight back, beating and hacking at the attackers killing one and the other left a bloody pulp– as well as dropping in some raw depictions of sexual assault.

It’s brutal stuff but gives a real sense of morbid suspense and anger, which in turn leaves the reader desperate to see the tale unfold. Too often plots fail to move to the extremes of human emotion, and this deals with the whole lot almost immediately.

The violent history is then cleverly juxtaposed by their arrival at the Keyhouse with their Uncle, uncovering new realms of supernatural information.

Bode, playing in their new home, finds a mysterious key, unlocks a door and is turned into a ghost. Sam Lesser, the attacker who survived, is then shown to be in cahoots with a supernatural presence (later revealed to be the twisted soul of Lucas Caravaggio, an old friend of Rendell Locke). All this happens in just the first issue! twenty nine pages packed full of story.

I won’t spoil any more for those of you who haven’t read it, so summing it up as spoiler free as I can: the story progresses showing the Locke kids finding more of these mysterious keys including the Gender Key (guess what that does), the Angel Key, which gives you big feathery wings, and my personal favourite the Shadow Key; this one gives you the ability to control shadows and manipulate them in to shapes and hard forms.

They also start delving into their Father Rendell’s past realising his death may not have been a random attack.

Big baddie Lucas also reveals his plans to find the mysterious Omega key and integrates himself into the Locke children’s lives by disguising himself as a new pupil at their school, befriending Tyler and pursuing Kinsley romantically. His background and connection to Rendell Locke is explored and we see how the keys have corrupted his soul.

There are five volumes of Locke & Key so far, with a charming stand alone one-shot story: Guide to the Known Keys, and they’ve all stayed superbly true to ethos of the series. We have one more arc to go: Locke & Key Omega, and I am champing at the bit for these last few books –thought I will be incredibly sad to see the end of this story. I haven’t enjoyed or looked forward to a series this much in years and have gotten so much enjoyment from these books.

Thank you Joe & Gabriel for doing something others haven’t and for pushing boundaries – this is what the medium is set up for. I can’t wait to see how this all ends…I bet it’ll be bloody.

GS Reporter: Sara Westrop
 

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