Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Comics Lust 3/1/2020

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/holiday cookie hoarder Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). It’s been a crazy week for work and just about everything else going on in my life, but I was finally able to find some time to let y’all know about something grand. Anyhow, take a breath, let your shoulders relax, grab a drink (you deserve it…unless that’s not your thing) and see if you can dig up some of those dark chocolate and mint cookies from Trader Joes, sit back, and afterward check out some great comics. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magics mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.

Comics Lust

Bingemode (Part 3)

Given a new Netflix show recently made its debut, I decided it was high time I returned to a series that isn’t just one of the best comic books series of the past decade (read about our “Favorite Comics of the Past Decade”), it is one of the best comic book series period. It shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to guess which series I’m talking about, but if you need me to spell it out for you, the book is…

Locke & Key (2008–2013)

(Written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez, colored by Jay Fotos, lettered by Robbie Robbins, published by IDW publishing)
IDW is a publisher for which I have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to their many offerings. Their G.I. Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Transformers offerings are enticing, but the volume of material available makes diving in an insurmountable task without the aid of a comic Sherpa to guide you through the quagmires of those licensed properties. But then, every so often, the publisher releases something different, something new, something that has a beginning, middle, and an end (sorta, more of that later) that is accessible not just to comic book fans, but also fans of fantastic stories.
Thus we have Locke & Key.
Back in 2008, after the first few issues of the first chapter of Locke & Key had seen release, I had heard rumblings about the series across various podcasts and review sites, but I didn’t take the plunge; I even remember seeing the iconic cover of the first issue depicting the Ghost Key, yet I didn’t pick it up. It wasn’t until I started catching on to the new digital app offerings that had recently surfaced that I decided to finally give the book a try after the IDW app featured the first issue for $.99 or it might have even been free, I’m not certain, but what I do know was that the book was too cheap to not take a look. So, I threw it in my cart, purchased it, and then sat on it for a long while. Many months later, the “Welcome to Lovecraft” arc had ended and “Headgames” was an issue or two underway and I decided to finally give my digital copy a read. When I finished that one issue, I bought the other five digital versions of the first chapter and was totally blown away by what I had just read. I then ordered the hardcover collection of “Welcome to Lovecraft” and resolved to buy the hardcovers of everything the creators would throw at me over the next few years.
The story involves the surviving members of the Locke family (Tyler, the older brother; Kinsey, the sister; Bode, the youngest brother; and Nina, the children’s mother) moving from the west coast to a family home in Lovecraft, Massachusettes after the brutal murder of Wendell Locke, their father/husband, at the hands of two deranged highschoolers. The east coast mansion—known as Keyhouse—appears to be somewhat of a haunted mansion, but it is a fresh start away from the tragedy of a few months prior and the hope for a return to some semblance of normalcy; Keyhouse is anything BUT normal. Shortly upon settling in, young Bode finds a mysterious key that allows him to turn into a ghost and to roam the property unseen. He also discovers the well-house where a beautiful woman in a black gown lives and talks to him via echoes, begging the boy to do her a favor. From there, the horror the Locke’s sought so desperately to leave behind rises anew as the woman in the well makes succeeds in escaping her confines. Things then take a turn for the weird, as magic and wonder present themselves in the form of even more mysterious keys that each hold a special power when used on the right door or lock. But will the keys be enough to ward off both the lady in the well and their father’s killer, Sam Lesser, who recently escaped prison and is making his way to Lovecraft?
One thing I did not realize for the first year or so of reading this heavenly series was that writer Joe Hill is the son of famed novelist Stephen King. Had I known this at the time, then it’s safe to say that the name recognition of the man’s father might have pulled my attention to the book a bit sooner, but then that’s possibly why Hill goes by “Hill” to stand on the merits of his own work. And what a mighty work it is indeed. Hill immediately pulls you into the story through a flashback as you quickly learn all is not going to be well for Mrs. Locke upon the arrival of Sam Lesser and Al Grubb and the reveal of the dead body in the back of young men’s stolen truck. Then we meet the Locke children in the present, at the Keystone house in Maine, wherein two pages we are introduced to Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode and I was instantly charmed by them and pulled into their plight as another flashback, this time at the funeral for their father, sealed the deal and had me desperate to know more about them. The tragedy that has been forced upon these kids and the manner in which they each try to cope is heartbreaking and endeared them to me completely. With just over half of the first issue, Hill introduced me to the Locke family and the awfulness of their situation and I was completely absorbed into the tremendous story that was about to unfold. But it was the introduction of that first key and the hint of the lady in the well-house, that left little doubt that there was to be a strong supernatural element to this tale, that I knew I had what was destined to be a great experience ahead of me, and to be honest, I underestimated just how fantastic this series is and just how phenomenally it sticks the landing with the final two issues.
But it isn’t just Hill’s writing that makes Locke & Key such a thoroughly captivating read. Coupled with Rodriguez’s positively stunning storytelling, character design and acting, and elaborate backgrounds, you have a comic that has you thoroughly torn between rushing page to page to see what happens next and lingering on every panel to thoroughly breathe in the visuals. Rodriguez uses a thick line to add visual impact to each character while using a thinner line on their facial features to convey their feelings, whether they are openly upset, or struggling to keep their emotions under their control. Rodriguez also gives the characters and the environments an open, more upbeat style that avoids the shortcut/cheat of deep shadows, and allows you to see everything that is happening in a scene from slight facial feature changes to added intricate details in the stones and wood of the surroundings, with the end result being a simply gorgeous book whose visuals every bit match and complement the rich story.
So, yes, one issue was all it took to convince me that Locke & Key was something special. After the first arc of six issues, I knew digital was not the way to go, but rather I needed to go big with the hardcover collections that were available at the time. To read this fine series, you have the following options available to you:
  • Locke & Key Master Edition Volume 1–3 - Slightly oversized and probably the choice I would make were I to buy it today
  • Locke & Key Hardcover Volume 1–6 - This was how I read the series, but beware that volume one and four did not have a ribbon bookmark and that this will forever haunt me. I manage. These, unfortunately, appear to be out-of-print
  • Locke & Key Trade Paperback Volume 1–6 - These look to be readily available
Thankfully, although we have a complete and masterfully-told story that more than stands on its own, the creators have released and continue to release a series of one-shots expanding the universe that I have not yet read (a travesty, I know) and that are now firmly on my radar:
  • Locke & Key: Guide to the Known Keys (2011) - also contains the short story “Open the Moon”
  • Locke & Key: Grindhouse (2012)
  • Locke & Key: Small World (2016)
  • Locke & Key: Nailed It (2019) - a San Diego Comic-Con Exclusive
  • Locke & Key: Dog Days (2019) - Contains the new story “Dog Days” and the impossible to find “Nailed It”
  • Locke & Key: World War Key: Battalions #1 (2020) - Not out yet
  • Locke & Key: World War Key: Revolution #1–6 (2020) - Not out yet. This series will follow the one-shot.
  • Locke & Key: Hell & Gone (?) - A crossover with DC Comics’s Sandman Universe, and one that seemingly takes place during the “Seasons of Mists” storyline
Given that these one-shots might be a tad on the difficult side to track down, IDW currently offers these hardcovers (and soon-to-be trades):
So, yes, there is a lot of extra material to be found surrounding this enchanting world once you complete the main story, which I am certain will not only be a jewel in your collection but one of those series that you will return to every year or two. Locke & Key is a bingeworthy read of the tallest order and one that I had difficulty putting down to do things like sleep, go to work, or engage with the outside world. It is a masterpiece of a comic that seasoned comic collectors and new readers alike can enjoy.

Locke & Key (Television Show on Netflix)

Okay, I’m going to keep this brief. I have currently watched seven of the ten episodes of the first season of Locke & Key. I like it, but I don’t love it. The actors who portray the Locke kids are fantastic in their roles but the story itself plays much too safe in an effort to appeal to a broader demographic, which is Donist Kryptonite. Sure, the comic series has some laugh-out-loud moments and at times can be whimsical, but there are some much darker and traumatizing sequences in the comic whose repercussions carry through to the end. The television show, however, completely omits things like what happened to Nina, Nina’s alcoholism (although the end of the seventh episode looks to introduce that), what happened to Al Grubb, including Al Grubb in the story at all, certain circumstances surrounding Dodge, Uncle Duncan’s husband/boyfriend, among other things. The show also changes up how the keys manifest their powers, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I LOVE how the Head key gives the user/victim their ideal place (Bode a Chuck E Cheese type location, and Kinsey an amazing MC Escher style mall) to store their memories. The comic is leaps and bounds greater than the show, but if you look at it as a completely separate beast and ignore the fact that the writers could have taken a few more risks (to be fair, they were probably instructed to lighten things up by the head honchos), then you will probably enjoy this good show that had the potential to be great.


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