Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft is a collection of the first six episodes of the comic by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. It's time for my second comic book review, and this time I was braver in choosing a comic. This will be my first encounter with Joe Hill, but Locke & Key came highly recommended by a fellow blogger. I am eternally grateful to myself for buying myself a copy of Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft to review.
There's dark and gritty, and there's Joe Hill Dark and Gritty. Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft takes us to a cottage out in the country where a family of five are relaxing. Their blissful life comes to an end when armed intruders turn up.
The story alternates between retelling the past and their traumatic fight for survival, and the present, where the family moves with their uncle to an old house. Welcome to Lovecraft, Massachusetts. It's a great gothic looking house called Keyhouse, and this is where their father and his brother grew up. Their uncle fondly tells them of childhood memories and the games they used to play, but was it just imagination...
It's a time of healing for the family, a time of getting their heads around what happened, and adapting to their new life. It's not an easy time for anyone except the youngest son, Bode. Maybe he is too young to understand what happened that day, maybe his age makes him more resilient. He is happily exploring the house, when he finds an old odd looking key. The door the key unlocks is a tall dark and imposing door with a skull inset above the frame. Bode unlocks the door and steps outside. Or at least he thought he would, but what happens next is equally terrifying and exciting.
Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft is one of those reads that's so compelling it has to be read in a single sitting. The suspense was almost unbearable at times, and Joe Hill's story invokes some pretty strong feelings. It's violent, but in a way that feels real, and that is what makes me uncomfortable. I don't like it when violence is trivialised, a tap to the chin and the person passes out, but then wakes up and shakes it off like nothing happened. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez shows enough to make me squirm and hold my breath, but it’s what we don’t see that’s the worst.
Don't get me wrong, there is more to Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft than just gritty violence. Joe Hill does a really good job of making us feel the emotions of the two older kids, how they try and cope with tragedy, and what it is like to try and fit into a new school. But what really makes the story is the supernatural element. The capabilities of Keyhouse are really cool, and what lurks in the old well house is creepy. I suspect what we saw in the first six episodes is just the tip of the supernatural iceberg.
Gabriel Rodriguez illustrations work well. The colours are muted which seems suitable for such a serious story. The only colour which is allowed to stand out is red, and it does get the opportunity to do so more than once.
Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft weighs in at 186 pages and is published by IDW Publishing.
Recommendation: must read