Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows #1


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Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows #1


  • Words: Joe Hill
  • Art: Gabriel Rodriguez
  • Colors: Jay Fotos
  • Story Title: Chapter One: The Haunting of Keyhouse
  • Publisher: IDW Publishing
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Nov 11, 2009

Locke & Key begins a new shadowy chapter by giving its characters an out of body experience.

Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez have been treating readers to one of the more inventive horror tales since Lovecraft decided to take pulp readers to his dark realms.  This is a story about evil spirits and control.  In these stories, control is gained through keys.  Keys that do more than open locks - they open the mind, allow disembodiment, and many other things.

The opening pages of this new series finds the Lockes dealing with the aftershocks of Head Games.  Meanwhile, Dodge and Sam enter into a deadly match of wits.  Both want a body, both want something from one another and both have their own uses for the Lockes.

Disembodied spirits fight with nooses, chainsaws and scissors created from their own protoplasm.  That is all the action here.  Well, if you don’t count the nifty double possession of our old friend Zach.  The majority of the story this time happens in a conversation between Sam and Dodge.  Normally, an issue of talking heads would be pretty dull, but when they float around, it is a tad bit more compelling.  Through their heated discussion, the reader finds out that there may be an even darker and more sinister work at play in the Keyhouse.  Dodge may not be the one pulling the strings; and there is yet another and more surprising type of key revealed.

To those who have not been reading the series, the summary above probably seems a lot like gibberish.  See, that’s where Hill’s book fails.  The book is set up as a series of interlocking mini-series, much like Umbrella Academy or Hellboy.  It’s a great conceit when done correctly.  However, unlike the two Dark Horse titles, Locke & Key has a cumulative element that creates problems for the new readers that the format is meant to entice.

No doubt, the readership for the book is growing.  This is probably a reaction to the strong word of mouth behind the title or the impatience of trade waiters who have to know what happens next.  That kind of reaction is understandable. It really is a marvelous book.  However, Way and Mignola go to great lengths to tell a complete story with each new volume.  Hill is merely telling a chapter of a much larger story.  This is not to say that the adventures of the B.P.R.D. or Number 5 and his family are not, just that they are told in story units that work on their own.  Locke & Key forgets to tell a satisfying narrative by making exposition nonexistent.  The main characters of the series are so sidelined in this issue, that even the faithful reader may not recall all the history involved until the end of the issue.  Not really a problem for an entrenched reader but it is a massive hurdle for anyone new to the book.

Rodriguez is probably the most compelling reason for a new reader to join at this stage.  His art is gorgeous.  With Fotos on colors , the art is fluid and graceful - a sort of horror ballet if you will.  Thick lines and chunky designs make it a familiar and unique looking book all at the same time.  While the details in the antique doorknobs show the care taken in creating the visual world, the movement of the lines keeps the book interesting when it could have become bogged down in extensive monologuing.  It is an example of the creative team working together to create a great experience despite problems here or there.

No, this is not a great starting point, despite what the number on the front cover might tell you.  It is an intriguing title that is worth starting from the very beginning and this chapter, for the initiated, is full of revelation.

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