LOCKE & KEY: SMALL WORLD – You’ll Want to Step Into This Parlor…
I am a long-time fan of Locke & Key. I came into this world a little late, so I only have a few milestone issues but I have the whole run in trades. I even went to SDCC back in 2014 and made a point to stop by the IDW booth for Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s signing (they were a joy to chat with). I would highly recommend the series to ANYONE, especially fans of spooky fantasy. I don’t know that I would label the series as horror, because the primary themes are not terrifying. There ARE terrifying things that happen, but they are more hurdles and occurrences than focal points. Fans of the title would know the story is more about love, family, perseverance, and loyalty.
This new issue is part of The Golden Age, which is a series of six one-shots. The previous entries are Open the Moon and Grindhouse. With the 3 year gap, I was quite excited for another dose and let me just say, it was a real treat to creep back into this amazing world. If I had to list off pros…it would be: the characters and their consistent behavior, the pacing isn’t rushed, the plot is framed well (it’s a one shot and knows it), and of course Rodriguez’s fabulous art (the man can draw vintage architecture!). If you are a long time fan, there are plenty of nods and easter eggs.
If I had to list cons…eh, it’s not something I like to do with art (cop out!) but I will say this; there is a long break between issues here. A LONG break. The creators know this, so the issue has a feel to it that is sorta hey-check-this-out-new-reader but also wants to give old fans something as well. There was a dinner scene where all the characters are labeled, which is clearly for the neophyte. As an old fan, I would have liked 2 more pages of story. But I get it. I really do. No hard feelings, and I hope Locke & Key gets more than a dirigible sized load of new fans. They deserve it.
In Small World, Keyhouse is here in full force, but the occupants have changed. If you were expecting Kinsey, Tyler, or Bode, you will be saddened to hear they are not here, but it is not surprising as The Golden Age series is more about expanding the history of Keyhouse and the overall world Hill and Rodriguez are building. This chapter in the history of Keyhouse belongs to some Locke ancestors: Harland, Chamberlin, Fiona, and the four children, Ian, John, Jean, and Mary.
Since this series is basically like an old favorite pair of jeans for me, I’m going to write my impressions and summary as I flip through the book on a second read.
The first panel is like using the Timeshift Key to step back to 2010 when I first encountered the series and Gabriel Rodriguez’s art. Nothing has changed style-wise, which is great because Rodriguez’s art is phenomenal and you can fall right back into the world of Keyhouse like the last 3 years didn’t happen. The faces are all familiar and Keyhouse has the right texture to it. To me it feels like Rodriguez uses more of a woodcut style for Locke & Key. It’s a tweak to his style that you don’t see on other titles like Little Nemo (which is great to read to your kids!). It’s cool to see artists give each title they work on its own “feel”. The woodcut tweak is something that subtly and unconsciously takes the reader back in time without slapping a box on the first page reading “April 1855”. Practically everything has a texture to it and little is left flat, meaning you can spend a while just looking at the wallpaper. Leave it to Rodriguez to make wallpaper interesting. The Crown of Shadows is around as well, and I thought one of the Shadows looked like a lunar Dr. Strange!
Hill writes Small World in the same manner as before, and the old Locke family is immediately endearing and funny. The children bicker about typical things (Mary chased me with a pencil!) which are decidedly NOT typical. This IS Keyhouse after all, so it’s not your typical pencil-chase scene. The Lockes are a family that look out for each other and make light of events that would shatter the minds of the Brady Bunch. The pace is great and nothing feels too rushed. Hill knows this family well and it shows in their interactions.
My only question/concern with the issue is that Harland feels less like an uncle and more like a butler/nanny. In terms of chronology? If memory serves, I THINK this must take place before Open the Moon, since Ian is still in the house.
Regardless, I now feel a strong desire to start back with issue #1 and re-read the entire series. I know you are looking for a comic series to kick off that New Year’s resolution “Gotta-binge-read-more-comics”, then Locke & Key has all the amazing art and story you crave with, like, ZERO trans fats.
Check it all out, starting with Welcome to Lovecraft.