Joe Hill, author of the novels Horns and Heart-Shaped Box (and also the son Stephen King), partners with Gabriel Rodriguez to create Locke & Key, a horror story about a mysterious house situated in the small town of Lovecraft, Massachusetts. In the first volume, Welcome to Lovecraft, after the sudden and shocking murder of their father and rape of their mother by two teen delinquents, the surviving members of the Locke family — Tyler, Bode, Kinsey and their mother — move into the family’s New England estate called Keyhouse. While Tyler and Kinsey attempt to adjust to their new lives as well as deal with the loss of their father, Bode’s adventures in the mansion leads to the discovery a mysterious door that kills those who walk through it and allows their spirit to roam freely. After moving back into his body, Bode tries to convince his family about the door but no one believes him except for a mysterious echo living in the estate’s well-house.
Joe Hill turns in a wonderful and engaging script, telling the story in such a way that had me constantly on edge, a talent that could only come from the offspring of a famous horror writer. Hill shares his father’s ability in developing a sense of unease and tension and he really got me caring about his characters. From their first introduction, I took an immediate liking to the Locke children and developed a feeling of attachment towards them. Tyler Locke is an especially tortured character because, although he wished his father dead, he never meant it. Tyler loved his father, but the “I wish you were dead” comment is just one of those dumb things we say whenever we don’t get our way and want to project our anger. Kinsey’s trauma manifests itself in a sad way as she will often (subconsciously) bite her lip hard enough to draw blood, which was what she did while hiding from her father’s murderer. Bode, the younger of the Locke family, still manages to retain some of his innocence after witnessing the death of his father and finds himself constantly exploring the hidden and dark corners of Keyhouse. Here are three kids who led normal lives before someone they loved was brutally taken away and struggle to find the strength to move on. They stick together and comfort one another and Hill does a great job with that family dynamic.
The book’s illustrations by Gabriel Rodriguez is certainly the highlight of Locke & Key. Again, Hill’s script and writing is great, but I absolutely adored Rodriguez’s artwork, whether it be people, locations, or the design of Keyhouse itself. I honestly cannot gush enough about the work and after reading through the book, I went back to the beginning again and closely examined each panel just to admire the illustrations. There is so much detail on display and yet it all looks so simple and elegant. In other words, he makes it all look so easy. Even the scenes of violence are well done. While it is easy to simply draw a blood splatter and be done with it, when someone shown in a panel is being killed, everything – from the position of the characters to the traces of blood – appear drawn to some sort of plan or idea in mind. I could go on and on about Rodriguez’s artwork, but I won’t. Just know that it is excellent.
Fans of the paranormal and house hauntings will enjoy Locke & Key, as will fans of Stephen King and Joe Hill’s earlier work. Keep in mind that the work is not light on violence, much of it fairly brutal, so it is not recommended for young teens. Older teens and adults, on the other hand, are sure to enjoy this thoroughly entertaining story of the supernatural.