Two or three times a year, I get a random and powerful craving for graphic novels. This is not generally my genre of choice, but it makes for a fun departure from my usual reading. That craving hit early this year when I saw that Netflix was developing the Locke & Key series of graphic novels into their own original series. Since I have this thing about reading this book before seeing the show or movie, I knew I needed to read these immediately. They’ve also been on my TBR list for literally years, so what better time to take the plunge? I’m so glad I did. For the first time in my life, I think that a series of graphic novels might be contenders for my favorite reading experience of the year. And it’s only February!
“Dying is nothing. I’ve died a thousand times and I’ve always come back. Ideas can’t really be killed. Not for good.”
Locke & Key is insanely creative and wildly unique, the perfect pairing of medium and story. The prose is surprisingly thoughtful and complex and is perfectly matched by the wonderfully detailed illustrations. And this is one of those instances where the prose and illustrations are both equally important to the story. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez are a powerful team, and I’m so glad that the pair maintained their partnership throughout the series’ entirety. When it comes to graphic novels, there is nothing worse than a writer or artist being replaced in the middle of the story, and I am really thankful that didn’t happen with Locke & Key.
“Keys turn both ways. You can lock something away… but you can also throw a bolt and set something free.”
I love the mythology Hill built here, and how fathomless and rife with possibilities that mythology proves itself to be. The idea of these keys that not only unlock different areas or items in Keyhouse but can also unlock the mind and human potential is a brilliant concept, and it was incredibly well explored. Also, the cast of characters are real and sympathetic and completely fascinating. I adore Kinsey, but Bode and Tyler are phenomenal characters, as well. Their relationship as siblings is tight and strong and believable, as is their relationship with their broken, alcoholic mother. There are also some wonderfully developed side characters, my favorite of whom is Rufus, a boy with autism whose differently wired brain allows him to see things that no one else can. His character arc brought me to tears.
“Secrets are hell. Secrets are the prisons we make for ourselves.”
Volume 4 is formatted differently when Bode or Rufus is the perspective, and I love it. The use of an almost Calvin and Hobbes style at the beginning, and a classic action comic style further in, we’re both fun changes of pace. However, the main art style of the series remains true, and the appearances of the main characters change realistically as they age or change hairstyles and so forth, but they are always recognizably themselves. And then volume 5 delivers the back story of the creation of the keys, which was a fabulous addition and incredibly enlightening right before the series’ culmination in Volume 6. Also, there was a Carrie reference in this volume that made my little nerd heart insanely happy.
“You were strong enough to pick yours up all on your own. You don’t need me to be your crutch. You don’t need a crutch at all.”
This is one of those rare series that not only starts off incredibly strong, but maintains a steady growth pace through the last page of the final installment. Volume 6 made me cry multiple times, and I read the last twenty or thirty pages through tears.
It was brutal and beautiful in turns and equal measure
, and I thought it was an incredibly poignant depiction of growing up, finding yourself, sticking with your family through thick and thin, and the power of found family in the form of friendship, as well as living with the aftermath of bad decisions and finding a way to carry on anyway.
“Death isn’t the end of your life, you know. Your body is a lock. Death is the key. The key turns… and you’re free.”
Locke & Key is hands down the best series of graphic novels I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. I’m saving up to buy the set, because I really need to be able to physically place this series on my shelf of favorites. I wouldn’t change a single sentence or a single frame. I’ll leave you with something Brian K. Vaughan wrote for the introduction to the third volume:
“Readers love fantasy, but we need horror. Smart horror. Truthful horror. Horror that holds us make sense of a cruelly senseless world. Locke & Key is all of those things.”