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Sunday, October 7, 2012

31 Days of Horror: Day 7-- Review: Locke And Key 5: Clockworks

I have great love for the Locke and Key series by Joe Hill and 
Gabriel Rodriguez.  Click here to access my review index and read detailed reviews of the first four installments in the series.

I am all in on this series.  In fact, I went as far to proclaim national library conference back in March:
While there are physically more series, some of the best horror writing in general, series or not, is happening in the format of the graphic novel.  This has a bit to do with the fact that horror lends itself nicely to the visual form; you can say a lot with pictures in horror.  However, it is not only the fact that these works are illustrated that makes them better.  I have been finding that the most interesting characters and the richest story lines are coming out in the comic format.  I am not alone in this opinion.  Take for example the most recent Eisner Awards for the entire comics industry and click here to see that Joe Hill won for best overall writer of any comic, for his horror series, Locke and Key.  In my opinion, there really isn't a better horror series, in any format, right now than Locke and Key.
Now to Clockworks specifically.  This is the fifth installment in the series, and as Joe Hill announced, there will one more cycle of comics to be bound as the hardcover, Omega next year and then a 7th installment compiling all of the side, historical stories of the Locke family and their history with the keys (some of which I have bought on my own at my local comics store and read already).

Speaking of, that is what Clockworks focuses on--the history.  When we left the Locke family in the 4th volume: Keys to the Kingdom, Zack/Dodge has possessed the youngest Locke, Bode, although no one knows that; they all think they killed Zack/Dodge.  But Clockworks does not advance that story line at all.  Instead, Hill introduces a key that opens an old clock.  The clock takes the 2 older Locke children, Tyler and Kinsey, back to the past.  Interestingly, the clock only goes up to 1999, so the kids cannot see their future, which of course was their first instinct.

So as readers we not only go back with the kids to the start of it all, in the 1770s, but we also go back just one generation.  The story focuses on Ben and Miranda Locke (Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode's parents) in their own time.  The clockworks key allows all of us to see why Dodge turned bad, why Ben and Miranda ended up together, how the keys moved into the next generation, and why Tyler and Kinsey are running out of time to stop the insanity on and for all.

With Clockworks Locke and Key continues to be the very best horror series in any print format.  With this 5th book, Hill concentrates on character development.  By going into Ben and Miranda's story not only do we get valuable information about these key characters, but the story is advanced.  It takes a lot of discipline as a writer to hold off on many of the key details this long into a series.  But now, with only 6 chapters to go, the characters have all been given further depth AND the stage has been set for an epic showdown between the Locke kids and some seriously evil magic.

Locke and Key is also excellent because the story is not predictable.  Joe Hill is THE BEST horror writer today and this series solidifies that.  He adds things to his story lines that are unpredictable but not out of left field. Hill is able to honor the tropes of horror while adding his new spin. The main theme of the entire series is as old the horror genre--the seduction of evil magic.  Even though you want to use it for good, very bad comes when you unleash an evil power. We are used to this story line, but the way Hill executes it is unique and original.

Finally, as good as Hill's stories are, Rodriguez's art is amazing.  He is able to convey emotion in his drawings.  When you are dealing with supernatural elements, it is easy to go over the top, but his art is restrained, much like a good horror story.  We get enough to keep us unsettled throughout, and then he gives us the payoff at the big action moments with bright, complex drawings with enough gore to portray the horror, but nothing too gross.  I also love the way he has portrayed Kinsey's fear throughout the series.  These creatures come into play in this installment.  Which brings me back to Hill's awesome character development.  He is so good at writing complex characters, that even a main character's fear is a memorable character.

Three Words to Describe This Book:  compelling, complex characters, unsettling

Readalikes: You can use this link to see the numerous read alike options that I have given for this series in the past.  I have mostly given graphic novel suggestions, but today I want to offer suggestions for people who really like that the story is happening in both the present and the past.  So here are some other compelling, unsettling, and character centered novels that tell a story in 2 time periods.  All links are to reviews if available:

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