Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review: Locke and Key v1 Welcome to Lovecraft

I've read some pretty wonderful things this year, both in and outside of comics, but nothing has quite caught my attention like Joe Hill's Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft.

Incredibly, I found myself completely sucked in from the very first page; where two young men toting a pistol and an axe show up at the door of the Locke family vacation home.  Just as things are getting tense at the house, the story cuts away and Tyler, Kinsey and Bode, the three Locke children, and principle characters of the story, are introduced.  After some sharp and incredibly quick character development, the story cuts to a funeral as Tyler, the oldest son, grieves.  By this point I was just about coming out of my seat wondering just what exactly went down at the house. Though it isn't said outright, I had the feeling that the father was killed, possibly other family members as well.

Hill isn't exactly forthcoming with the answers either.  He instead keeps the tension high, while flitting back and forth between the attack at the house and the remaining family moving to Massachusetts to live with the father's younger brother at the ancestral manse, which happens to be located in a place called Lovecraft.

It isn't long before Bode, the youngest Locke child, who appears to be about 6 years old, discovers a magical key that unlocks a door and turns him into a ghost.  Further exploration of the house and the grounds around it uncover a mysterious lady in a well, along with some hints of various other keys that possess other interesting powers.

There are many elements that have me drooling over this graphic novel, but the first that comes to mind is that of the mysterious and magical keys.  Though the magical keys play a small but crucial role in this volume they did a lot in terms of sucking me in and building a sense of wonder and interest with the story.  Though Hill only reveals about four keys, I really want to know how many other keys there are, what they do, and how they'll play a role in the series.

The other major standout quality of Locke and Key is the wonderful cast of characters.  I guess I would say that this is a family epic.  Each member of the Locke family shares the duties as a lead character, and each one is incredibly well developed and fleshed out.  Not only does Hill give the reader a strong sense of what each character was like prior to the attack, but also how they've changed since then, and how they are continuing to change.  I was impressed with how Hill managed to portray the teenaged Lockes Tyler, and Kinsey as realistic teenagers, while Bode, the youngest, is also a developmentally accurate six year-old.

I found myself instantly attached to these characters, and Hill responds by putting them, individually, and as a family, through the ol' ringer, which was torturous, yet exciting at the same time.  I usually only fret so hard for GRRM characters, but no one really feels safe in Locke and Key either.  I got this sense because Sam, the teenage boy mainly responsible for the attack on the Locke family is one extremely creepy and resourceful bad guy.  Add that to the strange fantastical forces at play in the family house, and there was almost more tension than I could bear.

Further upping the Awesomeness Meter on Welcome to Lovecraft is the art by Gabriel Rodriguez.  Simply put, the guy does it all well; He can draw people, and environments and make 'em look really great. All that is wonderful, but this is a horror/fantasy comic, so there are some greater demands on the art...the horror scenes need to be equally tense and terrifying, and the fantastical elements need to create that sense of wonder.  Rodriguez manages to nail down those qualities with equal aplomb and deliver art that I found myself enjoying a great deal.  Rodriguez's greatest achievement in this volume is how he makes Sam's eyes seem completely dead and devoid of emotion.  It is a very chilling detail that I greatly appreciated.

I'm starting to wonder if Joe Hill has some sort of arcane power that makes me completely love everything he writes, because I sorta LOVE everything he writes.  As soon as I finished reading Welcome to Lovecraft I went out and bought the other three available volumes...and they will be getting read very shortly.  This was, in many ways, a completely fucking awesome comic.  It delivered an incredibly gripping story with a fascinating plot, wonderful characters, and dealt out some awesome fantasy and horror elements.  I was literally on the edge of my seat reading this one.  Since I'm starting to run out of superlatives, I'll wrap things up by adding that even if you aren't a comic reader, this is a must read for fans of the fantasy and horror genres. It is too good to be missed.

Grade: A+

No comments: