This is one of the BEST graphic novel series EVER! Strong from beginning to end- I can’t recommend it enough! I will now wait as you rush out to purchase this series…
Ok, are you back from the book store? Let’s continue. When I read the first volume back in April, I said “Locke & Key is truly one of the best graphics novels I have ever read, hands down. It just dominates. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez are superb storytellers, and this first novel makes me anxious to read the rest of the series. Who cares that I have family, work and school commitments? Lovecraft is calling me.” Well, real life got in the way and I didn’t want to read the rest of the series piecemeal, so I waited until my family was on vacation to give my undivided time to finishing the series. *Warning- some spoilers ahead!*
Volume 2-Head Games:
After reading the first volume of the Locke & Key series and absolutely loving it, I knew I had to read all six volumes. Each book is dense, and takes time to get through, but is so worth the effort. This second volume delves deeper into world-building, with much back story and character development. Dodge, the malevolent soul released from the well by Bode, has now managed to worm himself closer to the family by taking on a new guise. The Locke family is none the wiser, for “Zack” manages to manipulate or take out any other person who suspects the truth. More magic keys appear, with intriguing diary entries from a Revolutionary-era ancestor in the back of the book explaining the powers of each key. The Head Key proves to be the most intriguing for a head can be opened and memories examined, showing how memories can be subjective to each person. The illustrations showing’s Bode’s colorful kaleidoscope of memories, compared to Ellie’s black and white adult memories are brilliant.
Volume 3-Crown of Shadows:
The third volume continues to dominate. The Locke family is still struggling over the death of the father, with the mother Nina crumbling under the strain of her rape and her husband’s murder. Her drinking takes a toll on the whole family, with Kinsey and Tyler having to take on the adult roles of parenting their little brother since their mother is too drunk to do so. More keys are discovered and used for evil by Zack, but combated by the three siblings with their own keys, still not knowing who is behind the attacks. Nina discovers a magic chest (which surprised me for they make a point in saying that the magic is for the young) which fixes broken items, leading her to put her husband’s ashes in and hoping for a miracle. Unfortunately, it can not mend death, leading to a poignant conclusion of Nina’s breakdown and the discovery of the mysterious Omega Key.
Volume 4-Keys to the Kingdom:
Another solid entry but it runs into the “middle problem” of a series when the beginning sets up the plot and atmosphere, and the middle is left with hanging storylines before the last volumes (hopefully) wrap up everything successfully. The beginning of the book was a fun start, with the illustrations drawn to emulate Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes style, to set up the stage for an animal showdown. Many more keys are found by the Locke siblings, and for the first time, they are not documented in the diary entries but they are obvious as to their power with the awesome battle illustrations drawn by Rodriguez. Lucas/Zack is still manipulating the family, especially Kinsey whom he romances, but Tyler is beginning to put together the clues. The end of this volume concludes with an epic cliff hanger.
Not every series can be perfect- and I do have some issues: I found the Skin Key to be problematic with stereotypical racial overtones, Ellie’s constant misfortune including her son Rufas’s intellectual disability and the implication that he is too stupid for the Head Key to be used on him, and the teenagers poor decisions in regards to what they let their friends and love interests know. I do look forward to how volumes five and six resolve the story and hopefully tie up some of my stated issues.
Backstory awesomeness!!! We finally get an explanation of the keys’ origin during the Revolutionary War era, as hinted by the diary entries of different Locke generations in the back of the previous volumes. The present-day Locke’s discover the Timeshift Key enabling them to witness history. They observe the first Locke family as they endure tragedy from the British while protecting the American rebels. Tyler and Kinsey watch as the 1700’s Locke children witness the evil hiding in the caverns below their home. Later we are privy to what happened in 1988 with Rendell (the father as a teenager) and his friends and how the evil invaded Lucas. It was especially heartbreaking to see how Lucas had truly loved Ellie until he was accidentally taken over, all due to Rendell’s immaturity and bad ideas. This volume had many tragic deaths, all of whom were innocent, due to the evil that got loose from the Black Door. I can not wait to see how this story concludes, and what will happen to Bode, now that the evil is in him. What legacy awaits the Locke’s?
Volume 6- Alpha & Omega:
All the mythology that has been building over the series comes to an epic conclusion. The entire Locke family is fighting for their survival, as an evil entity has been gaining strength and is determined to take over. This coincides with prom, and a large group of foolish teens head into the cave for after-prom festivities, not knowing that they are walking into evil’s lair. The final showdown occurs with Kinsey and Tyler fighting the demon that looks like their little brother. Other friends step up to assist, often with devastating results. The death toll builds, with some surprising twists and turns. Will they be able to vanquish the enemy, and at what terrible price? While the poignant epilogue gives the Locke family some closure and a few happy endings, the Locke family is forever changed by the demons they fought and the tragedies they endured.
A few final wrap-ups: The artwork made this series for it established the atmosphere to coincide with Hill’s magnificent and well-paced storytelling. Rodriguez is crazy talented. He has included Easter eggs in this series from the start, with details drawn into pictures or words written into books in a library background, so I had to smile when I recognized Hill and Rodriguez drawn as the paramedics on page 18. Although I have been on the lookout for eggs, I wonder how many other details I have missed or what other background characters have been people the artist knows.
So, everyone, you MUST READ this horror series! Beg, borrow or steal these books. You will be glad you did.