Locke & Key: Small World #1 ComicWow! Review

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Locke & Key is by no means a new series. The title was first published in early 2008, with the story arc, “Welcome to Lovecraft.” From there, it had six more story arcs before “Small World.” Those included, in order of their publication, “Head Games,” “Crown of Shadows,” “Keys to the Kingdom,” “Clockworks,” “Alpha & Omega,” and “The Golden Age.” The gist of the series is that, during the American Revolution, a group of rebels (hiding underneath what would become the Keyhouse) discover a portal to another dimension. This dimension is filled with demons who try to ender the real world. When they try, though, they collapse into “whispering iron,” which locksmith Benjamin Locke forges into a bunch of magical keys. Thus, the Keyhouse is born, and is continuously evolving.

This issue, written and illustrated by the original storytellers of the series (Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez), tells a tale of a very suspicious dollhouse. The magic keys take the bulk of the show, altering reality as we (or rather, the characters) know it.

There are a lot of things that jump out in this issue, one of the most prominent being the time period. We’re at the turn of the 20th century, and writer Joe Hill makes it obvious. The wardrobe is conservative and uniform—so much so that Fiona looks like one of the children of the house, Harland reads du Bois, Chamberlain teaches his daughters to be housewives, etc. Whether Hill is being sincere or satirical, it makes the issue a little easier to get through—and even adds a bit of humor.

For new readers curious about the Keyhouse’s mysticism, it surely isn’t subtle. There is blatant talk about the shadows interacting with the humans and the fact that Harland’s crown (which is later placed on Ian’s head) controls them. The children also talk about the magic keys outright while trying to escape a giant spider that Jean let loose from the dollhouse into the real world.

The character interaction, dialogue, storyline, and pacing are all perfect. The character interaction and transitions are smooth, they don’t linger, and they leave the reader with enough intrigue to stay interested. You’ll find yourself racing to the back cover just to see what happens next, and re-reading to notice small nuances you never even knew were there. A lot of this is in large part due to Rodriguez.

The artwork has a great deal of detail. You’ll find yourself immersed in this house, noticing facial hair, the shadows in nooks, the woodwork, everything! Jay Foto’s colors help create this immersive environment with thoughtfully placed light sources and shadows. A realistic color palette helps create a story in which we can see ourselves. What would you do if you were being chased by a giant spider? What would you do if you lived in a Keyhouse that held a portal, magic keys, and tons of mystery?

In the back of this issue, we come to find that a lot of this issue was inspired by Richard Matheson and The Shrinking Man. It’s easy to see the influences, but it warrants a second read just to see if you can pick up on them. This horror series is not only back in the comic book game, but a TV pilot is being written by Joe Hill himself, to be produced by IDW Entertainment. If it’s anything like this issue, we’re in for a damn good time. Get stoked! And head over to your local comic book shop to pick up the Locke & Key books to catch up on this horrific yet playfully heartwarming series.

Written by: Joe Hill

Illustrated by: Gabriel Rodriguez

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