Graphic Novel Review – Locke and Key Volume One: Welcome to Lovecraft

Graphic Novel Review: Locke & Key, Volume One: Welcome to Lovecraft

CollectingLocke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft #1-6

Original Release Date: 2008

Publisher: IDW Comics

locke and key

Characters: The Lockes (Tyler, Kinsey, Bode, Nina), Sam Lesser

Writer: Joe Hill

Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 8

Art – 8

Captivity and Length – 9

Identity – 10

Use of Medium – 8

Depth – 10

Fluidity – 7

Intrigue/Originality –10

The Little Things – 9

Overall awesomeness – 8

hush_rating_88

In the wake of Halloween, I found it only fitting to review one of the best Horror/Mystery comics of all time, Locke & Key. Having read it for the first time before reviewing it, there was a lot of hype for these books to live up to, as it has garnered quite the cult following amongst avid readers – yet, at the same time, not many comic book readers I know read the series. What I will try to give you is my opinion from the point of view of a person that just loves good stories, whether they have pictures or not. If being connected to previous comics or superheroes is a must for you, then I can already tell you that this will not be the book for you. Sometimes, you need to let go of all you came into reading with and just experience something new.

welcome to lovecraft

Welcome to Lovecraft introduces us to a family recovering from tragedy. The Lockes have just moved across the country to Keyhouse, a large manor that they used as a summer home in Lovecraft, Massechutesetts. This is all fallout from when the father in the family, Rendell, was shot in the face by one of his students, also a classmate of Tyler’s, Sam Lesser. At first, it seems like just another crazy murder, but as we find out, Keyhouse is more than it appears to be. Bode, the youngest of the family, finds out that you can turn into a ghost by walking through a certain door. No joke, he dies and becomes a spirit – at will.

bode ghost

The story can be a bit difficult to follow at first, especially since most of the first issue shoots back between flashbacks and the present day, but it becomes easier once the backstory has been built. While it is innately a horror book, there is plenty of humor to keep the mood light when people aren’t being murdered. Bode’s time as a ghost crosses the genre from horror to fantasy, as he experiences the spirit state with child-like naivety, and is one of the best parts of the book. We also get a good chance to bond with the new characters, a nod to some great writing of internal monologue from a family that has just had their father murdered. But, like in any great horror story, something that starts out cute and innocent turns out to be the doom of them all. Bode’s innocent friend Echo ends up having a mystical connection with Sam, Rendell Locke’s murderer. And he is coming back for more.

echo
I frequently found myself wondering what the hell was going on, not because of bad writing or story-telling, but simply because I had never experienced anything like this before. The writing made me love the good guys and hate the bad guys, although at one point you can’t help but have sympathy for the pawn, Sam Lesser. The art in Locke & Key is very straight-forward and portrays the people in the story with proportional figures and adequately gross horror scenes. Gabriel Rodriguez hasn’t won any awards yet, but he does a fantastic job of portraying what the story is trying to narrate.
mary on the rag
At the end of the day, I challenge you to find a better horror graphic novel out there. The depth of fantasy and story-telling elements help to balance the violence and terror in the story, engaging readers but never making them too afraid to connect to the reverie of what is happening. There are keys that let you go through different doors all over the world, a plot point that I couldn’t wait to be explored in future chapters. Locke & Key is proof that not all great comics need capes and cowls, but rather just a great story and the right artist to paint the picture.
keys

General Reception: Locke & Key has found quite the cult following among readers. It’s a fun ride, and legitimately frightening in the art and story-telling aspects. Take your chances on the critically acclaimed series that has an Eisner Award for Best Writing attached to it. They’ve even tried making a television series of the book; a trailer can be found below. FOX axed the series (no surprises there) in 2011, but Locke & Key has since been revived by Universal and a full-length film is in development.

Related Books: After finishing Welcome to Lovecraft, I would recommend jumping right into the second book, Head Games. Other good horror comics on the market right now are: The Wake by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy, The Walking Dead (although I don’t consider this a horror series anymore) by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard,  American Vampire by Scott Synder and the Dark Tower series by Stephen King.

More by the writer: It helps when your writer is actually a novelist. And it helps when that novelist is the son of the King of Horror, Stephen King. Joe Hill has written several award winning horror books and short stories, among them: 20th Century GhostsHeart-Shaped Box, and his best-selling novel that was just published in April 2013, NOS4A2 (Nosferatu, get it?). While he has written a couple of other one-shot comics, he has been almost exclusively dedicated to Locke & Key since its inception in 2008.

More by the artist: Like Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez really hasn’t done much else in terms of big projects, although he has drawn a number of other IDW comics, including: Transformers and CSI. His style actually reminded me a little bit of Chris Burnham’s Batman: Incorporated, a style that I feel did not work as well for Batman as it did here.

*Screenshots taken directly from comic book using Comixology app. Credit to IDW Comics for the images.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

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  1. Comic Reviews 12-18-13 « Hush Comics

    […] Locke and Key: Alpha #2 (IDW Comics) – A And that, my friends, is how you wrap up the greatest horror series in comic book history. This was a Locke for pick of the week before it was even announced. Kudos to Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez for an amazing run of almost six years. I won’t judge you if you haven’t read this book, as it’s been critically acclaimed but still very rarely marketed. There are no cliffhangers, monsters or murderers – just closure. It’s a welcome finale when writers are far more concerned with the integrity of the story rather than a spin-off or a mini-series event. As the son of the great Stephen King, Joe Hill has plenty else to look forward to. The only disclaimer I have for this issue is that you must have read the story to understand the gravity or the events of what transpire in the series finale. I know it’s a bummer but you can get started by reading our review of the first volume here. […]

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