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[REVIEW] Horrific Realism: ‘Locke & Key’ Volumes 1 – 4

Locke & Key is the kind of story that watches your toes dangle over the side of the bed, and contemplates when the best time to take a nibble is. The true fright might not set in as you read, but when the lights go out it’ll be there waiting just for you. Joe Hill doesn’t push a decaying thumb under your nose, instead he says it’s somewhere in your room. Jump into this series to escape into a world where keys and doors aren’t taken at face value. Read on for the skinny…

lockevol1lockevol4 As a novelist, Joe Hill has an excellent sense of organization and direction. The series is divided into volumes, issues and chapters to give it a crisp and clear story arc. The interlacing within the series is refreshingly predictable in a way that readers can see that their destination is just ahead, but can’t quite focus their eyes on the darkness that lies beyond. Hill doesn’t want anybody getting lost in poor or confused structure, instead he directs readers to the idea behind it all. But why is Locke & Key a graphic novel and not a novel? The images are the key to his design. They support and influence his words in the same way that surgeons’ steady hand holds a life-saving scalpel. They are by no means more important, but without the colorful ink the readers would lose the visual pleasure Hill and Rodriguez are trying to share.

Rodriguez’ style is typical for a graphic novel; the images are artistically stimulating and delightful to take in. He’s a successful artist to say the least, whom adds a unique flare to each individual panel- it’s revitalizing to see anatomically correct human bodies and proportional faces in comic art. Individuals have unique bone structure, right down to their finger and toenails. These aren’t just pretty pictures and characters; these are visual representations of linguistic messages. You can tell when you look into their eyes that something is beyond the page. It’s chilling to think they could come out or pull you in. This sense of realism highlights Joe Hill’s horrific narrative, and doesn’t draw to much attention away from the story. With general backgrounds and limited detail, this story is driven by its characters and by the tale itself. The most important elements of the series, and the most attractive visual depictions, are the keys themselves. From the title and the cover art, readers expect a story about literal keys, but what they get is much more than an opened door. One of the best parts about seeing the story is being able to see the keys. With such an important role, a single detail can’t be left to the reader’s mind’s eye. Rodriguez has given the reader something that Hill could not, something to bring them in to the physicality that is essential to Locke & Key. While each page is nice to look at, readers are still roped in by the writing and the meaning. Rodriguez compliments Hill’s writing perfectly, as all art should in such a situation.


Joe Hill, a renowned Horror and Fantasy writer, feeds the never-ending appetite of a literary-lover with this unique story. Right from the start readers expect a novelty horror tale by the name-dropping of Lovecraft on the cover. They would only be let down if the story were to disappoint, but nevertheless, it has yet to happen. From the introduction of the Locke family, and the interesting implication of one of the most influential Enlightenment philosophers (John Locke), in the cozy yet sinister town of Lovecraft, readers are instantly drawn into the lives of the three children (Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode) and the supernatural dynamics that explode in their day-to-day activities. While they are continuous throughout the series, separate stories unravel around, and independently of, them. Interlacing at it’s finest. From the first adventure, of experimentations with The Ghost Door and the discovery of the Anywhere Key, readers can see that Hill isn’t going to follow the conventions of horror. While the gore is minimal to non-existent, dread is born through fear of the unknown, not through blood and guts. Hill masters this form of the genre, one of three ways to represent horror as described by Orson Scott Card, a respected author and critic. There is terror, horror, and dread, with dread being the strongest. It is that tension, that fear that something is around the corner, not the face-to-face encounter with the killer or the corpse. Joe Hill exercises this idea and plants tension and dread into the minds of readers.

Pick this one up at the break of dawn. You’ll be reading it well beyond the start of bleeding fingertips from frantically flipping pages.

4.5/5 skulls



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