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Monday, October 18, 2010

Review: Locke and Key-Crown of Shadows

Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez have been collaborating on one of the best horror stories I have ever read, in any format for the last three years. Check that, the ongoing story of the Locke children is one of the best stories I have read anywhere.

These Locke and Key comics come out all throughout the year and then IDW puts out a beautiful bound edition every fall. This edition, the third, is entitled Crown of Shadows

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Lock and Key storyline I will recap.  The 3 Locke children and their mother move back East to their ancestral home after their father is murdered. Turns out their father's murderer was put up to the job by an evil spirit who has been stalking the family for hundreds of years. The old family home is full of magical keys which the spirit is after. Each book deals with one of the keys.  Click here and here to read about the first two installments.This time, the key can be used to control the shadows in the house. In this case, they are used to try to destroy the kids. We also find a key to a cabinet that when you put something broken in it, the item will come out repaired. Which leads to a heart-wrenching scene when the mother puts the father's ashes in the cabinet.

The story is taking an even darker turn here.  The scene when the kids are battling the shadows is seriously scary. Kinsey, the sister almost dies in another scene, and the mother has hit rock bottom. The last installment, Head Games, was a bit more philosophical. The key there opened up people's heads and let them remove any bad thoughts. The characters had conversations about how important memories really are. To start this book, Kinsey has removed her fear in the last book and Bode, the little brother, has his memory of the war against the shadows removed for his own good.

We also get more into the history of the house and the Locke family at the end of this installment; more than we have ever seen before. This history also foreshadows the keys (and problems) to come. Things are going very badly for the Locke family, but I could not look away.

Here is an excerpt of what I said about the series when I read the second installment, Head Games:
Rodriguez's drawings are both beautiful and unsettling, sometimes at the same time. Joe Hill has written another compelling story and we are even treated to a bit of foreshadowing as to what keys may be found next. This is a clever, original, and unsettling graphic novel. There is blood, violence, and heartbreaking murders here; but the story is compelling and the Locke kids themselves will keep even a more timid reader turning the pages.
Crown of Shadows is a bridge installment of the story. I did not enjoy it as much as Head Games, but I understand that is because it is setting up future story lines.I appreciate that Hill is taking his time with the story, slowly revealing the details, and still entertaining me along the way. I am literally itching for the next one, but know I will have to wait another year. Arrrggggghhhhh.

The Locke and Key story is so appealing because it combines original story telling, compelling characters, a really scary, evil villain for whom time is not a factor, all with some of the most beautiful, heart-wrenching, and frightening drawings I have ever seen. The two parts of this story-- the words and the pictures-- perfectly play off of each other. I read a lot and can be picky, but I have rarely read anything as good as this series.

Three Words That Describe This Book: dread, original, compelling

Readalikes: As I said previously here:
The graphic novels of Hill's father's Dark Tower books make for a good suggestion here. Also anything by Neil Gaiman from Sandman to The Graveyard Book (and everything in between) would work for fans of the Lock and Key Series. Also try Alan Moore and Frank Miller in graphic novels, and Bentley Little, Robert McCammon, or Peter Straub in novels.
I would also suggest the new graphic novel series, American Vampire by Scott Snyder, Stephen King and Rafael Albuquereque (which I will review in  a few days), Jonathan Maberry's Pine Deep Trilogy, or Leopoldo Gout's Ghost Radio. All three of these suggestions are original horror stories which push at the edges of horror conventions to extremely successful results.

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