Locke & Key

Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows 6 (April 2010)


Wow. Wow. Just, wow.

I’m not sure this issue’s actually better than the last great issue a few ago, but it’s incredibly impressive. Instead of resolving anything big, Hill goes after something small and makes it as big as possible.

It doesn’t start off seeming so incredible, of course. It’s already different because the mom gets to see some of the magic of the house and then things go very, very wrong.

What’s great is how Hill mixes the mundane with the fantastic. The mom’s alcoholism collides with Kinsey’s inability to experience fear. Then the rest of the family gets into it–actually they’re there already but whatever. It’s maybe the truest scene Hill’s written in Locke & Key–I say maybe because I can’t remember it well enough, but let’s assume.

I didn’t think Hill had it in him. It doesn’t play into the series’s expectations at all. It’s wonderful.


Beyond Repair; writer, Joe Hill; artist, Gabriel Rodriguez; colorist, Jay Fotos; letterer, Robbie Robbins; editor, Chris Ryall; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows 5 (February 2010)


Hill’s resolution to the cliffhanger leaves a lot to be desired. Rodriguez does full page panels of this fight scene and… Rodriguez isn’t very good at fight scenes. He’s also not good at high concept fight scenes.

And believing the good guys wouldn’t see the bad guy slinking away in defeat? Well, Hill needed Rodriguez to sell that one and he doesn’t, not in those full page panels.

Anyway, the second half of the issue is good. There’s some more stuff about the head key, there’s some stuff with Kinsey and her new friends, a little nice implied stuff about the mom.

But then the issue just stops. I was wondering why it felt like I didn’t read anything and remembered the mishandling of the fight scene. While the issue’s got good material, it’s hard to excuse Hill and Rodriguez totally fumbling the first half.

They should have known better.


Light of Day; writer, Joe Hill; artist, Gabriel Rodriguez; colorist, Jay Fotos; letterer, Robbie Robbins; editor, Chris Ryall; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows 4 (February 2010)


Now there’s an unexpected conclusion. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, since it suggests Ty would know what all the keys do, which he doesn’t… but it’s a cool conclusion. And, unlike some of Hill’s other approaches, is geared only for a comic book.

It’s an all-action issue and it’s a good one. Hill is never clear how safe the Locke family is in Locke & Key; the kids are in definite danger (or at least it seems).

There’s just not a lot to talk about because of all that action. There are chases, there are monsters… We find out the cop is hanging around because he’s got the hots for the mom.

And Hill understands if he’s going to do such a rushed story, with so little non-action content, there needs to be a good pay-off. But the pay-off is giant-size. It is incredible.


Shadow Play; writer, Joe Hill; artist, Gabriel Rodriguez; colorist, Jay Fotos; letterer, Robbie Robbins; editor, Chris Ryall; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows 3 (January 2010)


So the sister’s name is Kinsey. The mom’s name, I don’t know. I also don’t know the cop’s name. I don’t really remember him or why he’s important. Hill just introduced two new characters to the supporting cast–Kinsey’s male friends from the near death experience–yet he brings back the cop.

Locke & Key has become one of those comics in need of a cast list at the start of the issue. Maybe even some major event recap notes too. It’s hard to believe anyone can read this series as published–with time off between not just issues but miniseries–and follow it.

Besides being aggravating, the issue’s okay. It’s a bridge issue, getting the mom out of the house, establishing the revised supporting cast, giving Dodge something evil to do.

There’s a good hard cliffhanger. Rodriguez does great on all the talking heads scenes. So, confusing but still good.


Last Light; writer, Joe Hill; artist, Gabriel Rodriguez; colorist, Jay Fotos; letterer, Robbie Robbins; editor, Chris Ryall; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows 2 (December 2009)


Hill more than makes up for the previous issue with this one. He starts out with the older brother–Ty, right?–before moving to the sister. I can’t remember her name. He brings in some other teenagers and traps them in a cave and almost kills them.

It’s a completely unpredictable turn of events since Hill sets the issue up first with Ty and some girl and the head trick, then something about Dodge, then something the promise of a secret in the cave. Putting the four teenagers in eminent danger doesn’t even figure in. He just does it and it works beautifully.

Rodriguez gives each of the characters a lot of visual personality, though apparently no one at this high school doesn’t have body piercings, and Hill’s dialogue for their panic is outstanding.

Even if I don’t remember the sister’s name, it’s probably the best issue of the series.


In the Cave; writer, Joe Hill; artist, Gabriel Rodriguez; colorist, Jay Fotos; letterer, Robbie Robbins; editor, Chris Ryall; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows 1 (November 2009)


This issue is exactly the kind of thing I wouldn’t expect from Joe Hill. It’s the ghost of Sam Lesser–who Hill turns into an extremely sympathetic character (who knew Locke & Key would be such a good example of feminist storytelling)–versus Dodge in his (or her) ghost-state.

They talk a lot, they fight a lot, the talking and fighting lead to changes in the relationship. It reads like Hill found out he got renewed so he wanted to do something different. Only, Hill and Locke are already successful so such a self-indulgent comic seems out of place.

All of these goings on are distinctly wrong for the comic book medium. They’d be fine in a movie (or TV, wink wink). It’s talking heads without heads. The characters’ voices aren’t distinctive enough for this device to work.

Gabriel Rodriguez tries, but can’t make up for the writing misfire.


The Haunting of Keyhouse; writer, Joe Hill; artist, Gabriel Rodriguez; colorist, Jay Fotos; letterer, Robbie Robbins; editor, Chris Ryall; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Locke & Key: Head Games 6 (June 2009)


Hill’s fluidity of Zack’s gender is once again striking. The issue’s a flashback to before the first series and so Dodge (how many names does the character have, anyway?) is still the female. I wonder how it’ll all play out.

There are no Lockes in this issue (except a cameo from Duncan in the flashback) and instead it’s Ellie’s issue. Hill shows how lousy her life was before Dodge came back into the picture. Of course, having an evil ghost around murdering people should make it worse, but Ellie’s mom is exceptionally evil too so it’s a toss-up.

It’s mostly a talking heads issue, except one of Rodriguez’s amazing double-page spreads of inside Ellie’s head. He does well pacing the confrontations between mother and daughter; Hill strives, once again, to juxtapose mundane evil against the supernatural.

Though Locke-less, it’s Head Games‘s best issue. Hill and Rodriguez excel.

Locke & Key: Head Games 5 (May 2009)


Interesting. Hill completely surprising this issue at every turn. The opening’s a little disjointed, however, as it presents a more genial “hang out” night at the Locke house than Hill’s ever suggested before.

He also starts making Zack a mildly sympathetic character. Maybe mildly is too strong a word. Hill makes sure to show Zack not doing entirely abhorrent things this issue. And the end is a complete surprise.

While it’s a good issue (it really does contain the most unexpected work Hill’s done on Locke & Key so far), the pacing is off. Not much happens. There’s a bunch of exposition at the front and then the ending, which is awesomely unexpected, requires Kinsey to be a moron.

And mom Nina has vanished for the last couple issues.

Rodriguez’s cover plays towards the homoerotic; Hill works directly against it with the soft cliffhanger.

Hill enjoys playing with the reader expectations.

Locke & Key: Head Games 4 (April 2009)


Small big happenings this issue. Hill opens it with Uncle Duncan, who’s starting to remember where he’s seen Zack before. Not to jump around too much, but the next issue’s preview cover suggests Hill’s bringing back the homoeroticism in Zack and Tyler’s friendship. That return should be interesting.

It’s juxtaposed against Duncan’s arc this issue, where he and his boyfriend get assaulted by some crazy redneck women. Props to Hill for confronting homophobia in such a direct manner. Sadly, it’s far more interesting than the main content.

Tyler shows his friends the head key. It freaks out the girl, who’s still just a caricature. Then Kinsey decides she wants her fear extracted. There’s the implication next issue will have some pay-off, but it’s not enough.

Hill’s overstuffing Head Games, especially with Luke/Zack content; Duncan’s story is a relief because it feels organic and not painfully outlined and planned.

Locke & Key: Head Games 3 (March 2009)


With this issue, Head Games finally feels like Locke & Key again. The kids are doing something they probably shouldn’t, while talking about how they’re coping with their tragedies. And Mom isn’t paying enough attention to it. Hill could probably do an entire series around Nina’s days.

The thing they shouldn’t be doing this issue is unlocking their heads (get it, Head Games) with one of the keys. They’re able to extract memories and insert knowledge. It’s a disturbing visual–the opened head–and Rodriguez does a great job of making it infinitely uncomfortable without making it gross.

The idea is one of Hill’s best for the series so far, as one can see the advantages. Bad memories can go away, knowledge can be immediately acquired.

The other reason the issue feels familiar again is because Tyler’s a moron.

If he had an iota of sense, Hill wouldn’t have a comic.

Locke & Key: Head Games 2 (February 2009)


Hill spends a lot of time with deceptive bad ghost guy “Zack” again this issue. It’s a problem not just because it refocuses the series on him–Bode gets some page time, but he’s on a micro-quest; it’s not particularly interesting (until the cliffhanger). But Hill’s emphasis on Zack also cuts down on the expectations for the Locke family’s experiences. If we always know Zack is out to get them and his plans… their success over him isn’t going to be as fresh as it could be.

I’m just assuming there will be success over him, since there’s not much of a story if the bad guy wins.

The issue feels like a lot of water treading. There are the repercussions from the last issue, with Kinsey reacting to her teacher’s death but she’s not the issue’s main character.

The issue’s not weak, it’s just not engaging at all.

Locke & Key: Head Games 1 (January 2009)


I really wish this issue had a better colorist. Well, I guess Jay Fotos isn’t bad overall, he just doesn’t seem comfortable making the lead character, who’s black, have black skin. Instead it’s a shiny tan; the guy looks like Tyrone Power. There are a bunch of puzzling lines about race until halfway through, when he says he’s black.

He just doesn’t look black.


For the first issue of the second series, Joe Hill does an “intermission.” He introduces the protagonist, a teacher at the local high school, who figures out something’s going on when he sees the bad guy. It’s been a while since I’ve read Locke & Key and the brief recap doesn’t cut it, so it was an uphill read.

The regular cast doesn’t even appear. It’s a texture issue and a good one. Hill does a fine job with the protagonist. The issue’s engaging and unsettling.

Locke & Key 6 (July 2008)



Right after I say something nice about Rodriguez, this issue happens.

Actually, it’s not Rodriguez’s fault. Hill gives him something impossible to draw as static images (a transformation) and it just flops.

As for the rest of the issue, Hill does a pretty good job wrapping up some of the story and laying the groundwork for future series. There’s one problem where he contradicts himself. In dialogue, the villain explains the story as the finish, mocking Bode’s youthful idea the story is just starting.

Obviously, the story is just starting, which makes the villain just seem a little dumb and pointless and Hill’s dialogue superficial and thoughtless.

Hill brings back the narration, this time from Ty, the oldest brother, and it’s a mistake. Bode’s the series’s best “good” character, maybe because he’s the only one Hill’s spent any time developing.

Still, those complaints aside, it’s a decent enough finish.


Welcome to Lovecraft, Chapter Six; writer, Joe Hill; artist, Gabriel Rodriguez; colorist, Jay Fotos; letterer, Robbie Robbins; editor, Chris Ryall; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Locke & Key 5 (June 2008)


I think this issue is Hill’s first without any narration. It opens with the psycho—Sam—then flip-flops between him and Bode. Bode’s got his friend in the well, who reveals she’s not a friend this issue.

Hill and Rodriguez get gratuitously violent when Sam attacks the daughter (still don’t remember her name), to the point it’s way too rough for the comic. Locke & Key has been disturbing, but even with all the violence, it’s never been too much.

Here, they take it too far. So far, in fact, it’s unbelievable later when the dialogue suggests the daughter survived the assault.

It’s also Hill’s first all-action issue and he does pretty well. The colorist screws up the time of day for a bit.

And I might finally be willing to say I’m liking Rodriguez’s art. He really makes this issue work.

Maybe the best issue overall (so far).


Welcome to Lovecraft, Chapter Five; writer, Joe Hill; artist, Gabriel Rodriguez; colorist, Jay Fotos; letterer, Robbie Robbins; editor, Chris Ryall; publisher, IDW Publishing.