I finished reading the first collected volume of graphic novel Locke & Key by writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez. The hardback edition I read is entitled Welcome to Lovecraft and was released in 2008. It collects the first six issues of the comic by the same name published by IDW comic publishers. One of the decisions that I made going into 2013 was to read more graphic novels and from different publishers than I usually do. Locke & Key has continued for several volumes and has gotten a lot of praise. So I figured that I would try it out and see how it goes. Also, because the author names the location for the story “Lovecraft,” I admit I was intrigued. If an author invokes that name in his writing, one almost expects creepy, weird, scary stuff – so I was all set to read something well-done.
The story, generally, is about the Locke family and the family’s ancestral home, Keyhouse, a Massachusetts mansion with a fantastic collection of magical keys and doors. And this story is not for kids. Some bad language, some gore, some horror, etc. I do not think it is a foul book (I wouldn’t read that…) but it does have a smattering of bad. After all, this is technically in the “horror” genre. Anyway, Keyhouse. This is the main focal point of the story. This is interesting because usually authors use a character as a focal point and not a setting. The first issue in the volume starts in media res and fills in some backstory via flashback, however, even at the end of the issue – the reader will have a number of questions about the whole thing. And this is okay because by the end of the volume many of these are fleshed-out and resolved. Of course, new questions are then presented!
The father, Rendell Locke is murdered by a high schooler named Sam Lesser. And though it seems a random murder by a particularly deranged teenager, the connection is Keyhouse. We are told in flashback that if anything is to happen to Rendell, the family is to go live at Keyhouse with Rendell’s brother, Duncan. Why? In a cryptic statement Rendell tells his wife that “the house chose Duncan.” Clearly, Rendell is not oblivious to the mysteries of Keyhouse. After the murder, the family (mom, older brother, middle sister, young brother) travel from California to MA to live at Keyhouse and everyone is dealing with the loss of Rendell and the change in their lives.
My biggest problem with the artwork is that Duncan and the mother, Nina, look the same age as the kids in the novel. Assuming the oldest kid, Tyler, is 17 – the mother and the uncle still only look 25 at most. This kind of didn’t work for me – not that I expected them to be old and haggard or something. The best part of the artwork is how much the artist seems to mesh with the story and draw scenes which amplify and parallel the writing. Sometimes a writer’s good idea might fall a bit flat without a diligent, capable artist. No fear of that here.
At the start I was a little confused. Back-and-forth in time was disconcerting – what happened when and where? But I got it all sorted out and reading got a lot better. Joe Hill did an excellent job developing each character, especially the kids. Tyler is a compelling character and is written and drawn really well. Bode is a lot of readers’ favorite character because he’s a curious, intelligent kid who loves his family. He’s a cute kid. Kinsey, the girl, is also a strong personality and independent. Hill’s characterizations are so good that one really is “pulling for” this family. It is really important to have likeable characters that a reader can sympathize with and follow along with interest. Without this – this storyline would not be worth reading. The villain in this volume (Sam Lesser) is exceedingly hateable. He’s repulsive and deranged and I dislike him a lot. This is also “good” because who wants a villain that is not really a villain?
There are some really cool plot twists – the frame where Bode sends two items down the well is awesome, how Lesser escapes from prison is sharp, and the interconnectivity of characters in Lovecraft adds to the suspense. In other words, I liked the unfolding of the story and its pacing. After finishing the volume I want to get the next. I have these questions: what happens next (re: Zack)? How will the connection Duncan to the house and everything else develop? How will Tyler and Bode’s relationship change after the events of issue six?
I recommend this book to those who enjoy suspense/horror, good character development, and who are over 18.