Graphic Novels of the Year list. Locke & Key is a comic series that's still in progress, so I've been trying to spread out my reading of the series so that I don't over-indulge, then wind up having to wait impatiently for the new collected editions to come out. I guess I've done alright with the whole rationing bit since I've managed to hold out since last November.
This time around the Locke children must face not only Dodge, the malevolent spirit that plagues their home, an army of shadows under Dodge's command, but also their mother who is unraveling right before their eyes.
After the previous two volumes which were pretty much mind blowing comics of epic proportions, I'd have to say Crown of Shadows is a slight step back, but still, quite fantastic. More so than the previous two volumes, I would have to say that Gabriel Rodriguez' art really shines through as the star in this one. He's called upon to draw some really fantastical, unreal and even tragic things in this volume, from semi-substantial ghosts, to shadows that can take on any form, to the mental breakdown of a grown woman. That's a lot of variety, but Rodriguez not only pulls it off, but he manages to make it look astounding as well.
I've become really attached to Rodriguez' style and I can't imagine this series with anyone else at the art helm. Rodriguez is really good at adding little bits of detail to his panels. These details serve to make the world really come to life, but on top of that, there are often little clues and plot details hidden in plain sight. Hill and Rodriguez will often use this hidden-treasures technique to clue the reader into things that some of the characters may not be privy to just yet, or to hint at things that will be important in the future. It is a cool little technique that I haven't seen used too often in other comics, and it can offer some rewarding moments to the reader when they discover cool hidden gems...though it does make me wonder how many of the buggers I've missed!
Once again, Joe Hill is at the top of his writing game. The guy continues to impress me each and every time I read one of his works. With the Locke & Key series, Hill is working magic with the ol' hidden cards technique. Hill has been masterfully revealing crucial plot elements and story events (and magical keys) at just the right moments so far, and from what I can tell, there are many more great reveals to be had in the future. The man might just be playing with a dozen or so aces up his sleeves, but that's fine by me because I'm enthralled, and I want to see what's in store for this poor beleaguered family. This might sound like the ravings of a fan-boy, but Hill's writing, scripting, and plot development in the Locke & Key series is some of the very best I've ever seen in comics.
So while I'm still wiping up drool and going through withdrawal from this last Locke & Key reading experience, I strongly urge those who haven't yet started in on this series to do so immediately. This is one of the most rewarding, powerful, and downright entertaining reads out there comics or otherwise, and should not be missed. We'll see how long I can hold out until volume four.