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Locke & Key: Season Three

The six-book graphic novel series Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez is an all-time favorite of mine, so I was thrilled when Netflix adapted the books into this three-season series. Season One was strong, with more emphasis on fantasy vs horror than the books, with Season Two starting to veer off the original storyline. Each season has consisted of ten episodes, and this final season continues to tell the tale of the Locke family who are fighting an otherworldly evil and has been doing so for generations.

The trio of Locke siblings- Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode- finally used magic to let their mother and uncle know about the supernatural happenings. In the past, once someone became an adult they forgot about the magic, which had been happening to Tyler as he neared eighteen. I liked this change from the graphic novels, as it was becoming more and more unsustainable to keep such shocking happenings from the adults, and as a mother myself, I appreciated this tweak. If my kids were facing supernatural horrors, I would want to help them!

This third season changed up the storyline significantly, with a villain from the past brought to the modern day. Both in the book and in this series, the Lockes were able to use a magic key that enabled them to visit their home during the Revolutionary War when much of the magical mayhem began. But in this adaptation, an evil soldier and his two sidekicks come into the Locke’s world and try to find all the keys and assure their domination. I was rather meh about this new direction, for while I wanted some changeup in the narration so I wasn’t bored, I missed the opportunity to get to know past Locke family members that the series (and now spin-offs) have featured.

Uncle Duncan wasn’t featured as much this season (I wondered if IRL the actor had other commitments) although there was a nice wedding to his boyfriend at the beginning of the episodes. The mother, Nina, got a boyfriend with minimal drama, as especially the two oldest kids recognized that she needed to move on after her husband’s death and be happy. There were several unjust deaths (Gordie deserved better!) and the kid’s friends took a backseat.

While I have to admit I wasn’t as invested in this season as the previous two, the last episode really brought it home. The family working together (love!) realized that although they defeated the evil soldier, they needed to dispose of all the keys. The keys had only brought misery upon the family for generations, and while tempted to keep them, they understood they needed to put a stop to the dark magic. But as a family, they used one last key to briefly reunite with their father and had an extremely touching reunion with him. Nina, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode were all given small happily-ever-after moments and the series came to an apt conclusion.

All in all, this three-season series did justice to Hill and Rodriguez’s graphic novel series. Due to excellent casting, viewers welcomed the Locke family into their homes, and some twists and turns away from the original storyline kept it fresh. I’ll miss this Netflix series, but I will keep on the lookout for more graphic novels in the Locke & Key universe, as it remains a favorite of mine!

Top 5 Comic Authors

Who are my top 5 comic authors? Let’s see!

Joe Hill

Locke & Key– need I say more? But I will! His six-volume horror/fantasy series is what put Hill on my radar years ago, but I have enjoyed many more books of his since then. With his Locke & Key series now on Netflix, and his novels and short-story collections in high demand, DC has given him a prestige project, his own label- Hill House Comics. This label had some great stories, plus adding in his very dark The Cape, has made Hill my go-to horror writer.

Cullen Bunn

The eight-volume eerie southern gothic fairy tale, Harrow County and necromantic horror trilogy Bone Parish make Bunn a favorite of mine. He writes creepy and suspenseful stories with excellent character development.

Faith Erin Hicks

Hicks is a double-whammy, for she both writes and illustrates. Her historical-fiction trilogy The Nameless City is timeless, and I demand a sequel to Friends With Boys! Her first YA book Comics Will Break Your Heart shows that she is as strong a writer as she is an artist.

Brian Wood

I almost didn’t put Wood down due to his sexual harassment allegations, but I have to be honest, I loved much of his early work. The seven-volume Viking saga Northlanders was fascinating, as was his two-volume series Rebels about colonial America. Due to the scandal, we will never know how the timely and gritty Briggs Land would have concluded.

Robert Kirkman

Invincible and The Walking Dead were both long-running series that I loved. That Kirkman wrote them concurrently for many years blows my mind. They both had huge casts and had their characters’ age, which I always like in stories, so kudos to him for creating two distinct and believable universes.

Honorable Mentions- Derf Backderf (My Friend Dahmer, Trashed, and Kent State) & Brian K Vaughn (Saga and Pride of Baghdad)

Who are your favorites, and why???

Locke & Key: Season Two

The six-book graphic novel series Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez is an all-time favorite of mine, so I was thrilled when Netflix released an adaptation of it last year. Season One was strong, with more emphasis on fantasy vs horror than the book. This opens the narrative to more possibilities, and also makes it a bit more open to a younger audience, although it stills skews towards mature storylines. The ten episodes continue to tell the tale of the Locke family who are fighting an otherworldly evil and has been doing so for generations.

The season begins with the trio of siblings- Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode – not knowing that two of their friends, which includes Kinsey’s boyfriend Gabe, are evil. In fact, their naivety is frustrating, as they tell many of their friends about the magic of the Keyhouse and trust too many people. They discover more keys in and around their home, giving them various powers that will prove useful in the future. Their mother Nina and Uncle Duncan are clueless as to what is happening around them, as adults can’t remember the magic they witness afterward (even after a giant spider attack in the clip below!). Tyler is nearing eighteen, and his girlfriend who is a bit older than him begins to forget magical things that she had experienced, so Tyler knows he doesn’t have much longer to help his siblings. Luckily, a memory key returns Duncan’s memories, which is crucial as he had known how to make new magical keys when he was younger. That later Nina is also given the key of memory was important, because it had become heartbreaking that she was not privy to what her children were going through.

Many shows that incorporate teens have actors and actresses that are much older and so very perfect looking, but the casting in this series is more realistic. The cast is (mostly) age-appropriate and has a welcome diversity, not just as token representation, but how authentic town inhabitants might look. The teens make foolish mistakes, and while they do have to “save the day”, it is chaotic and messy getting there. The adults aren’t portrayed like they are stupid, and loving family ties are shown. I like how this adaptation is playing out, as it is going deeper than just replicating the storyline from the books.

I’m excited that season three was green-lit at the same time season two was. They filmed the seasons back-to-back, which was critical for Bode and the other young actors, that they not grow up too much between seasons. The television series is really starting to veer significantly off the book series, so the conclusion was not what I expected and where it will be heading next is anyone’s guess! And I will be there to watch how the Locke family deals with all the magical mayhem.

-Nancy

A giant spider?? Eeeek! This was before Duncan reclaimed his memory of his magical past.

Plunge

Joe Hill saved the best for last in his five-volume Hill House Comics label!

The story takes inspiration from The Thing and Alien movies, and also a touch of the spiral-obsessed Uzumaki manga series. Set in modern-day, a distress signal from a drilling ship lost 40 years ago in the Arctic Circle is heard, so a salvage ship hired by an oil corporation heads out to find it. Onboard are Captain Carpenter, two of his brothers, a marine biologist couple, various crew members and a representative from Rococo International. They are quickly in over their heads when they stopover at an Aleutian Island near the Russian border, and discover the crew members from the Derleth (this is an Easter Egg reference, look up who August Derleth is), who are gaunt and eyeless but haven’t aged. 

In a somewhat convoluted storyline, the crew finds out that extraterrestrial worms have taken over the old crew, and they are purely vessels for the alien creatures. The greedy Rococo rep has had a secret agenda (of course) and wants to profit from the aliens with their math knowledge and an other-worldly component that could give them unlimited nuclear power. There are betrayals, deaths and action-packed scenes that will keep readers riveted. I also appreciated the poignancy of the brotherly love the Carpenter men showed one another.  

The art by Stuart Immonen was excellent, and his work elevated the story, so I am glad Hill convinced him to come out of retirement for this graphic novel. Often art in horror-themed graphic novels tends towards the sketchy and the dark, but Immonen’s work is precise and detailed, which brings the terror to the forefront more effectively. He really captured the personalities of different characters and made my heart go pitter-patter for the bearded captain, and that the alien creatures are Lovecraftian is an added bonus. The color palette by Dave Stewart was appropriately ocean-inspired with grey, blue and dull greens and the letterer Deron Bennett had fun with the opening chapter pages as he converted words into a new mathematical language. 

This new Hill House label has been uneven, yet very promising. The two titles penned by Hill, including Basketful of Heads were the best of the bunch, yet I appreciated that the horror-inspired graphic novels included a variety of authors to reach different audiences. Here’s to hoping there will be future Hill House stories!

-Nancy

Basketful of Heads

Joe Hill is having a moment. With his Locke & Key series now on Netflix, and his novels and short-story collections in high demand, DC has given him a prestige project, his own label- Hill House Comics. While not all of the graphic novels under this label will be penned by him, this first story is.

Set in September 1983, on Brody Island in Maine, the story establishes an 80s horror flick vibe. June is visiting her boyfriend Liam who is wrapping up his summer job as a deputy before going back to college in the fall. But a prison break (with a homage to Hill’s father Stephen King) puts their reunion in jeopardy. The two head to the police chief’s palatial estate during a growing storm and are amazed by the chief’s Viking artifacts collection. A battle-ax comes in very handy when the convicts land on their doorstep…

There are some twists and turns as to who the convicts are and who they are connected to on the island. As June fights for her life, grabbing the first weapon in sight, the ax’s power manifests in that the decapitated head is still alive and can continue talking. But heads begin to roll (!!) as June tries to find Liam and has to fight off several more criminals. Many secrets of corruption on the island are revealed by these talking heads. A final show-down discloses some heartbreaking truths and June obtains justice for a young woman who had been used and abused that summer.

Artists Leomacs and Riccardo La Bella really captured the era and northeast region well. There were crude jokes with some characters getting an almost Mad magazine type of caricature treatment, especially three times when a character is drawn with two heads as they are reacting to news. I loved the chapter breaks, as June’s basket fills and how the chapter numbers are symbolized. These sight gags, plus others, matched the tone of the narrative and made me laugh.

I enjoyed the dark humor as the horror-aspect of it all was played fast and loose. Thanks to NetGalley for this advance copy, for with this graphic novel as the first in the collection, I am looking forward to the others coming out in the months ahead. Joe Hill, both in graphic novels and books, is now definitely a favored author of mine.

-Nancy

Locke & Key: Season One

Locke & Key is one of my favorite graphic novel series, for as I said, “Locke & Key is truly one of the best graphic 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 horror series”. So I was so excited to learn that it would be turned into a television series. A pilot had originally been shot for the Fox network in 2011 but they never picked it up, then Hulu had the rights but ultimately passed on turning it into a series, and finally, Netflix obtained the rights and the series debuted this February. As with many Netflix series, all ten episodes dropped at once, but I’m a busy mom who works full time, and it took me two months to finish all the episodes.

The story begins in California when a disgruntled student kills Rendell Locke,  and his grieving family heads back to Massachusetts to the Locke family estate. Nina, a recovering alcoholic is hanging onto her sobriety for dear life, while trying to help her three children adjust to their new home and reality. Tyler and Kinsey are in high school, while the youngest Bode is still in grade school. While out exploring the grounds, Bode finds a supernatural woman hiding in the well, and she convinces him to release her and help her find magical keys that are hidden around the estate. But she is malevolent, and we soon discover she was behind the killing of Rendell. He had been hiding secrets from his youth, as he too, knew of the key’s powers and how they could be twisted for evil. Now, this new generation of Lockes is battling for their lives, and pull some other people from the community into the mess.

Casting is key in any series, and I feel they really hit it out of the park. I loved all thee of the Locke children with the youngest really authentically capturing the wide-eyed innocence of Bode. The older two made the same short-sighted mistakes as they did in the graphic novel, with Tyler doing his best to be the level headed one and Kinsey’s lack of fear being a problem. The series eliminated a character who raped the Lockes’ mother and helped killed the Locke father, so Nina’s back story wasn’t as tragic and her character was allowed more growth.

I was very pleased with the series- it was a strong adaptation of the source material, especially as the pilot episode was co-written by author Joe Hill. The graphic novel was definitely in the horror genre with fantasy elements, but I’d say the series did a 180° with it skewing more towards fantasy with a few horror elements. This worked well, as some extremely dark issues were eliminated, which opened the narrative up to more ages, although it was still for a fairly mature audience.

While the series faithfully replicated much of the plot from the six-book series, many threads were left unexplored as to give the tv series room for growth if it was picked up for a second season- and it was! There were some fun reveals in the last few minutes that will lead to the Locke family facing more adversity, as there are two new demonic foes who are masquerading as friends. I look forward to more adventures with the Lockes!

-Nancy

Locke & Key: Heaven and Earth

As an extreme fan of Locke & Key, I was thrilled to see a book of collected stories set in the world of Keyhouse. Unfortunately, this book depends on your knowledge of the six-book series to understand the power of the keys that play a significant role in the stories. As two of the three stories are prequels, you are meeting family ancestors to the Locke children, and you will see some uncanny resemblances between generations.

Open The Moon

While this story could be a stand-alone, this story is better understood if you have read the issue Small World, as this has the family found in that story. We meet Chamberlin Locke and his wife Fiona and their four children. This story centers on their sickly son Ian, who is prone to convulsions, who can’t be cured by the magical mending cabinet in their home. Ian, his father and family friend Harland board a special hot air balloon to take them to the other side of the moon. This beautiful but melancholy story reunites loved ones, and Ian’s parents make a heart-rending sacrifice for Ian.

Picture taken from Deviant Art (artist & colorist credit on picture)

Grindhouse

This crime-noir story is set in the 1930’s and features some French-Canadian criminals that get in over their heads at the Keyhouse. Sisters Mary and Jean from the previous story are all grown up when the gangsters burst into their home and threaten them. Bombshell Mary is calm, even when her little boys are in danger and the women are forced upstairs to be assaulted. Luckily these two women know how to utilize the keys of the house to their advantage, and the crime spree ends in a shocking manner. This story is graphic and meant for mature audiences only.

Image result for locke and key grindhouse

In The Can

We are reunited with the three Locke siblings from the original series in this short. Spanning only a few pages, this story takes place in what I assume would be Volume 4 when they are searching for additional keys in the house and grounds. Bode, the youngest, discovers a magical outhouse in the woods. Each time he opens the door different creatures greet him. In-jokes abound in this story, so be on the lookout for clues in the first few panels that will explain what Bode sees. That some of these creatures can be found in other IDW publications comes as no surprise.

The concluding pages in the book are a photo gallery of the Massachusetts region that the fictional town of Lovecraft is based off and the author and illustrator mugging for the camera. Then we are given three drawn portraits of Bode, Kinsey and Tyler with Locke & Key mythology behind them.

This hardback book is a treat for already established Locke & Key fans and should not be missed if you miss the series and are waiting on the Hulu series to start filming (edit- Netflix picked up the series to film when Hulu passed on it).

-Nancy

Road Rage

Lately I have been on a Stephen King and Joe Hill kick, and Goodreads noticed. Recently I read The Cape and and on the “readers also enjoyed” sidebar Road Rage was recommended.  I was able to track down a copy and was pleased to see that the book included two short stories- the first written by the father and son duo of King and Hill, but also included an adaptation of the classic story Duel by Richard Matheson.

Throttle: Written by Stephen King and Joe Hill, Adapted by Chris Ryall, Art by Nelson Daniel

With an introduction by Stephen King, the reader is given a homage to Richard Matheson, for this first story was originally included in He is Legend, a book collection of Matheson-inspired stories. King gives Matheson partial credit for shaping him into the writer he is today.

We are introduced to a group of ten bikers, that have a Sons of Anarchy vibe, although they are called The Tribe. The three main characters are leader Vinny, Lemmy, and Vinny’s son Race, with the other bikers getting less face time. At a truck stop they are discussing a drug deal gone wrong, that resulted in a death, and their plans to try to recoup their losses. The leaders speculate that one of the truckers might have overheard their conversation , but figures “No one with any sense would want to get involved in their shitpull”. They were wrong. Out on the road the trucker comes after them, and blood and mayhem endue. You will just have to read the story to find out the trucker’s motives, and the resulting causality count.

The story is illustrated by Nelson Daniel who did the art in The Cape, also written by Hill. I enjoy his work, and liked his computer generated dot matrix that he uses for shading. He was able to make each biker unique looking, and had some great layout designs in his panels.

Duel: Written by Richard Matheson, Adapted by Chris Ryall, Art by Rafa Garres

This story included a second introduction, this time by Joe Hill, and he recounts some fond childhood memories of road trips with his father. As a child he had been fascinated with the movie Duel, directed by Steven Spielberg, and he and his father had fun in the car imagining what they would do under the same circumstances.

The premise is simple, a traveling salesperson is on a deadline, and wants to pass a trucker on a desert stretch of highway. He does so, but the trucker is incensed and starts to play cat and mouse games with the hapless driver. The driver pulls over at a truckstop, knowing he will now be late for the meeting, but as he fears for his safety, he wants to let the menacing trucker go by. Unfortunately for him the trucker also stops as to continue their driving duel. To find out who wins the duel you must read this book and/or watch the movie! In fact, the movie is my Friday night plans, as I was too scared by it in my younger years to watch it to completion.

The art is reminiscent of the famous painting The Scream by artist Edvard Munch, with the swirling lines and emotion of fear coming through the work. Colored with a muddy palette the browns, yellows and oranges aptly depict the barren landscape. At first I was not a fan of the illustrations, and was turned off by the impreciseness of how the driver looked. But his seemingly melted face conveyed his terror as his day went to hell in a blink of an eye.

I would definitely give this book a recommendation, but it will come as no surprise to King and Hill fans, the book is for mature audiences as it has quite a bit of violence with some graphic illustrations.

-Nancy

A variant title page showing King & Hill!

 

Hype or Like Friday: I’m A Scaredy-Cat…

It’s Friday the 13th today! And what better way to celebrate than with this writing prompt- Hype or Like Friday: I’m A Scaredy-Cat… list the top 13 books and films that scare you the most! You will quickly see I like my horror stories short and scary. I am a big fan of Stephen King, but typically only of his shorter work.

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys by various authors

Impressive collection of horror/fantasy/paranormal short stories that were all inspired by old movies or books. The inspiration of each story is listed at the end of each story, but the fun is in guessing before you know for sure.

 

Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King

Image result for everything's eventual king

King became too wordy for me a long time ago, so I now stick to his short stories for I feel he writes them very well. I liked how not all of them had horror or a supernatural element to them, but they all brought the characters to life. Some authors write a whole book and you still don’t have a fully fleshed out character, so I have always felt short story writers who can pull you in quickly are the best authors.  My favorites were Everything’s Eventual (listened to this on audio-Justin Long nailed it), Riding the Bullet and The Road Virus Heads North.

 

Poe: Stories and Poems by Edgar Allen Poe, adapted by Gareth Hinds


Image result for poe stories and poems

When I wrote my discussion post on whether classic stories should be adapted into graphic novels, I deliberately left stories about Poe off. I love many of the macabre poems and short stories he wrote, and I had heard that this adaptation would be out soon. The illustrations here are evocative, and I will be reviewing this particular book in a few weeks. (Edit- here it is!)

 

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Four very dark short stories with Big Driver and A Fair Marriage being my favorites. This was the book that truly gave me the most chills, as they were very realistic and grim.

 

Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriquez

One of the best graphic novel series I have ever read, Locke & Key starts with a family tragedy as the Locke family is terrorized by two students who have an ax to grind with the father, Rendell, who is a high school guidance counselor.  After the father’s murder, the shattered family leaves California and heads to Massachusetts to start over at the Locke family estate, where Rendell’s younger brother Duncan provides them sanctuary. But alas, more evil awaits them there. This supernatural thriller set in a small coastal town is a winner and is being developed for a series on Hulu.

 

Image result for night shift king

These early stories of King stories grab your attention, and wonderfully describe the characters and locale in just a few pages. Favorites were Jerusalem’s Lot, Strawberry Spring, Children of the Corn, and I Am the Doorway. That many of these short stories were adapted into movies say a lot about the strength of his writing.

 

As for the movies…

Alien– There is no place to escape in space! That alien is so freakin’ creepy.

The Ring– The urban legends are true! Don’t watch the video!

The Blair Witch Project– The first of the “lost footage” movies that was perfectly done and set the stage for a new genre.

Poltergeist– I watched this as a child and it freaked me out. Children in danger, killer clown toy, and a house built on a graveyard- this had everything to scare me!

Carrie– Religious fanaticism, telekinesis and mayhem at the prom!

The Silence of the Lambs– Cannibalism and mind games at their finest.

Arachnophobia– Spiders…nuff’ said.

Give these stories and movies a chance, and you’ll be sure to have a frightfully good time!

-Nancy

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