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.

LOCKE & KEY: KEYS TO THE KINGDOM #1
Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
Colors: Jay Fotos
Letters: Robbie Robbins
Editor: Chris Ryall
Publisher: IDW Publising

BULLIES

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.

Rating: ★★★★★

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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3 Comments

  1. Damascus
    September 23, 2010 at 8:43 am — Reply

    I’ve loved Stephen King since I stumbled across Eyes of the Dragon as a kid in the library and I’ve read nearly everything since. While subject matter (i.e. simply being horror/thriller/fantasy) is in line with Stephen King, this is a completely different style of storytelling that is quite a ways away from the father while being wonderful all on its’ own. I didn’t care for the art in the very first Locke and Key issue for about the first half of it but it started growing on me and every issue that I’ve read since then has changed my mind completely. It isn’t your typical art style that all the Avengers type titles have, it’s kind of cartoony but after having read all of the Locke and Key up to this point, I really can’t see it being done any other way. What I always loved was when Bode would go through the Ghost door and his expression on his body was great and the scenes where his sister keeps coming back in and looking at him from a distance were just really well done and was more affecting than any exposition could have been.

    Everytime I go to Mid-Ohio Con and walk down the Artists Alley thing for new local artists, about half of them try to sell their books by comparing it to Calvin and Hobbes (probably my favorite comic strip of all time, followed closely by Far Side and Dilbert, so screw you Family Circus, freakin Jeffy) and it never feels right and feels too tacked on as just something to sell your own junk. With this book, I definitely get the C&H vibe for sure, I mean the cover itself is a direct homage to one of my very favorite comic panels ever, but it doesn’t feel like an inferior copy; it always consistently tells its’ own unique story and goes where it would have gone no matter what the art style had been, they just throw in those moments that act as an homage to what’s come before. I love that, it’s not a ripoff that calls out “HOMAGE” like an excuse, I think the homage elements really are there because they already have a built in feeling to them that can be elicited and can make that scene stand out and affect you more than it might have otherwise. During the Critical Hit podcast (follow me here…) Matthew seems to laugh and find enjoyment out of certain events that transpire or phrases that are spoken almost solely because of the other random thing that it makes him think of, the same happens when homage is done correctly, when you see something and have that little “aha, I know what that is” moment, you’re pulled in deeper and can really understand even more fully what the artist and the writer were going for here.

    Great series and I really can’t wait to pick my copy of this issue up next time I’m able to get down to my LCS. Thanks Stephen for introducing me to Locke and Key way back, I’ve been an avid reader ever since. And I need to buy some of those keys, that’d be awesome!

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