Locke & Key tells of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion, with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them. Home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all...
There are times when I just read a Joe Hill book. There are times when I just read a Stephen King book. And then there are times when I amuse myself for days on end trying to imagine the sort of bedtime stories Stephen must have told Joe for son to turn out every bit as wonderfully-macabre as the father.
But as expressly stated on numerous occasions, Joe chose Hill rather than King precisely to avoid these kinds of musings and comparisons. An established horror author in his own right, he has largely succeeded in not being hailed as part of a brand, but as an independent novelist, comic book and short story writer.
Locke and Key is a perfect example of how much this dogged pursuit of independence has paid out. Because if Locke and Key had a tag line, it would be this:
Just when you thought you've read and seen every take on the haunted house trope...
... you know how the rest goes.
Following the brutal murder of their husband and father, the Locke family decides to move. This family is evidently not all too familiar with the true horror classics, because they think nothing of moving into a town called Lovecraft, and into an old, dilapidated mansion with a name. (The mansion calls itself Keyhouse, if you're curious. Others call it that, too, on occasions.) The family also pays no attention when their youngest, Bode, starts talking about ghosts, death and all manner of spookery at the tender age of six.
Don't judge them. As we have recently established, they aren't fans of horror.
For those of us who are, however, there is no fear of a formulaic story. On a familiar premise, Joe Hill builds a fantastical, intricate world of locks and keys (bet you never saw that coming), of other worlds and parallel worlds and worlds very near to our own, but not quite. It's a story where metaphorical stages of grief take on a literal form, and where a child's reimagining of a world can indeed reimagine an entire world.
And in a wonderful, astonishing show of diversity, it's a story where a boy can become a girl, and a girl a boy. It is by no means the most relevant plot point, but nevertheless one that stuck out to me and one which I feel doesn't get enough praise in this series. No one will recommend Locke and Key to you as a "diverse read". But a diverse read it is.
It is fantasy. It is horror. It is action. It is adventure. It is a thriller. It is a superhero/supervillain story turned on its head. Give up on looking for one genre. It is everything.
Special thanks to my lovely best friend Stefan, for heeding my pleas to order this graphic novel, and then to quickly read it and lend it to me. And another special thanks to him for ordering the sequel. We aren't the wealthiest people in the world, but we're managing to feed our new graphic novel craze regardless. True friendship is built on a solid foundation of inappropriate jokes and book lending. We've got it down to a science.
Have you read Locke and Key, or have you enjoyed other graphic novels in the past and have yet to pick it up? We welcome any and all recommendations via the comments below, and in return, we recommend you - well, Joe Hill! We're also on various social media and we welcome any and all Locke and Key discussion. Just keep it spoiler-free, please!
BOOK REVIEW: LOCKE AND KEY (VOL. 1) BY JOE HILL
4/ 5Oleh The Honest Bookclub