LOCKE AND KEY:
WELCOME TO LOVECRAFT
HILL, GABRIEL RODRIGUEZ
The first foray into comic
scripting from author Joe Hill, of
20th CENTURY GHOSTS and HEART-SHAPED BOX fame.
The opening scenes of LOCKE AND KEY are somewhat chaotic and confusing, but the
narrative gradually sharpens itself into a streamlined tale of terror with the
forward drive of a good novel. Yet this is still very much a graphic
novel that excels in visual storytelling, courtesy of the virtuosic
illustrations of Gabriel Rodriguez.
The narrative layout is
quite complex, and difficult to warm up to, but the story is nonetheless a
strong one: the three traumatized Locke children--Tyler, Kinsey and Bode--are
taken by their mother to a rural town called Lovecraft(!) in an effort to start
a new life. Their father, a university professor, was killed by a psychotic
pupil whoís now interned in an insane asylum. As for the house the Lockes have
moved into, itís a foreboding mansion filled with doors that, as six-year-old
Bode quickly discovers, open into all sorts of strange alternate realities,
including one that allows Bode to become a ghost.
But thereís also a
malevolent presence afoot. Itís the unquiet spirit of a woman looking to force
her way back onto the mortal plane via a special ďAnywhere Key,Ē and is using
both Bode and the crazy guy who started the entire mess to affect that goal.
It all results in a suspenseful account that nicely alternates plot and
psychology. Joe Hill succeeds in fully delineating the traumatic inner worlds
of his youthful protagonists while never compromising the storyís forward
momentum. Bode naturally resonates the most; his childhood naivetť is quite
winning in contrast to the many screwed-up elders surrounding him, and proves
indispensable in unlocking the mansionís dark secrets.
The psycho on the other hand displays many dial-a-villain
tendencies (in particular a plethora of distracting Freddy Krueger-esque
wisecracks), but heís not the true villain. Itís the vengeful spirit inhabiting
the mansion who essays that role, and the character is a mighty strong one; her
final incarnation, which sets the stage for a sequel (just so you know, LOCKE
AND KEY is a Volume One), is a most unexpected development that impressively
demonstrates Mr. Hillís imaginative fecundity.
Again, the extraordinary artwork of Gabriel Rodriguez is indispensable to
LOCKE AND KEYíS impact, but this is Joe Hillís show all the way. His evocation
of surreal childhood terrors--and a few all-too-real grown-up ones--will
resonate with anyone familiar with 20th CENTURY GHOSTS. Quite simply, few other
writers (Hillís old man Stephen King included) do this sort of thing better, and
this volume, flaws and all, is among Hillís standout works.