Retrospective: Joe Hill’s ‘Locke And Key’ Ends Today

Horror comics have been experiencing something of a renaissance, with new ideas and new forms. But nothing was quite like Locke And Key, which ends today with the final issue. Here’s a review, and a look back.

The basic thrust of the series centers around the Locke children, who, forced back into the ancestral home in Lovecraft, MA by the death of their father, discover magic keys, with powers ranging from being able to remove or replace memories to flipping your gender. The Locke children find themselves fighting Dodge, a spirit with questionable motives who wants the keys, while unearthing the Locke family history, which is equal parts fascinating and ugly.

Locke and Key was conceived by Joe Hill, who’s behind books like Horns and Heart-Shaped Box, and it’s unique among horror comics because, first of all, the series was carefully planned to have a beginning, middle, and end. Hill took a lot of time to lay out the mythos, what the keys are and what they do, and the complicated history of the Lockes. Even by the standards of comic continuity, it’s an achievement that it’s so tightly integrated; Locke and Key was the kind of book where a throwaway line can take on more relevance, and going back and reading previous issues paid off as you saw where the plot was going.

Similarly, Gabriel Rodriguez was the perfect artist for the book. Rodriguez had, right from the start, a sense of whimsy that gave the book dimension and depth; using the keys is generally a bad idea, but Rodriguez made it look like so much fun. Also notable were the layouts; taken as a whole, Locke and Key was some of the best artwork on the stands.

It’s why the final issue is arguably perfect. Alpha, the two-issue finale, is all about endings, tying off loose ends, and moving on. The Locke children aren’t the same as they were when this book started. The door is, arguably, closed for good. But that’s a good thing, in the long run.

Locke and Key is going to be missed; it’s rare to have a comic so well thought-out and so impeccably designed. But we doubt we’ve seen the last of Hill and Rodriguez working together in comics; they’re just too good to be out of the game for long.