Welcome back to the reread of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s dark comic series, Locke & Key! The second installment, “Head Games,” picks up very closely on the heels of the first. This reread contains spoilers, so proceed at your own risk.
What Happens: The Locke family has survived a second attack from Sam Lesser. Kinsey is starting to fit in with her fellow classmates, Bode is still the curious young boy he’s supposed to be, and Tyler has befriended new student Zack Wells. Zack bears a more than striking resemblance to Lucas Carvaggio, former friend of Rendell Locke. That’s because he is Lucas, except that Lucas died under (thus far) unknown circumstances in 1988.
Professor Joe Ridgeway, one of the teachers at Lovecraft Academy, can’t shake the resemblance because he taught Lucas, Rendell, and their group of friends when they attended school. We learn a little bit more about Zack/Lucas/Dodge as he uses the Anywhere Key to steal a gun and kill Ridgeway.
Zack claims Ellie Whedon—Kinsey’s track coach and a former friend of Rendell and Lucas—is his aunt, and the shock of seeing the face of a thought-to-be-dead friend shakes her reality. Ellie lives alone with her mentally handicapped son Rufus before Zack “moves in” with his “aunt.” She is very much a zombie in her home; she’s afraid of Zack/Lucas/Dodge because she knows he should be dead. As a result of this fear, she helps him make the murder of Professor Ridgeway look to be a suicide.
Duncan recognizes Zack, but can’t quite place him. We get a flashback to a young Duncan sneaking and following his older brother Rendell and friends (including Lucas Caravaggio) as they descend into what is known as “The Drowning Cave,” a dangerous inlet that was once used by the government during the Second World War as a lookout for U-Boats.
Back to the Head Key—when Bode shows it off to his siblings, they are rightfully horrified since the key opens up the bearer’s head, allowing people to see the person’s thoughts and symbolic memories. Even more bizzarely, the person whose head is open is also able to peer into their own head. The scene inside Bode’s head Rodriguez reveals is truly fascinating.
Soon enough, the siblings are curious about the key. Tyler uses it to add books to his head and catch up with school assignments, while Kinsey wants to remove troubling memories. She asks Tyler to remove her fear and ability to cry, symbolized by a horrifying mini-demon and sad woman respectively, which she puts into a jar. Tyler later invites friends “Zack” and Jordan (a female class mate on whom Tyler has a crush) over to show off the Key, despite promising to both Bode and Kinsey that the key must remain a secret.
Back to Zack/Lucas/Dodge and Duncan—Duncan meets his boyfriend Brian at a bar where they eventually get into a physical altercation with some locals. Later when Duncan is asleep, Dodge uses the Anywhere Key to get into Duncan’s house and uses the Head Key to remove his memories of Lucas/Zack. Earlier with Professor Ridgeway, Dodge claimed he didn’t want to be the one to pull the trigger and here with Duncan, he avoids killing his former friend’s brother.
Brian sees Dodge attempting to leave through the kitchen, and grabs a knife. Seeing that Dodge has a gun, Brian runs outside, where the women from the bar were planning to vandalize Brian and Duncan’s house. Panicking at the sight of the knife, the women hit Brian with their car.
In the confusion, Dodge heads back to Ellie’s house where we learn that he helped to kill her abusive mother. Ellie’s mother Candace smoked in the house, despite her daughter’s admonishments that she keep the smoke away from Rufus. Candace physically and mentally abused Ellie for much of her life, but when she slapped Rufus, it was the final straw for Ellie. She lured her mother to the Drowning Cave and called upon Dodge, but was too shaken by the experience to fully deal with it. Dodge removes the memory of the keys Ellie found (Echo and Gender) as well as the knowledge of how to summon Dodge.
Dodge thinks Rufus could pose a problem, so he attempts to use the Head Key on the boy only to realize a key hole does not open in the back of his head. Thinking Rufus too simple-minded to notice or recognize him, Dodge walks away dismissively. As Dodge leaves, Rufus holds two action figures and speaks through them, indicating he is in fact aware of Dodge’s nature… or do the action figures themselves actually speak?
“Head Games” ends with Zack/Lucas/Dodge returning to Kinsey to share a kiss as she awakens.
Commentary: So the title is a double reference. Obviously, the Head Key is the blatant reference, but the psychological games Zack/Lucas/Dodge is playing with everybody. He warms up to Tyler, sweet talks Kinsey, messes with Duncan’s sanity a bit, and completely mind-fucks Ellie to become a shell of herself and a slave.
This installment, steps slightly away from the standard slasher/horror storyline introduced in the first installment. Hill & Rodriguez begin to reveal a greater backstory to the families involved and in doing so, ignite many more questions about the Keyes, the history of the Locke family, Keyhouse Manor, the true nature of the many-named being known as Dodge and the long-game Dodge is playing.
While Dodge/Lucas is a conniving monster, something is holding him back from actively taking the life of somebody he once knew and liked. He also does not kill Duncan, in the brief flashback, a kinship can be seen between Lucas and his best friend’s kid brother. However, no compunction is evident when he takes Candace’s life, perhaps showing a sense of justice at removing a problematic person from his former friend’s life? Regardless of what it is, something is present that seems to differentiate the lives of people about whom he once cared.
Head Key: Allows the user to open up others’ heads to reveal the symbolic representation of their memories. Can be used on oneself as well. A keyhole opens in the back of the head of the person whose head / memories will be revealed. While this was the only new key introduced, it could prove to be the most powerful as it allows one to completely change their place in the world through memory theft.
Rob Bedford lives in NJ with his wife and dog. He reviews books and moderates forums at SFFWorld, has a blog about stuff and writes “The Completist” column for SF Signal. If you want to read random thoughts about books, TV, his dog, beer, and hockey you can follow him on Twitter: @RobHBedford.