Joe Hill’s Locke & Key Volume 2: Head Games

Locke and Key: Head Games, the second hard-cover volume of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s terrific graphic novel set in the East Coast village of Lovecraft was released earlier this month.

Volume 1, Welcome to Lovecraft, started with the brutal murder of high school counselor Rendell Locke. His wife Nina and three children left their West Coast home to move in with Rendell’s brother Duncan in the family mansion in Massachusetts. There Bode, the youngest child, begins to find a series of magic keys that give the owner powers. Unwittingly, Bode has released an evil spirit from a well.

A generation ago Lucas Caravaggio, Lovecraft’s charismatic bad boy, disappeared, and now the spirit has taken Lucas’s body, still in good shape after all those years, and it now goes by the name of Zack. In Volume 2, still just as charismatic, Zack befriends the Lockes and obviously has nefarious plans for both the family and the town.



Head Games centers on a new key which gives its bearer the power to open his own and other people’s heads. By dropping in a book, the bearer instantly learns all of the knowledge in its pages. But it is also possible to remove things from an individual’s brain: memories, emotions and connections that effectively change his or her personality.

The use of the key starts out innocently enough, but once Zack gets a hold of it, bad things start to happen to the children, their Uncle Duncan and several others of the townspeople. Like the magic in most of folklore, each of the keys has benefits for its possessor, but there is always a price to pay.

Head Games has some great bonuses that make it a superior presentation:

  • The facing endpapers in the front and back of the book (blank in Volume 1) provide architectural renderings of the north, west, south

    and east elevations of the Locke mansion.

  • After an epilogue, facing pages present pictures and descriptions of the known magic keys that are integral to the story and hints of an unknown key that may trump them all.
  • Following that Rodriguez offers up for the first time the 12-step process involved in developing a page of Locke & Key.
  • The finishing touch, like in Volume 1, is an art gallery of characters and scenes not presented in the original narration.

It takes a long time to put one of these books together so it will probably be a while before Volume 3 comes out.  But Head Games was worth the wait.  In the interim, Hill’s next full- length novel, Horns, is due out in February.


Mark Graham reviewed books for the Rocky Mountain News from 1977 until the paper closed its doors in February 2009. His “Unreal Worlds” column on science fiction and fantasy appeared regularly in the paper since 1988. He has reviewed well over 1,000 genre books. If you see a Rocky Mountain News blurb on a book, it is likely from a review or interview he wrote. Graham also created and taught Unreal Literature, a high school science fiction class, for nearly 30 years in the Jefferson County Colorado public schools.

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