Review by Ian Keogh
Locke & Key begins in the real world and gradually mixes in horror and the occasional fantasy elements for a compelling and constantly twisting drama that eventually transferred to television. If that sounds your cup of tea, and you have the cash, satisfaction can be guaranteed, so you may as well head for the three hardcover Master Editions compiling the entire original series. Quite apart from the luxury format each features a great cover portrait of one of the leading characters.
This first volume combines Welcome to Lovecraft and Head Games, writer Joe Hill showing the Locke family moving from California to Massachusetts after the sudden death of Bode, Kinsley’s and Tyler’s father. This was a horrific incident, and each child bears the scars. At eighteen Tyler begins to alienate himself from his family, Kinsey’s response is to make herself as anonymous as possible, and neither believe Bode, who discovers a spooky secret. Their mother isn’t to know it, but moving the family to her husband’s spooky ancestral home is the worst thing she could do under the circumstances, as it houses both threats and dangers.
Hill explores these inventively while putting a lot of effort into realistic portrayals of troubled people whose lives become captivating even before the horror kicks in. He’s especially clever in ensuring readers pick up what people in-story don’t, which adds to the ongoing tension, and having a sympathetic, if flawed cast ensures the threats resonate. The mystery concerns discovered keys within the family home. What they open isn’t immediately apparent, and despite becoming accustomed to surprises awaiting, Hill manages to shock and surprise, such as with the look inside Bode’s head.
It initially seems as if Gabriel Rodriguez drawing Locke & Key in a style midway between cartooning and realism isn’t going to serve either cast or horror well, yet that under-rates his effort. While being detailed and diligent from the beginning, he takes a while to settle into consistency and that detail becomes a glorious signature. Better still, despite the time taken and effort poured into every chapter, at no stage does it require the dreaded fill-in artist.
By the end of this collection there’s been horror and wonder, and while the Locke children explore new possibilities, some more tentatively than others, their mother is sinking into a wine bottle. Yet compared with what’s to come, the thrills and horror have only just started. Master Edition II picks up the pace.
The Keyhouse Compendium is an alternative formatting released to coincide with the TV series, and compiling all six volumes of the original series. Alternatively, they’re all combined as a slipcased set.