The creative team behind the Comics Creepshow winner for BEST HORROR COMIC OF 2008 has returned, turning their LOCKE & KEY story into a franchise. Making LOCKE & KEY into an ongoing series of mini-series was a logical decision, considering that the original mini-series was both a critical and financial success and that the last issue left off on a tremendous cliffhanger. I am happy to say, that writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez have kept the overall story going strong, without having to back track at all.
Issue one is chock full of what made the first mini-series so appealing- from an extremely realistic depiction of characters dealing with loss, to an incredible sense of dread, generated by both supernatural occurrences and the actions of sadistic criminals. The focus of this issue isn’t on Bode and his siblings, however, who spent the six issues of the last mini trying to cope with the fact that their father had been murdered. The new mini, HEAD GAMES, is told from the perspective of a completely new character, Mr.Ridgeway, an English teacher at the school that Bode’s older siblings attend. Switching up the main characters could be beneficial for readers who didn’t catch the first mini, or couldn’t afford the hardcover trade that collected all of the issues, and are coming into this story with a clean slate.
Though this is the first time we see Mr.Ridgeway, he is an integral part of the LOCKE & KEY mythology. He taught Bode’s murdered father, Randall, when he was in high school, as well as Randall’s best friend Luke Carvaggio. The first few pages of the issue are filled with Mr.Ridgeway’s narration, talking about how much he misses his deceased wife. Mr.Ridgeway’s obsessive thoughts change their focus, a few pages in, when he notices that Luke Carvaggio is back from the dead, and is BFF with Randall Locke’s children. Mr.Ridgeway spends the rest of the issue debating whether he has finally lost his mind, or if, somehow, Luke has been reincarnated.
Those of us who are familiar with the first LOCKE & KEY mini, know that Luke has fact returned from beyond the grave. For near to a generation he has been trapped in spirit form (and in female form as well) in a well, located at the Locke family estate. You see, The LOCKE & KEY franchise gets its name from the Locke family, and the fact that there are multiple keys throughout their estate, that when used correctly, can open mystical doorways. After the events of the first LOCKE & KEY mini, Luke has been freed from his prison and is on a mission to get the key that unlocks the powerful “black door”.
So far, the only two people who know about Luke’s return are Mr.Ridgeway and Luke’s ex-girlfriend, Ellie Whedon, who is now the gym teacher at the high school. The scenes featuring the interaction between Luke and Ellie Whedon are the strongest in the entire issue, and are a testament to how layered a scene in a Joe Hill book can be. Ellie has a young son named Rufus, who is always playing with action figures in every scene that he is in. While Rufus seems to be focused on playing with his toys, Ellie and Luke argue, in the same room, about what they should do with Mr.Ridgeway. Ellie continues to warn Luke, not to use harsh language or say malicious things in front of Rufus. Luke, has little respect for her, and continues to rant. Though, Rufus seems to be oblivious as to what his mother and Luke are talking about, we see in the dialogue he creates for his action figures that he is picking up, and listening in, with complete attention, to everything that Luke and Ellie are saying.
That is what makes the storytelling of LOCKE & KEY seem so much more mature than any other horror books on the stands. Joe Hill’s scripts usually have Gabriel Rodriguez drawing the same panels over and over again on one single page, with only a slight alteration of what is going on in the background. After the main characters have left the foreground, we see that there is something lingering. Whether it be Rufus or the ghost of Mr.Ridgeway’s wife, or even Luke spying on Mr.Ridgeway, there is always something in the background, watching over the main characters, that they aren’t even aware of. For a book that deals with ghosts, I can’t think of a more effective technique. LOCKE & KEY gives you chills.
I won’t give away what happens to Mr.Ridgeway or Luke, but let’s just say that the scope of the story is getting bigger, and the threat in the first mini is nothing compared to the one in HEAD GAMES. As you will know from my previous references to LOCKE & KEY and my review of Joe Hill’s novel, ‘Heart Shaped Box’, I consider him to be one of the best modern horror writers out there. Do yourself a favor, if you are going to wait on line tonight to go see ‘My Bloody Valentine’, stop by your local comic store first. Once there, pick up the trade collection of the first LOCKE & KEY mini and the first issue of HEAD GAMES. I dare you, to find one thing to complain about in all seven issues. If anything, the only gripe you might have, is that there won’t be anything as good as LOCKE & KEY, as far as horror goes, in the theaters this year.