When it comes to telling a fantastic story, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez have nailed it with Locke & Key. The key to the black door is the object of Lucas’ desire, allowing him to amass great power. There are many keys scattered through the grounds of the Keyhouse that can save the lives of the Locke children, and this issue sees the introduction of the Animal Key.
If you took the magical keys and house out of this issue, the story becomes an interesting look at what it means to bully the meek, making friends, and finding those that really understand you. For Bode Locke the crazy stuff he’s been through has him looking at the world a little differently and thus he’s the target of the school bully and ostracized by the rest of the kids. When Bode finds the Animal Key, he knows it will unlock the beast within, but he quickly discovers his beast is that of a simple sparrow.
Lucas has been keeping a close eye on the goings on at the Keyhouse, and he follows Lucas through the door, turning into a black wolf. This leads to a fight to the death as Lucas the Wolf attempts to kill Tyler in an attempt to discover where the key to the black door is hidden. It takes Bode in bird form to save the day, but at the loss of a great many of his bird friends.
While the horror aspect of the Locke & Key story is still there; until Bode and the birds come to the rescue, it is a fight of life or death for the other two Locke children. However, Hill takes the Bode moments of the story and turns them into cute missives on the world as viewed through the eyes of a child. They are humorous and to the point, which brings brevity to the story, and Hill and Rodriguez use the opportunity to pay homage to the world of Calvin and Hobbes.
While this issue is clearly the beginning of the next big story arc, it still feels like a stand alone issue. The writing doesn’t burden the reader down with heady thoughts or complex explanations as to the nature of the keys.
RODRIGUEZ IS THE NEW BILL WATTERSON
While the story told in this issue has its touching moments, it’s the art by Gabriel Rodriguez that sells the entire issue. From page one, readers instantly see Rodriguez channeling the great Bill Watterson in all the pages dealing with Bode. For a kid that has been through a lot, and who doesn’t have many friends, going the Calvin and Hobbes route is a perfect nod to the innocence of childhood.
But Rodriguez is able to take the art a step further by flipping back and forth from the Watterson homage to his more recognized style when the older Locke children encounter Lucas the Wolf, and even manages to mix the two when the birds and the wolves get into it. Particularly fitting is the final page of the issue when the style transitions from one to the other, delivering a happy ending in the middle of a horror series.
BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT! BUY IT, NOW!
Once again, a brilliant offering by Hill, Rodriguez and IDW Publishing. It may be a little hard to cold jump into the monthly series right now, but all of the trades are available, and I know once you’ve made it through the first arc, you’ll be hooked for the long haul. If you are looking for a comic book story that is crafted with great care, and features awesome, detailed art, then get your hands on Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom #1. It’s so deserving of 5 out of 5 Stars.