When I read the original 6 volumes of Locke & Key, I fell head-over-heels in love with every element of it: the story, the art, the characters, the concepts, the setting, all of it completely enchanted me. I consider it one of my favorite series of all time, and definitely my favorite series of graphic novels I’ve ever read. Every single volume was a 5 star experience. I wouldn’t have changed a single sentence or frame. It’s one of those rare instances where the art and the prose carry equal weight in the story, and something about Rodriguez’s art style stole my heart as surely as Hill’s writing did. I loved every single thing about it.
So when this bind-up of all of the prequel side-stories was released in March of this year, I was both incredibly excited and very, very hesitant. Because the Hill/Rodriguez team were still together for this volume, I knew I would have to read it at some point. But I worried that, if the stories and writing weren’t special enough, The Golden Age would somehow cheapen or lessen my memory of the original series. This fear could not have been further from my actual experience. The stories here, of the Locke family from nearly a century before the characters I came to love so much in the main series, do nothing but strengthen and deepen my love for the series. I have a new slew of characters to love, characters who are flawed but wonderfully real and marked by their love for one another. A love that would venture into hell and back for the sake of any who had lost their way.
Each of these stories, from the shortest to the longest, felt integral to the overarching story being told. Some were heartwarming, some were bittersweet, and some were horrific and traumatic and honestly appalling. But the way everything tied together at the end made even those painful moments so powerful, and so worth suffering, that I again can’t think of a single frame or sentence I would change.
I want to discuss two of the stories in particular. First off, “Open the Moon” was exquisite. The story itself was beautiful, as was the way in which it was told. It made me feel deeply, and I can absolutely see why that standalone issue was nominated for an Eisner. But the star of the show in this collection was “Hell & Gone,” though there is no way it could have stood alone; it builds on every other issue before it in the collection, and ties them all together beautifully. What thrilled me about this part of the story was that it ties in and crosses over with Gaiman’s The Sandman. And it does so profoundly well. Not every crossover is a success, but this one absolutely was. It didn’t ride on the coattails of Gaiman’s story. Instead, it took that mythos and lovingly gave us a completely believable interlude. Hill and Rodriguez re-explained everything readers who had no exposure to Gaiman’s Sandman might need to know, but in ways that didn’t feel redundant to those who have already met and grown to love Dream. And personally, as someone who adores Gaiman’s storytelling but has had a difficult time connecting to the art style in The Sandman comics, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see some of this world through the gifted pen of Rodriguez. The art was exquisite, and the storytelling lived up to it. I loved getting to reacquaint myself with characters from the world of The Sandman, and I loved even more how seamlessly this story worked in conjunction to the rest of Locke & Key.
The Golden Age was a brilliant addition to the Locke & Key series. If you’ve read and loved that series, I strongly suggest picking up this volume. I can’t wait until it’s out in paperback so I can add it to my physical shelf of favorites with the rest of the series. And if you’ve never read Locke & Key but are interested, I think The Golden Age would be a brilliant place to start, as it introduces you to the mythos without giving you any spoilers at all for the main series. So, what I’m saying is, please read this. It’s a beautiful story exquisitely illustrated, and it’s definitely worth your time.