Welcome to the reread of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s dark comic series, Locke & Key. Today I'm covering the first collected volume, “Welcome to Lovecraft,” which contains the first six issues of the series. You can read the intro to the reread here for more information about the series!
What Happens: The Locke family vacation in California is not going as eldest son Tyler hoped it would. He is bored and is butting heads with his stern father, Rendell, guidance counselor at the school where Ty attends. Two young men come a knocking, looking for Dad...
One of the young men, Sam Lesser, is a student at the school where Rendell works. Sam demands the Anywhere Key and the Omega Key from the family. Not recalling what those items are, Rendell refuses. and Sam kills him. Tyler feels guilty because not only do his last moments with his father involve arguments, but he recalls suggesting his father's murder to Sam Lesser when Sam said he was going to kill his own parents, although Tyler thought it was an off-the-cuff remark.
To gain a fresh start away from the town where they’d be identified as “the survivors,” and to get as far away from the prison where Sam Lesser is incarcerated, the Locke family crosses the country from California to their ancestral home in Lovecraft, Massachusetts. Joining the Locke children (Tyler, his sister Kinsey, and younger brother Bode) and their mother Nina is Rendell’s younger brother, Duncan.
When the Locke clan arrives in Lovecraft, they unload their belongings and explore the great Keyhouse Manor and the vast property on which it is situated. It isn’t long before Bode makes a discovery in the Wellhouse—he finds a key that allows him to travel outside of his body as a spirit. The Ghost Key, is just the first of many magical keys associated with the Locke family and Keyhouse. And it's not the only otherworldly thing young Bode finds, for a spirit by the name of Dodge who occupies the abandoned Wellhouse calls out to him. Dodge tells Bode about the other magical keys, and acts as a friend to the young boy.
What young Bode cannot know at this point is that Dodge had also been communicating with Sam, pushing Sam to get the keys from Rendell. Dodge asks Bode for a mirror and scissors to cut her hair, and she magically passes them to Sam so he can escape prison. The murderer crosses the country and finds his way to Keyhouse.
Kinsey is having a difficult time adjusting to the new school, and attempts to blend in to the background of the school, whereas back in California she tried to stand out with dyed hair and dreadlocks. She finds some solace in track; the best girl on the squad, Jackie, barely beats her during a practice run. The coach, Ellie, was a friend to Rendell when they were both kids at Lovecraft Academy. She reaches out to Kinsey and helps her come out of her shell and befriend Jackie. Ellie later notices that Kinsey is wearing a bracelet that looks very familiar; within it is a key. When Kinsey knocks on Jackie’s door, her hair is cut she looks more like the girl we met in the opening pages of the storyline with a streak of her hair dyed.
As Sam travels to the Lockes' new home, we learn about his past: he was verbally abused by his mother and physically abused by his father. Sam was a bright young man with enough brains to get into college, but the only person who seemed to care for him was Rendell. During a counseling session, Sam sees a picture of Wellhouse (on the grounds of Keyhouse) and Dodge beckons to him through the photo.
The Locke family is alerted to Sam’s escape, sending Nina into a drunken spiral despite the police officers stationed as protection. Meanwhile, much of Tyler’s time in this first volume is spent beating himself up and blaming himself for suggesting that Sam kill Rendell. Of course Sam makes it to Lovecraft, but not before killing a busload of passengers along the way.
When Sam arrives, Dodge climbs out of the well and reveals that she knew Rendell. Sam throws Nina and Duncan in the Keyhouse wine cellar after attacking Kinsey in the garden. When Tyler arrives, Sam attacks and sends him into the cellar, too. Sam threatens the Locke family unless they give him the key. Sam and Tyler fight and when Tyler is pushed through the ghost door, he realizes his younger brother was telling truth about his spirit traveling.
Bode hands over the keys to Dodge, who uses the Gender Key to enter a wardrobe and exit as a man. Sam thinks Tyler is dead, but when Tyler returns to his body, the surprise allows him to gain the upper hand against Sam. Kinsey also wakens and shoots Sam in the neck before he finally encounters Dodge, who surprisingly, snaps Sam’s neck. When the police arrive, Dodge uses the Anywhere Key to escape and arrive at Coach Ellie’s house, much to her surprise. Dodge demands entrance since Dodge killed Ellie’s mother as a favor. (Could this be a similar situation as Sam killing Rendell because “Tyler asked him to kill Rendell?”)
The volume ends a few weeks later, after the dust has settled on Keyhouse manor and the Locke family. Dodge in the guise of Zack Wells arrives, looking to befriend Kinsey. Bode is not very trusting but he does find another key in the pond.
Commentary: Well, that was a helluva way to kick off a series. Home invasion, murder, astral projection, genre callouts aplenty (Lovecraft, of course; Dodge climbing out of the well like the crazy girl from The Ring.) As I mentioned in my earlier post, Welcome to Lovecraft may be our entry point— and the Locke children’s entry point—to the story of the Locke family, Keyhouse Manor, Lovecraft, MA, and the Keys, but events have clearly been transpiring long before we joined the tale.
Essentially, we’re reading the last chapter of something without having read the first chapter.
This volume was nominated for the prestigious Eisner award, the highest honor which can be bestowed upon comic books.
Ghost Key: This key allows the user to open a special door, the Ghost Door, and travel the land as a spirit, much like a more powerful out-of-body experience. First used by Bode Locke.
Anywhere Key: This key allows the user to open a door to any place of their choosing, so long as the user knows the location. For those familiar with the character of Nightcrawler from the X-Men comics, very much like his powers minus the BAMF! and smell of brimstone. Dodge/Zack uses this quite often.
Gender Key: This key allows the user to swap genders when used with the Gender door. Specifically used by Dodge to transform into Zack Wells.
Echo Key: This key allows the user to summon another person, a powerful communications device. Used by Dodge to communicate with Sam Lesser.
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.