Friday, 1 October 2010

Review - Locke & Key Vol.1: Welcome To Lovecraft HC

Locke & Key is an IDW-published series written by Joe Hill and drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez. Hill is the son of Stephen King, which he is probably really sick of everyone saying, but he is also a successful author in his own right. I have read two of his books – Twentieth Century Ghosts (a very good collection of short horror stories) and Heart Shaped Box (a pretty good horror novel) – and will no doubt buy his latest book – Horns – at some point (i.e. when I see it cheap in a charity shop, I am ‘on the ration’ after all). This, however, is the first time I have read one of his comics (although this is his first actual series, I believe he has written other comics) and I was really impressed.

Welcome to Lovecraft tells the story of the Locke kids – Tyler, Kinsey and Bode – who move to the town of Lovecraft, Massachusetts, along with their mother, after their schoolteacher father is brutally murdered by two of his students. Their new home in Lovecraft is the Keyhouse, their father’s childhood home, now owned by their uncle, and around the Keyhouse are hidden the keys to various doors ‘that transform all who dare to walk through them’. The main key we get to see in action in this book is the ‘ghost key’, which opens a door that turns whoever walks through it into a ghost, but there are many other keys, including the ‘anywhere key’, which opens a door to anywhere the user wants to go and is sought after by the person / thing trapped at the bottom of the Keyhouse’s well, and the ‘gender key’, which changes the user’s gender. Meanwhile, one of the Locke kids’ father’s killers has escaped from prison and is coming to get them. Or, more to the point, he’s coming to get their keys. You see, their father’s death and the mysterious goings on at the Keyhouse aren’t entirely unrelated.

It’s a decent idea that could run and run (although I believe that Hill does intend to end the series around Volume 6). Indeed, I believe that Hill and Rodriguez have recently sold the television rights to Locke & Key and I think this could make a good horror / fantasy TV show – a rather popular genre these days. And best of all, it hasn’t got any vampires in it! Like his father, Hill knows how to write a real page-turner and I really didn’t want to put this book down. I was hooked in right away and read the whole thing in a couple of sittings. The kids were all likable, well rounded characters, and I really cared what happened to them. And while the book doesn’t exactly end on a cliffhanger, it does end with the Locke kids still in a certain amount of danger, unknown to them, which ensured that I will be moving right on to the next volume.

I had never seen inside an issue of Locke & Key before buying this book. I bought it purely because I was familiar with the work of Hill. However, I was impressed by the art, too. Rodriguez’s work reminds me in some ways of the art of Jeff Smith, at least in the way that Smith draws his human characters, but my first reaction was that it looked like the work of a less-cartoony Rick Geary, and it also appears to have a manga influence. All of which makes this sound like a complete mess, but it’s not. It all looks very nice – very neat but also highly detailed and slightly creepy. Most importantly, it fits the story perfectly.

My only real complaint about this series is the title. Calling a key-themed series about the Locke family Locke & Key just seems corny. As does setting a horror tale in a town called Lovecraft. Still, it could have been worse. I understand that Hill’s next series will be called ‘Fishe & Chips’, and will be set in the town of ‘James Herbert’ (the Fishe family move to the Chipshouse in the New England town of James Herbert and find several magical poker chips, etc.). Or maybe not.

I bought Locke & Key Volumes 1, 2 and 3 (hardcover editions) on eBay for £15.81 (£5.27 per book) including postage. As each book has a recommended retail price of £18.99 ($24.99) and even the current combined Amazon price for these is £39.75, I think that officially qualifies as a bargain – particularly as this first volume turned out to be rather good.

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