Keys to the Kingdom by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

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Rating 8.5/10
Beautifully penned and coloured, often merging fantasy and reality side-by-side.

Locke & Key continues to be a compelling series that questions what memory and emotion mean. The fourth story arc, Keys to the Kingdom, is solid, but not overwhelming and feels like the middle volume in a trilogy a little – going somewhere but not quite yet. Until the last story, that is, which expertly and incredibly sets up the final arc of this incredible series.

First off – Locke & Key is a graphic novel. You should know that this is not something that is designed or intended for children, despite the pretty pictures and colours. There is blood and murder aplenty, but more than that there are real questions about what happens when you strip emotion out of your life, how much the human psyche can take of horrible events happening around you, and the ways people escape their everyday lives.

As to the plot – 3 siblings move into their ancestral home with their grieving mother after their father is senselessly murdered. But when they arrive, they find that the home is much more than they ever thought. Hidden around are keys that, when inserted into a person, can do amazing things – like open your head to put in, or remove, skills and memories. More keys emerge as the series progresses. And their is a dark, nefarious, other-worldly force that is seeking out one particular key – the Omega Key – to release it from its prison. And it will stop at nothing to possess it.

Bode, who I complained earlier didn’t get much development, starts and ends this arc with some much needed fleshing out. Tyler has a bit of a retreat for most of the arc. And Kinsey, sadly, gets no real development at all. Their mother is almost entirely absent from the proceedings (begging the question – who is taking care of Bode?) but the trios friends all get more story time, although most don’t come out much more fleshed out than before we started.

 

The series, an Eisner award winner, is beautifully penned and coloured, often merging fantasy and reality side-by-side. Gabriel Rodriguez’s work is beautiful and compelling. The writing is excellent – as you would expect from an acclaimed suspense novelist and New York Times best-selling author (Joe Hill). In other words – the pedigree is there, the story idea is compelling and introspective, and there is a definitive end point to the story (the next arc concludes the series).

My main complaint with fourth arc is that it spins its wheels a little too much, going over ground it has already gone over, introduces seemingly random keys (which are cool, but are they essential to the plot?) – it feels like primer for people who haven’t read the entire series right before the finale. There’s nothing wrong with most of this – it is done very well – unless you’re looking for major plot development.

And, finally, that too happens in the incredible final story in the arc. Things are irrevocably changed and the final showdown is set up. Everything the series has been building towards is coming into focus and a final confrontation is looming with allies emerging.

Locke & Key started with a definitive bang. The last 2 arcs have not kept the pace and awe of the first two instalments, but there is no question that the series will end spectacularly and, possibly, beg a rereading of these middle volumes.

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