Looking Back On Joe Hill’s ‘Lock & Key’

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With the end in sight for IDW Publishing’s “Locke & Key”, let’s look back at how this simple family drama became an epic saga of supernatural horror, fantasy, and dark humor. To recover from the death of their father, three siblings move far away to KeyHouse, a mansion that screams of buried secrets and hidden corridors. Behind closed doors, there is a strangeness lurking in the shadows, waiting patiently to strike back at this dysfunctional family.

Right from the start, when I was reading “Welcome to Lovecraft”, I felt like I was watching a well-crafted TV series. I’d often describe the reading experience as watching the first season of the TV series, Lost. The six-issues of “Welcome To Lovecraft” ran like a serial, going from one purpose to the next target. Much like the television show, supporting characters who started out small developed into much bigger roles later on. Something that was mentioned in the first issue suddenly turned out to be of great relevance in the sixth issue. What started out as a list of secrets and mysteries were waiting to be discovered later on as the “Locke & Key” series continued.

I think what kept the narrative moving forward is that the series did not overstay its welcome with the mystery of the magical keys and Black Door. Creators Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez revealed the truth behind the secrecy, but the main focus was always on the growth of their characters. As readers, we follow the Locke family as they triumph, struggle with their fall from grace, and sometimes, they redeem themselves from their mistakes. Nina, the matriarch of the Locke family, is not the same person she was when first introduced. In her character arc, Nina suffered from bouts of alcoholism, and had to collapse emotionally, before eventually realizing she needed to change.

After the death of their father, the Locke children struggle to move on past the tragic event. In his introduction, Tyler is sitting alone in his chair, remembering past memories of his deceased father. There are words Tyler wishes he could take back; things left unsaid that will forever haunt him. Bode is just a little boy, unable to grasp the realization that his father is truly gone. This is why Bode has to play make-believe and lets his wild imagination drive him towards meaning. It’s easier for Bode to believe in ghosts after he hears the mysterious voice of Dodge down the well.

Hill and Rodriguez paint a sensible and honest picture of a family unit dealing with tremendous emotional loss. Though they try to stay together as a family, each Locke member stands alone in their pain. Like many, they don’t know how to deal with their survivor’s guilt. Each one is stuck in time, reliving the same event in their minds. Just because they find relief momentarily, that doesn’t mean they will find closure in the long run. Tyler does get his chance to pour out all the hate and love he has for his father, but in the end, he hasn’t forgiven himself.

In second to last volume, “Omega,” everything goes horribly wrong after Kinsey makes her way to the high school prom. Using themes from John Hughes movies, such as The Breakfast Club, we see Kinsey and her classmates become much more than their particular stereotypes. We see the class clown become the bully, the nerds fighting back, and the princess taking charge as the death count rises. Hill and Rodriguez find a way to search for the emotional truth of their characters, while throwing in the shock value of the horror elements.

“Locke & Key” is an enduring masterpiece. From “Welcome to Lovecraft” to “Alpha,” creators Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez have pit the Locke family against their haunted mansion, an ancient evil, and even themselves; yet they still remain together. An achievement in epic storytelling, the series expresses the raw intensity of mourning and loss. Even after the last chapter closes, the grape vine will continue to whisper, pass on the “Key”

Editorial by Jorge Solis (hit me up on Twitter)