Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Graphic Novel Binge Reading and Locke & Key

This is what happens to all my cash after I discover a new series.
Comic books and graphic novels are dangerous. My need for a complete story is such that I will buy every volume in a series - and those suckers are expensive. If I get hooked on a series, it's all over. I have to have all of it. RIGHT. NOW. So, I have to be very selective in my reading choices in regard to graphic novels. I don't usually like to start a series unless a significant chunk of material has already been published. For example, I own but have not yet read the first two volumes of Brian K. Vaughn's Saga series. That man can do no wrong and I know if I start the series now, my brain will chew itself up waiting for the next volume. And don't tell me to read single issue floppies. Ugh. Those are worse. Reading floppies is like letting an alcoholic have a single shot every month. 20 minutes of reading followed by 30 days of waiting = torture.

I can quit any time I want.
The library I work at has the first five volumes of Locke & Key (by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez). I'd been wanting to read them for a while, but you know. I couldn't read just one. Or two. Once all five volumes were back in circulation, I checked all of them out (mine!) and read them over the course of a few days. I'm glad I waited because there's (reportedly) only one more volume coming out, which means only having to wait once.

Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode Locke
 I very much enjoyed Locke & Key. It's about three kids who move to Lovecraft, Maine (foreshadowing!) after their father is murdered by a teenage psycho. The kids and their mom move into a big mansion named Keyhouse, where they find... keys. These keys are magic that only kids can see. They do things like open your head, change your gender, or allow you to temporarily die and become a spirit. The three Locke kids, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode, find unique uses for these keys, often get into trouble with them, and eventually use them to save their own lives. There's a lot of back story that Hill and Rodriguez reveal over time. I don't want to give spoilers, but we discover that the secrets of Keyhouse span several generations, and anything the Locke kids experience is nothing compared to what happens if someone uses the Omega Key, awakening an evil beyond imagination.

What I enjoy so much about Locke & Key is that it's about more than the immediate action. Hill's story and Rodriguez's gorgeous illustrations tell a story of coming of age in the face of personal tragedy. This is also a series where the art tells just as much story as the words. Locke & Key is a multi-layered narrative experience. I've said it before - character is king. Everyone in Locke & Key is sympathetic - even Sam, the murderer who sets the whole story rolling. I love a bad guy who can make me forget that he's bad.

So now I sit, and wait for volume six. Volume five ended with some answers, so I'm not so anxious that I'm beating my chest and gnashing my teeth. I do want the sixth volume, and I'll grab it the day it comes out, but I don't want it bad enough to torture myself with the floppies that have come out already. Locke & Key is a series I need to devour in gulps, but so is any graphic novel series worth my attention.


  1. Joe Hill is doing some pretty awesome work. I really liked Heart Shaped Box, and thought NOS4A2 was good (not as good as HSB, but still worth a read).

    Darwyn Cooke also did graphic novel adaptions of four of the Richard Stark novels. No big surprises if you've read the books, but seeing how he translated some of the prose into graphic novel format was really interesting.

    1. I've never cared much about horror as a genre until the last year or so. I'm really liking what I've picked up. NOS4A2 is on my list, and I think I might read my first ever Stephen King novel this year.