Welcome back to the reread of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s dark comic series, Locke & Key! “Alpha & Omega” is the sixth and final volume, where the excrement hits the fan and spreads across the room. It is everything Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez have prepared readers for and more. Dodge enacts his plan of revenge on the Locke family with the goal of opening the Black Door in the Drowning Cave. Now that he has the Omega Key very little stands in his way.
What Happens: Dodge-as-Bode gathers all the keys and his plan to bring the demons into the world is in full swing. Prom night at Lovecraft Academy is looming and Scot Kavanaugh is filming his friends and classmates for a video yearbook…
Tyler and Duncan are melting metal in the garage before Scot tries to film Tyler. Kinsey catches Scot before he leaves the grounds and asks to have the camera turned on her. Kinsey tells the camera her mother is a drunk and that she [Kinsey] fears she is like her mother. Dodge/Bode makes preparations for the big night in the Drowning Cave. This is the perfect opportunity for Dodge to unleash the demons from the Black Door, thereby turning some of the prom partyers into slaves to become “soldiers” in his army.
Rufus Whedon, Ellie’s mentally handicapped son, is the only person who knows Dodge is possessing Bode’s body. Because Rufus’s mother is dead and his father abandoned him, the poor boy has no family, and he is being placed in a home for orphans. After conferring with Bode’s ghost, Rufus struggles with how to handle the situation with Dodge. He doesn’t think the Lockes will believe him because he is self-aware enough to know of his mental challenges. In a brash move, Rufus begins choking the body of Bode, shocking everybody and causing Rufus to be sent to McClellan Psychiatric Hospital, which also houses Erin Voss. A good amount of this second issue focuses on Rufus’s story before he eventually breaks out of the hospital.
Kinsey is wearing a nice dress waiting for her boyfriend Jamal to arrive for prom. Scot and Jackie arrive with their outfits are swapped—because of a bet, Scot is wearing the dress while Jackie wears the tux.
Bode’s ghost is floating around trying to speak with his mother, but she doesn’t believe it is him. Then Dodge as Bode comes strolling into the living room wearing the Crown of Shadows; it is far past Bode’s bed time, but he doesn’t care. When Nina protests, Dodge/Bode commands the shadows to attack her while making it look as if she got drunk and passed out.
Tyler is hesitant to attend the prom. Instead, he and Duncan are repairing an old muscle car in the garage as Tyler tries to explain the story of the keys and Dodge to his uncle. Because of the Riffle Rule, Duncan is having a tough time understanding and believing what Tyler is telling him. After much discussion, Duncan convinces Tyler to go to the prom in a tuxedo t-shirt. As soon as Tyler leaves, shadows begin attacking Duncan. At the prom, Scot wearing the white dress takes the stage, and with a little help from Jamal, re-enacts the blood bucket scene from Carrie.
When Tyler arrives, he crosses paths with Jordan, his bad-girl infatuation from earlier in the storyline. The two get very close before returning to the grounds of Keyhouse Manor, along with Kinsey and her friends. Kinsey opens the front door to her home only to find Mom passed out drenched in alcohol. Thinking the worst (as Dodge planned), she berates her mother before quickly closing the door and leading her friends to the Drowning Cave. Tyler arrives a little bit later after his ‘meeting’ with Jordan and is attacked by the shadows, bringing the third issue of “Omega” to a close.
The fourth issue begins with Nina waking from the shadow attack and Tyler and Duncan trapped in the trunk of the car they’d been repairing. With much of the student body partying in the Drowning Cave, Dodge-as-Bode bursts in and grabs everyone’s attention before deciding to unleash the shadows. A quick flash to Rufus on his journey from McClellan to Lovecraft with his soldier action figure precedes the few panels of Nina struggling, finally believing she hears Bode and dialing Detective Mutuku’s number. The remainder of the fourth issue features Duncan and Tyler fighting the shadows above ground while more shadows terrorize those in the Drowning Cave, including Kinsey and her friends.
Much of the fifth issue continues to show the battles against the shadows. When Mutuku and his back-up arrive at Keyhouse, Tyler is accidentally shot. Scot and Jackie are now under Bode’s control; Scot bearing the Hercules Key and Jackie the Angel Key, which they use to torture their former friends. Nina remembers the Mending Key and Mending Cabinet, so she rushes Tyler into it in the hope that his wounds are fresh enough to be healed. While Tyler is in the box, he visits with his Father’s spirit—the remnant of Nina’s attempt to bring him back by putting his ashes inside the cabinet. Rendell gives Tyler some advice on how to combat Dodge before Tyler is returned to the world fully healed. The “Omega” portion of the story ends with Jamal and Kinsey alone in the dark on a scaffolding in the Drowning Cave.
The sixth issue and first of “Alpha” features more shadow battles, Tyler crafting a key, and Rufus arriving at the grounds of Keyhouse Manor. Rufus meets Nina as Mutuku is killed; Nina finally realizes that Bode is not really her son and she forgives Rufus for the earlier attack. Dodge reveals the scope of his plan to the surviving kids in the Drowning Cave: rather than allowing the demons to overtake the world, he will use the Head Key to control them and craft more keys.
Tyler arrives with the key he created, the Alpha Key, which gives him the power to flush demons out of people who are affected by the other keys. In other words, he crafted a master key. Tyler unlocks many of the kids, but Dodge escapes… right into the arms of Rufus. Rufus brings the body of his friend to the Wellhouse, which drives the spirit of Dodge out of Bode’s body but also unfortunately extinguishes the life of the youngest Locke. The issue ends with many people, including most of the students, dead and Keyhouse burning.
The final issue of Locke & Key is an extended epilogue and is very much a period of house cleaning for the Locke children. Funerals are featured for many of the kids, including Bode. Tyler has some unfinished business he wants to take care of for his father, one last chance to redeem Lucas Carvaggio—he draws Dodge out with the Echo key, then uses the Alpha Key to return Lucas’s soul to his body, allowing him to pass peacefully. Tyler and Kinsey return Erin’s memories to her head, giving her the strength and power to walk out of the hospital. After Tyler rides off on Jordan’s motorcycle, a sparrow catches his attention; Bode’s spirit never died, so the sparrow went into the animal door and sacrificed itself so that Bode could live and be returned to his own body. The family grows as they adopt Rufus. The last few pages are a final reunion between Tyler and Rendell, before Tyler locks the Wellhouse for good.
Commentary: I think my copy of “Alpha & Omega” had a lot of dust mites in it or maybe I’m allergic to the glue used on the binding because my eyes kept watering up. Seriously though, it isn’t always the case that storytellers can promise something in the early stages of a story and not only deliver on that promise, but surpass the hopes of what may come. Hill and Rodriguez, for me, far surpassed my expectations.
Some might say that it was a little too neat of an ending to have Bode survive the series. However, if there’s anything that rises to the surface despite the dark events, it is the presence of hope. Despite Rendell being murdered, despite the shit Tyler dealt with, despite Nina’s alcoholism, Bode being possessed by Dodge, sparks of hope peppered the storyline. That hope began to grow as the story progressed, from the moments in “Keys to the Kingdom” when Tyler plants his proverbial feet in the ground and tells his siblings Lovecraft is their home.
If I could pin the hope that shone through the brightest it would be the one character who acted the most heroically from the moment we met him; the one who through his more simple understanding of the world saw Zack for what he was: Rufus Whedon. Poor Rufus grew up in a house where his father abandoned him because of his mental handicap, his grandmother was verbally abusive to him and his mother, physically abusive to him and he was forced to live with an actual demon. By all accounts, the boy could have bottled up his emotions and shut the world out. He was an outgoing and friendly boy. He befriended Bode, which is possibly the most important relationship in the entire storyline. Catching up with him here, those aforementioned dust mites crept in when we saw Rufus speaking to his robot soldier whose helmet was removed to reveal with whom it was Rufus imagined himself conversing: his mother. Nina realizes Rufus was trying to help the Lockes when he was strangling the Dodge-possessed-Bode and his heroic gambit at the end pulling Bode into the Wellhouse was the coup de grâce. She forgives him and realizes he is a true friend to the family.
The battles in the Drowning Cave were another chance for Gabriel Rodriguez to unfurl his imaginative brush and give create great shadow monsters to terrorize the kids. It was also interesting to see some of the other kids under the power of the keys. When Tyler arrives with the Alpha Key, he thinks he’ll be able to save all of his friends. While he does, in a sense because the Alpha Key forces the demons out of the kids’ bodies, the process is not something the body can survive. Another bittersweet moment is when Jordan leaves Jamal and Kinsey on the scaffolding, calling back to Kinsey’s first trip into the Drowning Cave. Almost all of the kids who were partying in the Cave are dead.
The final issue, as mentioned, is a coda. Hill and Rodriguez aren’t letting readers go without some more tugging of the heart strings. In some of my earlier posts on the series, I mentioned the potential for redeeming Lucas’s character. I wrote those thoughts that without having read this volume, and I’m more than pleased with how the scenario played out. Tyler truly learned from his father and is not doomed to repeat the mistakes Rendell made.
The last few pages, the meeting between Tyler and Rendell’s Echo seal up everything for the Locke family and brings full circle Tyler’s redemption in his own eyes.
So, with Locke & Key complete, Hill and Rodriguez have finished taking readers on a journey over five years in the travelling. It had highs and lows, we saw the maturation and redemption of many of the characters. Strike that, Kinsey, Tyler, and Nina were all redeemed by story’s end; Lucas’s soul was saved, Tyler’s conflicted thoughts and feelings with his father were resolved, and Bode was returned to the boy we first met.
Bravo to all those involved in producing Locke & Key; it is a superb literary achievement.
Alpha Key: Turns either way, as Rendell’s apparition tells Tyler. Moving this key towards an individual who is possessed by a demon opens a keyhole on their chest. When used, the key allows for the demon to be expunged from its host, but with lethal results for the host.
Rob Bedford lives in NJ with his wife and dog and only has keys to his house and car. He hasn’t found any keys made of whispering iron yet, but he’s not giving up hope. 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.