Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

LOCKE & KEY Volume 1 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

I’m harder to scare these days than when I was a kid and horror movies were still black and white and filled with trademark Hollywood monsters. Currently, I’ve been through a plethora of Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, and ghost movies and their spawn. It takes a lot to scare me these days.

Then Hollywood introduced me to Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Nightmare on Elm Street. George C. Scott’s The Changeling totally creeped me out, and Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist taught me to fear my television. Then I watched adaptations of Thomas Harris’s novels, Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs and learned to fear serial killers that were really among us.

However, I have to admit that somewhere in there I became jaded. I started watching horror movies for special effects and the snappy one-liners that became so popular. I ended up laughing through most of them.

Like I said, I’m hard to scare. Of course, I can still scare myself pretty good. Let me curl up at night with a Stephen King book or one of Joseph Delaney’s The Last Apprentice YA novels, and I can give myself a case of the willies. These books, thankfully, still deliver the sheer, enervating atmosphere necessary to amp up my adrenaline gland.

But I found a new fear-inducer in Joe Hill. I discovered him in Heart-Shaped Box and got totally weirded out listening to that novel on audiobook. Then I got my hands on the first issue of his comic book series, Locke & Key.

Imagine a family that falls victim to what appears to be a deranged teenager looking for some payback. That’s pretty horrific by today’s standards because the news is full of lethal teens – and others. This could happen, so I wasn’t immediately getting the spook vibe.

The story is harsh and emotional. I felt Ty, Kinsey, and Bodie’s pain over losing their father to violence. The way that Joe cut the action between the past and present really upped the suspense and impending feeling of doom. Gabriel Rodriguez’s art is loose and captivating, and he plays with angles that pulled me right into the frames and turned them into movies. I was THERE, inside the story on several occasions. And I wasn’t comfortable being there. Especially in the scenes when Bodie was talking to the thing in the wellhouse!

As it turns out, though, the teen that planned the murder of Papa Locke wasn’t entirely there out of vengeance. He had made a pact with the thing in the wellhouse, and that just spins the whole story on its ear.

After their father’s murder, the kids end up at the Locke House, a place so riddled with mysteries that Joe says he’s got 70 issues plotted out for those bewitched doors, nooks, and crannies already. Personally, I can’t wait. I love the puzzles and the mysteries, as well as the fact that THINGS are lurking inside the house and waiting to spring out on unwary victims.

Joe and Gabriel have created a whole WORLD of spine-chilling entertainment to come. It’s no surprise that Dimension Films has already snapped up the film rights to the property, or that IDW publishing had to reprint the issues several times. I expect they’ll have to reprint the new hardcover graphic novel as well, but I didn’t take any chances – I’ve got my copy already.

In the various issues, Joe shifts the point of view around from Ty to Bodie to Kinsey, and all of them achieve a distinct voice that bring a different flavor to the emerging story. When I read the graphic novel all at once, the voices didn’t quite stand out as much as waiting a month between, but that’s only because I was trying to get to the end of the story faster and faster. I’d read the first three issues, then couldn’t get my hands on the last three, so I was desperate to know what happened next.

The suspense ratchets up like a whipsaw rollercoaster cresting the top of the final plunge leading to a white-knuckled grip (thank God the book is a hardcover or it wouldn’t have survived the read!).

I couldn’t stop reading, and now I can’t wait for the next volume in the Locke family’s adventures. The old house as a lot of life (and UNLIFE) still waiting to be discovered and feared.

Horror fans will love this book because it delivers every delicious thrill and chill a reader could want. And Gabriel’s art is absolutely eye-popping, alternately beautiful and then gruesome. Locke & Key is a definite, pulses-pounding winner.


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