Locke and Key by Joe Hill with artwork by Gabriel Rodriguez is, simply put, one of the best stories I’ve ever read. Not just graphic novels; stories, period. Combined with the fabulous artwork, there’s plenty to love here for everyone from comic and graphic novel devotee’s to those who may normally shy away from them. There are plenty of elements of horror and the fantastic here, but really, it defies genre tropes and will be enjoyed by anyone who loves a good story.
The tale begins when the Locke family moves back to their family home with their now-single mother after the brutal murder of their father. The Locke family mansion is located in the town of Lovecraft, so you know already there’s foul deeds afoot. The three Locke kids, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode, discover that there are keys that have special powers. The first key Bode finds opens the ghost door, allowing him to leave his body behind and float around the grounds unseen in spirit form. There are many other keys to be found, along with the rich and detailed history of their making and the ancestry of the Locke family going back generations.
For those who don’t know, Joe Hill is one of Stephen King’s sons (Hill is his middle name), and the one whose style most resembles his father’s. He has the imagination and taste for horror his dad is famous for. However, he tends to be darker, and more hip in a modern sense. You can tell he loves pulp culture and infuses that into his work. There’s even a Calvin and Hobbes-themed issue, which is told from the point of view of the youngest Locke family member, Bode. You can tell he’s having fun, even in the stories darkest moments, which, believe me, are many.
Locke and Key is a story structured in three acts. Each act is comprised of two six-issue storylines. This makes for what will be a total of six graphic novels. Currently only the first five are available in graphic novel form, with the sixth due out this year. I read the first five graphic novels on my Amazon Kindle, and then, unable to wait to find out how the story ends (you won’t be able to either, trust me), I read the final issues on the Comixology app for my phone.
The story is incredibly well told, with a tight plot that makes sense and flows with plenty of turns and surprises from beginning to end, but what really makes this story stand out are the characters. This series is populated with believable, sympathetic and interesting people that keep you hooked into the storyline. Not only are the Locke family characters well developed, but the supporting cast also makes the story come alive. I found myself caring a lot for the minor as well as the major characters. And the villain. Sympathetic and not, loved and hated, all at the same time. The Locke family and friends have a great nemesis whose darkness allows them to shine.
If you’re like me, a weak ending can mess up a whole story. Don’t fear from Locke and Key; the ending is perfect, and I say that as someone who rarely thinks endings are done this well.
What’s next for Locke and Key? There was a pilot filmed for Fox but, due to studio issues, the television series wasn’t picked up. Sony has acquired the rights to make the story and is working on developing it into a trilogy of movies. There is still some legal-action hold up between the unaired pilot and the movie, but here’s to hoping this story makes the jump to the big screen!
Don’t just take my word for it: go and pick up “Welcome to Lovecraft” for yourself. I’m betting that, like me, you won’t be able to stop until you’ve read them all.