Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Comic Review: Locke & Key vol.2 Head Games

After the events which saw their father murdered, the family moved across country, and their family attacked in their new home by their father's escaped killer, the Locke kids have finally begun to piece their shattered lives back together.

Tyler and Kinsey are starting to settle in at their new school and have even made a new friend; A boy named Zack, who, like the Lockes, is a new student and the nephew of one of the faculty at Lovecraft Academy. Meanwhile, Bode, the youngest, is filling his time exploring their massive new home and the surrounding acres.

Their new home, Keyhouse, is aptly named due to the fact that hidden in and around the massive house are special keys, each of which give the wielder a unique power or ability.  When Bode finds the Head Key, a key that unlocks your mind giving the wielder the ability to learn or unlearn any skill,  he once again attracts the attention of Doge, an evil and vile creature who seems bent on the Locke family's destruction.

After reading the opening volume to this comic series, I was quite impressed to say the least.  Given the fact that the writing is handled by Joe Hill, a guy who is rapidly moving up the "Battle Hymns' Favorite Author" rankings, I had a good feeling that the second volume, Head Games, would deliver as well.

It did.

Though Locke & Key shines for many reasons, one of the brighter qualities of the series are its characters.  Maybe I have a soft spot for the whole "kids in danger" plot element, but I find that the Locke children are really fun to root for, and I find myself fretting over their safety more than is healthy.  What makes them great though is that they actually "act" their age.  They are prone to mistakes, ill advised decisions, and all the emotions that come with the territory. While they may sound cliched, the effect of past events in their life color who they are today, and causes them to rise above your typical pop culture ideals of what "kids" are like.  When you add in their Uncle who is trying to juggle his own life, and help his sister-in-law, niece, and nephews rebuild their own, and the mother who is in a constant state of wine soaked shock and detachment you get a wonderful cast of characters to root for.

The Locke family wouldn't be nearly as much fun to root for if they weren't being constantly put in danger by a frightening antagonist.  Dodge, the malevolent spirit that plagues Keyhouse, is one scary, duplicitous, vile, and extremely cruel bastard of an antagonist.  There is little I can say about Dodge that wouldn't cause some spoilers to leak out, but I will say that Dodge is a character that will keep you up late at night, and plague your dreams while you sleep.  That fact that Dodge is always about twenty steps ahead of the Locke kids is a frightening prospect.

I may be parroting my review for Welcome to Lovecraft, but the magical keys are a wonderful and ingenious plot element.  They are a fairly simple concept really, but truth be told, who needs complex, hard to explain magic systems?  Not me. The mystery that surrounds the keys is another of the great qualities of the Locke & Key series.  Though only five keys have been discovered and used thus far in the books, many others, and their abilities have been hinted at.  I think I've also noticed a couple other keys hidden in certain panels, and I can only assume they'll come into play at some point in the future.  How or when, I don't know but I can't wait to find out.

I'll spare you the effort of reading a paragraph about the writing and art, and simply say: Once again, top notch writing and great artwork graces the pages of Head Games. I can't find much to complain about on either front, and find both aspects of the comic to be quite awesome.  Locke & Key: Head Games  seems to be a case of both creators functioning at the top of their games.  A rare and welcome treat.

It's no secret that I loved Welcome to Lovecraft, and while I can't say that Head Games is better, I also can't say it's worse either.  The high level of storytelling and art that was present in the first volume is present once again, only this time, the plot thickens, the characters get a bit more developed, and as a result, I find myself further sucked into the world, and can't wait to read more.  I'll probably resist the urge to read the third volume until after the new year, but if you're reading this and haven't given this series a shot, don't delay.  Locke & Key is some of the very best comics on the shelves.

Grade: A+

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