Thursday, June 2, 2016

Locke & Key by Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodríguez (Series Review)

Genre: graphic novel, fantasy/horror
Pages: 6 volumes, about 180 pages each
Published: 2014

Synopsis: Locke & Key tells of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion, with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them. Home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all...


I originally intended to review this series volume-by-volume, but I think a series review will be better.  Locke & Key has a plot with so many twists and different characters introduced in each volume that I don't think I would have much to say about each individual volume without revealing tons of spoilers.

I started reading the Locke & Key series because I love, love, love anything to do with haunted mansions on mysterious islands.  The title of the first volume, Welcome to Lovecraft, also caught my eye because I recently read a ton of HP Lovecraft stories and really enjoyed them.  Because the individual volumes are unreasonably exorbitant at $25 each, I made a gamble and bought the box set with all six volumes to save about $100.  I love gorgeous box sets!

Locke & Key is the story of siblings Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode, who move with their mother to a family property on the East Coast after their father, a school guidance counselor, is tragically murdered by a deranged student.  Keyhouse is enormous and filled with mysteries, as six-year-old Bode finds out when he discovers that there is a serious echo in the estate's well-house.  Not merely an echo that repeats what Bode says, but an echo that speaks back to him and seems to know a lot about his father and his troubled family...
The "echo" in the well begins to emerge.

The echo bides Bode to find a key in the house which will set it free.  Meanwhile, Sam Lesser, the boy who killed the Locke kids' father also hears the voice of the thing that lives in the well while in prison on the other side of the country.  Sam manages to escape from jail and sets off to finish murdering the rest of the Locke family at the "echo's" behest.

The keys hidden around Keyhouse prove to be the Lockes' only defense against the incredible numbers of deranged killers and shadowy monsters that seek to destroy them and open a gateway to another, more brutal world in the town of Lovecraft.  These are extraordinary keys forged by Keyhouse's former inhabitants from an otherworldly substance and which can do virtually anything they are designed to do.  One key can unlock someone's head, permitting all of their memories to be removed or new ones planted.  Another can transform a person into an animal, another can give them wings.
Kinsey Locke trying out her wings

I cannot really write much more about the various supernatural threats which the Lockes encounter without spoiling at least the first volume.  However, I can say that it is not simply the fantasy elements or the simply gorgeous full-color illustrations that caused me to read all six volumes within about a week.  (To clarify, for many years the only graphic novel type books that I read were manga, which are largely inked in black and white, so I still find myself somewhat impressed upon reading full-color graphic novels.  My reaction would probably be comical to devoted readers of Western-style comics, but I catch myself thinking, "Wow, they colored in everything?!")

My favorite aspect of Locke & Key is the characters, especially the major characters Tyler and Kinsey.  These teenagers confront bizarre, catastrophic, and possible apocalyptic circumstances like...well, like most teenagers would!  Tyler feels an extraordinary amount of guilt about his father's death and tries to adjust to his new school by joining the hockey team, though he doesn't like hockey, and spending most of his time with Zach Wells, a smooth-talking guy whose history he knows very little about.  Kinsey is also dealing with her fair share of guilt and grief.  She is quick to use the magical keys to attempt to solve her problems, literally removing all her fears and insecurities from her head with the "head key" and giving herself wings to fly far away from Keyhouse and the school where she has trouble deciding where (or if) she fits in.  The fact that Kinsey has a different hair style in almost every volume is, to me, so reflective of the transitional and confusing place that she finds herself.  Some of my other favorite characters are Kinsey's friends Scot, Jackie, and Jamal.  They are very visibly the outsiders at preppy Lovecraft Academy, and provide a lot of the series's humor.  Did I mention Locke & Key is hilarious?  Because it is.

Ironically Joe Hill, the brilliant writer behind Locke & Key, is the son of that other renowned horror writer whose book Bag of Bones I just wrote a very meh review of, Stephen King.  While his horror novels seem to be as enormous as his father's, I do hope to try reading one of Joe Hill's books, perhaps NOS4A2.  Apparently it is both a vampire book and Christmas-themed???  OK, because we are talking about the author of Locke & Key, I will give it a shot!

Series Rating:

Update to 2016 Graphic Novel/Manga Reading Challenge: with Locke & Key, I have now read 6 of the 24 graphic novels I hope to have read by the end of this year!

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