Locke and Key: Keys to the Kingdom
The fourth volume of the struggles of the Locke family collects the adventures in a more fast-paced manner. The evil builds throughout the issue. Hurting people the family loves and it all mounts to a beautiful crescendo that has the evil putting an entirely new master plan into motion. This plan will cause more turmoil for the Locke family than any other so far.
It took me a little longer to get into the fourth volume of the “Locke and Key” series after the previous volume. I knew I needed to sit with some of the moments that took place there, so I read this a few days later. I split up the reading over a couple of days because the style of this volume was a little different than the others.
In this volume, we have some experimentation going on in the artistic style and storytelling. The first issue, for example, is an issue dedicated to Bill Watterson, of Calvin and Hobbes fame. It takes on that artistic style during parts of the story, but the plot is still revolving around the horrors that the Locke family has to deal with because of this evil force that wants these keys for nefarious reasons. Because this was a first issue in this collected edition I did not find this to be that jarring. It was more jarring in the sense that I was reading all of these volumes back to back, so it was a bit weird for that reason, but otherwise it wasn’t that jarring or otherwise upsetting to see this style chosen. It fit actually very well with the focus of the first issue and it ties into the end of the collected series as well.
In this edition I really feel that Hill got told that he was a little rude, that is the word I am going with, towards some minorities in a previous edition (yes, I pointed this out about a previous collection, so it was nice to see some of this seeming to be addressed). We see a bit more of racial undertones in the second issue of the series, but this time it felt like it was serving a larger purpose and was driven by Hill wanting to point out certain issues within society for this population. I am not sure that he was the best person to do this, but it did feel like he was trying to maybe even out some of the issues earlier on in the series. I appreciate a writer, especially in comics writing a longer project, evening out issues that they may have been made aware of from their own fanbase. I imagine this is what happened, but since I was not reading them during publication I can only make an assumption based on what I am reading and the way the story has went. Also we see one of the other characters come out of a coma, that is a minority as well. They are the driving force on the plot moving forward, so that was nice.
We see him experiment a little bit in format with an issue that is called “February” that literally showcases every single day of the Locke’s family life in February. It was an effective way to showcase many keys that Hill obviously wanted to introduce in very rapid and quick succession. It also started making it feel like he was getting to a point where perhaps he is wanting to wrap up the series a little bit. I assume this again because there are only two more collected editions and creating some stories that are more fast-paced would help get to that endgame faster. I really do feel that he used it effectively here and it served his purpose. It does not detract the reader from the overall enjoyment of the series. It also made some moments that would have been harder to swallow over longer periods of the comic easier to swallow. It helped refocus, in my opinion, at least one of the characters. It did not make her likable, but it changed how I viewed her.
In terms of overall plot for this edition, it felt a little more all over the place. I think this is due to middle book syndrome, which is what I state when a series is a longer series. It isn’t a bad thing. It is just the reason I think that ultimately Rodriguez experimented with stylistic choices more in this volume than in previous ones and why Hill probably desired it as well. There is a sense of needing to draw out the story more to get to the end of the edition for the “big moment” that each edition has had. The getting there seems a little more forced, but it was handled well on the bookends of things because they juxtapose against each other very well.
The artwork here is something I have touched upon because of the experimentation in this volume, but for the vast majority of the issues there is little changes in the stylistic choices. Rodriguez still gives the greatest details to mystical and supernatural elements of the story and leaves the characters a little less well-fleshed out. I still feel that this is appropriate at this juncture of the series. I would love to see him create them more stylistic by the end of the series, but we will see later this week if that happens. I could see that going either way depending on Hill and his vision for the art of the series. He also does very well with the Watterson style and also a page that is a homage to old war comics. Rodriguez has obviously practiced his craft for some time and honed it to near perfection. I will be interested in looking him up and seeing what other works he has done before or after this series.
Normally I do not spoil moments of the series, but I loved something so much that was in this collection that I have to mention it as my closing. There is a teacher that has passed on. A copy sees a fellow teacher visiting the grave of the teacher and the cop says that he feels teachers should get the same treatment in death as a cop. The entire gun salute and everything because of what they do for children and such. He discusses how it shouldn’t be that the person is buried without basically anything and only is visited by a fellow teacher. I applauded for this message being added and I agree. There should be more appreciation for teachers than there currently is and they do deserve something more. Most of us have a favorite teacher that touched our lives in some meaningful way, so draw on those memories and thank them, even if it is just in your head. Just be sure that no one has stuck a key back there and is trying to change any memories while you do it.
There are 3 more reviews coming up in the “Locke and Key” event here on CassieWinters.com!
TOMORROW’S REVIEW IS: