Before we start, I should point out that Lock & Key is a graphic novel, which the Wikipedia defines as “A narrative work in which the story is conveyed to the reader using sequential art in either an experimental design or in a traditional comics format.”
The thing is that some folks like graphic novels (assuming the artwork and subject matter to be to their liking) while others can’t stand them. The advantage to a regular text novel is that you construct the scenes and the way the characters look in your imagination. The advantage to a graphic novel is that the artists present their interpretation, and “A picture is worth a thousand words” (as the old saying goes).
Personally, I really like cartoons and graphic novels in general, and I particularly like them when the story line is good and the art work grabs my attention. When I was a young lad back in the 1970s there were comics like Conan the Barbarian whose artwork was simply stunning. Although they were presented in black and white, each image was incredibly detailed and the whole thing must have taken countless hours to create.
More recently, it seems to me that the artwork in a lot of graphic novels has become overly simplistic (which is a nice way of saying that the artists either aren’t very good or that they aren’t being paid very much). Also, many of today’s storylines seem a bit “weak”. Thus, I was delighted to run across Locke & Key, which has a gripping storyline by Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son) that is fully complemented by astounding artwork from Chilean artist Gabriel Rodriquez (a couple of examples are shown below).
There are four volumes in the Locke & Key series as follows:
The story itself revolves around the Locke family: mother, father, and three kids (an older boy, a teenage girl, and a younger lad). The story commences with a mix of flashbacks and “now” in which we discover how the father was murdered by a deranged high school student.
Following the murder, the family moves in with the deceased father's brother at the family homestead in Maine. It is in this humongous old house, which is called Lovecraft
, that things really start to go "pear-shaped". The youngest kid starts talking to some creature that lives (is trapped) in the bottom of the well in an outside building called the Well House
. He thinks she’s a beautiful lady and (at her request) throws a mirror and a hairbrush down into the well, but we see what is reflected in the mirror…
It turns out that this creature instigated the father’s murder in order to get the family to return to Lovecraft. There are several different narrative threads, but the main story revolves around the fact that there are a number of supernatural keys hidden in the house, each possessing some special power. Take the Anywhere Key
, for example. If you insert this key in the lock of any door (it magically fits) and then turn it and open the door while thinking of a desired destination, walking through the door instantly transports you there (and back again, so long as you take the key with you, of course). Or take the Gender Key
, which allows the holder to transform into the opposite sex.
Both of these sound like they could be fun, don’t they? But there are other keys like the Head Key
, which are a little more dubious. When you bring this key close to the back of someone’s head, a lock appears in the back of their neck. If you insert the key and turn it, the top of their head disappears and you can look inside and see their thoughts and memories in the form of 3D cartoon images. If you reach in and pull one of these images out, the person loses that memory.
And then there are some really “hairy” keys like … but I don’t want to spoil the fun. Suffice it to say that I’ve read the first three books in the series and I have the fourth volume standing by for this coming weekend.
The reason I’m saving volume four is that something of this quality really shouldn't be rushed... it deserves to be savored. Also, to be honest with you, these books have proved to be so exciting (and scary) that I sometimes have to take a break and go for a walk to wind down a little before proceeding. I can’t even guess what I’m going to discover next, and I dread to think how the story might end…
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