When the patriarch of the Locke family is killed by one of his former students, the rest of the family decides to head back to their home in Lovecraft, Massachusetts. As Robert Crais noted in his introduction to this book, if you’re planning on putting your life back together you DON’T move to a town called Lovecraft. As you’d expect, we soon find out that the house is full of mysterious facets including (but not limited to) a creepy girl trapped in a well who is guiding the killer to their home.
Someday, I’m sure that people will stop thinking of writer Joe Hill as “the son of Stephen King.” That day isn’t here yet, but “Locke & Key” shows that he has inherited some of his father’s best traits as a writer. These would include writing believable, grounded characters, being able to generate tension from any situation, and creating interesting supernatural menaces. He’s also doing something different from his father as this volume sets up a mystery involving the nature of the house and the entity that’s imprisoned within it. I can’t remember the last time I read a Stephen King story that had a genuine mystery at its center (he usually operates on the idea that things are scarier when you don’t understand everything), but I’m genuinely interested to see where Hill is going with this thanks to his strong work establishing the cast and making them genuinely sympathetic as they work through their grief.
As for artist Gabriel Rodriguez... I want to like his work here but it doesn’t quite click with me. He displays a fairly cartoonish style here and while that’s not necessarily antithetical to drama (see Steve Rolston’s work on the first volume of “Queen and Country” for one example) it doesn’t quite fit with the grounded, serious tone of the book. On the other hand, his style makes for an interesting contrast with the horrible things that the characters do/have done to them. I’d liked to have seen him use a more realistic style like he did in his “CSI” comics, but what’s here is by no means a dealbreaker. Recommended for those who think character studies work better with a touch of the supernatural.