Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Locke & Key

There has always been a strong connection between horror and comic books. Many of today’s writers were strongly influenced by horror comics, particularly the EC line which was popular in the 1950s, before being shut down by Congressional investigation and public outcry over alleged damage being done to children by its subject matter`. In recent times, though, horror comics have been somewhat listless, partly due to writers who understand comics better than how a horror story works.

That is not the case with the first collection of the series Locke & Key, titled Welcome to Lovecraft. The author is Joe Hill, writer of the excellent first novel Heart-Shaped Box and the great short story collection 20th Century Ghosts, and he has a good grasp on the subject matter.

The story opens with violence, when the Locke family is attacked by a pair of hooligans who murder the patriarch of the family, attack the mother, and traumatize the three children. In the aftermath of the incident, the family moves from California to live with the father’s brother in Lovecraft, Massachusetts, in the old family home, called Key House.

There, they begin to learn of the strange properties of the house, the doorway which turns you into a (temporary) ghost when you walk through it, the well which holds a strange entity calling herself echo, and others. There are also clues that the death of Mr. Locke may not have been as random as previously thought…

I am normally annoyed by stories with children as central characters, as this usually injects a saccharine sweetness to the story, but the Locke children seem to be well-drawn enough characters that this isn’t a problem, although the youngest child does something that is completely stupid during the story. I recommend this to any fans of horror or comics. Lock & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft will serve as a prologue to a planned thee act story, which will be told through four limited series. The next arc, Locke & Key: Head Games, has just been released in collected form.

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