Locke & Key: creepy and excellent graphic novel

locke_01_cvr.jpg Locke & Key is a dark supernatural comic book series available in anthology format by writer Joe Hill and cartoonist Gabriel Rodriguez. I won't be spoiling it to say it's about a family (the Lockes) whose father (a high school counselor) is murdered by a couple of his deranged students who have been directed by an otherworldly creature to retrieve two powerful artifacts (as you might guess from the title, they're keys). Locke's grieving widow and three children move from Northern California to the murdered father's childhood home in New England to get away from the bad vibes. The only problem is, the home is a dark Victorian mansion, and it's in a town called Lovecraft.

The gore and violence is over the top, and the mature subject matter prevented me from sharing the book with my 13-year-old daughter. Violence and darkness aside, Joe Hill's story is tight and well told, skillfully weaving flashbacks and present-day scenes, and inserting elements of foreshadowing to add just the right amount of complexity to the plot. Hill is the author of the acclaimed horror novel, Heart-Shaped Box (and his dad is Stephen King, which I just found out about 15 seconds ago).

I'm not familiar with Gabriel Rodriguez, the Chilean artist who drew Locke & Key, but his work is terrific. I have seen too many comics lately where the characters physical features vary from panel to panel so much that they are unrecognizable. Rodriguez's characters are extremely well-designed and consistent throughout the book, making it easy to figure out who is who. That might not seem like a big deal, but to someone like me, who isn't that great at recognizing faces, it's a big help. His depictions of architecture is stunning.

Most supposedly-scary novels and movies don't affect me, even though I enjoy them. But Locke & Key was both enjoyable and spooky. I highly recommend it.

I also found out that Fox is shooting a pilot based on the series. Locke & Key