It’s been years since I read the original Locke & Key comics, but they absolutely blew me away when they first came out. Small World is a “one-shot” supplementary story, one of a handful charted for the “Golden Age” of Keyhouse, and it features a Klein bottle effect with a dollhouse that appears to simulate but actually positions the functioning Keyhouse within itself. The story relies on an informed readership who know something about the crazy magicks of the Locke family and their mansion.
Although Joe Hill does a good job of creating distinctive characters for the Golden Age here, a single comics issue is not really sufficient to cultivate the sort of affection I experienced for his protagonists in the original series. And this book, despite its hardcover format and apparent “graphic novel” length, is really no more than a single comic book. It is extensively padded out with reproductions of every conceivable draft and rough on the way to the finished product: manuscript facsimiles, typescript, panel breakdowns, pencil sketches, etc., etc. The comic itself takes up less than half of the volume. This publishing trick is not new, and I find myself less and less interested in these exhibitions of process.
Gabriel Rodriguez’s art is still awesome, and the book does include one of those breathtaking two-page spreads that he pulled off regularly in the original series.
Clockworks is the penultimate collection of the Locke & Key comics series, and in this volume, there is a very full account of the multiple backstories progressively hinted at in the earlier parts of the series. The final confrontation to which the whole narrative has been building is effectively put on hold, while the Locke children (the ones that aren’t possessed by horrible demons) use a newly-discovered key to travel in time — well, eavesdrop in time is really more like it — and find out the centuries-old history of the keys and the events of their father’s generation.
The book is great, with no flagging of the amazingly high quality of the story and art that have come before. There is a two-page spread of looking into the head of a possessed Dodge Caravaggio that was such an amazing image, it repaid the entire story to that point all by itself. [via]
This fourth collection of the Locke & Key series is clearly moving into the climax of the entire series arc. (There are two more volumes to go.) The pace is often much faster than in earlier parts of the series; chapter three (“February”) in particular barrels through a whole mess of events, often realizing a whole complicated day’s adventure in a single panel. Over the course of this collection, six new magic keys are introduced, a pace that more than doubles the rate of the earlier numbers. The graphic violence is probably more extreme than in any of the prior volumes as well.
The motivation of our prime villain Dodge becomes clearer to the reader in these stories, at the same time as his culpability starts to become evident to the Locke family. It appears that the stakes may be far higher than the well-being of the Lockes or Keyhouse. But not all the evil in these comics is supernatural. The commentary on homophobia that had been introduced earlier in the series is supplemented with some candid observations of/on racism. Some readers might find these a little preachy, but I thought they were handled artfully, and they speak to the tenor of the times.
In the first chapter of Keys to the Kingdom Hill and Rodriguez pay very overt tribute to Bill Watterson, with Bode Locke as an obvious stand-in for Calvin. And in “Casualties” (#22 of the original comic) Bode and Rufus Whedon populate another homage to earlier comics in the form of an invented Squadron Strange action adventure. The Locke & Key series has such beautiful art and rich storytelling that I’m sure it will someday be the object of such admirations and acknoweldgements from a younger generation of comics creators. [via]