Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft
Author: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
From Goodreads: 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…
I’m only a so-so fan of H.P. Lovecraft. To me, his writing is very dry and full of dialogue that just wouldn’t come out of the mouth of the average sailor or farmhand that shows up in his stories, but there are parts of it that hint at deep, deep worlds, and that’s what draws me to it. I mean, the phrase, “At his house in R’Lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming” calls to the imagination and makes you wonder at what might be waiting below the waves or in the depths of space, where the ancient gods might lie, waiting for their time to return.
Now and then, I’ll come across a work by a different author that intrigues me, such as Neil Gaiman’s short story, ‘A Study in Emerald’, which puts Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson into the realm of the Cthulhu Mythos. So I was interested when a friend mentioned that she was going to read the Locke & Key graphic novel series written by Joe Hill, with art by Gabriel Rodriguez. I checked with my local library system and discovered that they have all six volumes of this award-winning series. I put them all and hold, and have gotten five of the six. I’m still waiting for volume two.
I read volume one, Welcome to Lovecraft, in a single sitting this afternoon. The story follows the lives of three siblings- Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode Locke- in the wake of a violent crime. They move from their home in California to their father’s old house in Lovecraft, Massachusetts. The house has a name, Keyhouse, and right away the youngest sibling, Bode, discovers that the house is stranger than anything he could have imagined and that there are keys that can open doorways into frightening realms. And if this weren’t enough, there is a strange presence living in a well below the house, and it calls to Bode.
The story is initially hard to follow. Its various plot lines alternate from one character to another, and are sometimes told backwards. For example, you don’t discover the criminal’s background and motivation for his crime (which happens in the first few pages) until the later chapters. I found it a bit difficult to keep track of what was happening and who was who until I had enough of the story to develop a foundation for the characters and events. This happened around chapter three.
While the non-linear aspect of the storytelling might be off-putting to some, I decided on reflection that it adds to the uneasiness of the story. Things happen without explanation. Strange creatures show up out of nowhere. People die, wander around as ghosts, and then come back to life. Keyhouse is a place of frightening mysteries, and no one can live there long without it acting upon them somehow.
Rodriguez’s art was flatter than I expected, having just been blown away by the detail and dimensionality of Sana Takeda’s illustrations in Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening. This isn’t a mark against the art of Locke & Key, it’s just a different style. Rodriguez’s work has a cinematic quality. I could picture every frame as a still from a film, and in many cases the artwork told the story as well as, if not better than, the writing.
I hope volume two shows up very soon. Welcome to Lovecraft ends on an ominous note that promises more drama and potential nightmares for those living in Keyhouse. I don’t know how- or if- the story falls into the Cthulhu Mythos devised by H.P. Lovecraft, but it will be fun to find out.
As with Monstress, Locke & Key is for mature audiences due to violence and language.