It has been years since I’ve bought comics. Every now and then I’ll pop into this shop or that and see what’s happening but I usually go home with a trade of some comics from the 80′s or something. Back in the day, though, I was a fiend. It always started off innocently enough. I bought three or four books a month and then I’d see something else I liked and more and more until I’d reach this perverted critical mass where I was buying thirty monthly books and massaging the numbers so that I could buy gas AND a shitload of comics. Every time, though, I hit the wall and I have to quit cold turkey. BAM! No mo’ comics. But sure as shit, I always wind up back in the darkened aisles of The Android’s Dungeon, dodging the odd nerd in the fingerless gloves and fedora. I can’t stay away.
Recently I’ve started rolling up my sleeve and tieing off my bicep with a belt under the guidance of a choice few dudes at work. Thank god for that. I’m also finding that my tastes have changed. Where before I loved super hero books, these days I just can’t seem to get into them. I’ve read a few that have really tickled my fancy, Invincible, for instance and the Bendis run on Daredevil, but the shit is happening with horror comics. Bob Kirkman’s outstanding zombie series, The Walking Dead, made a believer out of me and Mike Mignola’s recent return to his BPRD/Hellboy characters has been welcome. The Lobster Johnson series and the new Abe Sapien books are the shizz, but new this month is a book I wasn’t entirely expecting.
I’ve never read Joe Hill. There’s a lot of horror fic out there and a lot of it is shit, so I typically read what I know. This is why I am unfamiliar with his name. Maybe you know him. He’s the son of Stephen King, an author who runs hot and cold with me. Whether I’m pro-King or anti-King this month, I wasn’t about to turn down a comic written by the son of one of the 20th/21st century’s finest horror authors. It’s this very reason that Hill writes under the name that he does. He doesn’t want people to buy his writing because they think the apple won’t fall far from the tree. He would prefer to succeed on his own merits. Thankfully, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. As a matter of fact, Joe’s efforts to be his own writer have succeeded as his voice is a unique one with only the slightest scent of the Stephen King legacy.
Locke & Key, published by IDW, an indie that exploded out of nowhere when every comic publication and website declared 30 Days Of Night the greatest comic book ever (I was seriously underwhelmed when I did finally track it down) tells the story of Tyler, sent to live with his uncle in an old Massachusetts house, in the family for generations, named Keyhouse, after his father is murdered and mother raped at their summer home by teenage thrill killers straight out of a real-world scenario that is become fighteningly real more and more each day. The house, located in the obviously fictional Lovecraft, Massachusetts (Lovecraft was actually from Rhode Island), is a creepy old place that holds many secrets, one of which is revealed in the final pages of the comic, but most of the issue is a set up for what is to eventually come. The set up, reminiscent of Hill’s actual namesake, is tense and heavy. The sort of tragedy you might expect from Jack Ketchum. My biggest gripe with comics, a medium carried by written dialog, is that the dialog in comics is often awkward and strange, marred by bizarre, long-winded asides and soliloquy’s. Here, Hill’s dialog feels very natural. There’s a rhythm to it that is convincing, as if Hill has heard these conversations somewhere before in the real world. Not to downplay the art, but I am typically attracted to comics for the writing as it’s my bag, man. However, Gabriel Rodriguez’s art is as fully realized as Hill’s writing. He’s a well rounded artist that is able to convey far more in the facial expressions of his characters than your typical comic artist. Comic art has a tendency to blow the gestures and nuance of human behavior way out of proportion and restrict it to several, easily drawn categories. Typically, brooding, angry and fucking pissed off.
The series is set to run six issues in all, illustrating the mystery of Keyhouse and the places that its locked doors take the inhabitants not to mention the spirits within. The recent run of authors writing comics is something I can definitely get into. If the comic book medium needs one thing, it’s some new ideas from people not necessarily associated with the medium. Michael Chabon did a quick run on DC’s JSA and wrote The Escapists for Dark Horse, Orson Scott Card wrote the limited Ultimate Iron Man run for Marvel and all of the above were worth dropping your dough on. I would even go so far as to recommend the recently release hard cover Ultimate Iron Man collection.
Don’t let Locke & Key slip by, though. It probably won’t be the hype engine that 30 Days of Night was but Hill’s experimentation with comics coupled with his horrifying vision and warped imagination is already looking like a winner right out of the gate with issue #1 of this six issue limited series.