Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Modern Classics: Locke and Key

The Modern Masterpieces: "Locke and Key"
A review by Brian Howard

In this column, "Modern Masterpieces," we examine a literary work within comics that is above and beyond excellent in it's art and narrative. Modern Masterpieces will discuss why this publication was chosen and is worthy of such distinction. 

Locke and Key is a 6 volume series published by IDW comics that began it's run in February of 2008. The series was written by Joe Hill and the art was done by Gabriel Rodriguez. Joe Hill (his full name is Joeseph Hillstrom King) is actually the son of horror novelist Stephen King. Joe abbreviated his name to avoid his father's shadow and make a name for himself as a writer on his own merit. And he achieved exactly that. In 2011 Hill won an Eisner Award for Best Writer for Locke and Key. In addition that same year, Gabriel Rodriguez was nominated for best penciller/inker. The title was also nominated for best series. 

The title is horror, mystery and fantasy. There is a rich cast of characters that you really get an emotional attachment to them thanks the dynamic way they grow and discover who they are at their core. But as much as the characters drive the plot, the setting and it's history develops it's own unique and memorable. 

If you love comics and know someone who doesn't - this is a great gateway to draw them into the hobby. 

The Basic Plot

The plot centers on the Locke family children Tyler, Kinsey and Bode. Their father Rendell, the school guidance counselor, is killed by a troubled classmate Sam Lesser. The children are a witness to the scene and must hide and fend off the attacker in their home. Following the death of their father, their mother Nina moves the family across the country to their father's childhood/ancestral home "Keyhouse," and current home of their Uncle. The family suffers through some adjustments each in their own way. But events will soon bring the children together to face a common threat.

The youngest of the children, Bode, begins to discover magic keys throughout the property. Each one has it's own unique properties. An example of an early key is "The Ghost Key." When you use this key in a particular doorway, it releases your soul from your body, essentially killing you until you decide to return to it. There are hundreds of keys. But that is not all that young Bode discovers.....there also a creature living in the well house that tries to manipulate the young child into releasing it. That creature is a demon and the mastermind behind their father's murder by their classmate. The demon wants out, it wants revenge and it wants power.

But as Bode gathers more keys, he also gathers power. Unfortunately, it takes some convincing to get his older brother and sister to believe him. When they finally do, they discover more keys and begin to unwrap the mystery surrounding the house and their father's childhood there. Meanwhile, Sam Lesser has escaped and he is on his way to Keyhouse to finish his mission in aiding the demon.

The series takes many twists and turns as you discover a whole mythology wrapped up in the American Revolution, Planar Dimensions and their father Rendell's childhood tragedy at the house......which is fantastic but will not be spoiled here.

The keys have as much of a personality in this epic as the characters do, each one effecting the characters in different ways and expanding the possibilities of imagination. Combinations of keys can be used to startling effects and are crucial to the characters repelling demons and monsters. But as the mythology behind the Locke family and Keyhouse, we also get an expanding cast of endearing and dynamic characters and heroes, such as a mentally challenged young man that makes this series feel organic and realistic despite its fantastical nature.

My Reaction 

While reading this series, I couldn't wait to share it with others so I could discuss all it's interwoven subplots and thematic elements. I passed it on to my fiance', who although not a comic book reader, gave it a chance and gobbled it up. This led to her even asking me, "What else do you have that is this good?" As I unlocked the stories mysteries along with the children from their point of view, I was completely immersed. Their varying ages and personalities gave me the feeling that I was with them through the journey. That is exactly how a reader should feel. There is a fantastic and holistic conclusion at the end that gives readers a very satisfying payoff. 

When I was finished with the series I felt that this would make a great Dungeons and Dragons setting for an adventure and also a very marketable show for television or Netflix. I began doing some research and learned that the series was developed into a tabletop board game by Cryptozoic Entertainment and available for purchase-

Television and Games

The series also had been developed into a television pilot filmed at Hartwood Acres Mansion in Elwood City, Pennsylvania by Dreamworks and 20th Century Fox Television. The pilot was dropped and due to rising costs and no longer shopped to other networks. However, MTV television showed interest and a film is being produced by Universal Pictures. This property could very well be the next Walking Dead.

A link to the trailers Pilot

This is a modern classic because its story is unique and masterful. The artwork enriches the minds imagination to the magic and mystery of the setting while delivering all the emotional impact of the story. Go and enrich your collection or become a collector with this series. I promise you that it will not disappoint. And for those of you who want to go that little extra step after collecting the volumes, the keys themselves were produced and available for sale at their website-

Now run off and go unlock a new world of imagination

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