In The Run Through, we’ll be looking at completed comic book series, one volume, one week at a time, from the critically acclaimed to the virtually unknown. The goal is to provide our readers with something new to bite into. This isn’t a review, it’s barely a recommendation. It’s an informal glance at comics that made it to their final issue, and we want to read the stories arc by arc, as they were ultimately intended to be consumed. While there may be minor spoilers, any major developments will be vaguely referred to, so don't worry. No stars, no bashing, just what we did and didn’t like. And yes, we want to hear from you too.
This was inevitable. Show me a home filled with magical keys; ones that can turn you into a ghost, give you wings, and let you control shadows, and I’ll ask “where the hell is the time travel key?” Because if I can open up someone's head and remove their memories, I’m pretty sure a TARDIS key isn’t out of the realm of possibilities. Usually, temporal tales rely on way too many tropes. The protagonists realize time travel is possible, go back in time to fix what went wrong, but then realize the butterfly they stepped on created an even worse future, oh no! Or that time isn’t malleable, and the original course of events self-corrected, oh no again! All that wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff we know and love. Luckily for us, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke & Key: Clockworks doesn't tread the same water we've been swimming in for years.
Kinsey and Tyler take a trip to 1988 and become witness to the Locke ancestors’ first involvement with the demons behind the keys, though, they spend most of their time watching their father, Rendell Locke. They learn what really happened in the cave, and how their abuse of the keys lead to Locke family's present day problems. The story primarily focuses on characters other than the immediate Locke family. While I was curious about Tyler and Kinsey's thoughts, injecting them as pop up narrators may have broken the momentum. At this point, it isn't their story. Though, they don't leave the time jump unscathed.
Unfortunately, some of the characters from the past are laden with played-out characteristics. From the sexually starved, overweight, Japanese nerd, to the beautiful actress willing to go the distance for stardom, and a love triangle ubiquitous to high school dramas. Then, there's Duncan Locke, who has an affinity for the Gender Key, and is frequently seen in a dress and flowers. While a call back to his sexuality is appreciated, it seems rather short sighted to equate gender switching with homosexuality.
This is short lived, however, since the characters redeem themselves towards the end. While the characters did feel vapid towards the beginning, selfless sacrifices and courage in the face of the unknown were good, if somewhat unbalanced, character choices. It can be argued that their flaws are reflective of their age, but with Joe Hill’s fantastic record with Tyler and Kinsey, I expected a little more.
Despite closing the door on the characters from the past, their effect on the present day Locke children is apparent. The end of the volume highlights just how tired these kids are. While they've been able to deal with their current issues, the fact that the demons have been clawing at this family for generations is inherited by Tyler and Kinsey. How are they going to save their family, their little brother, from a force their father ultimately failed against?
While the story was informative, and the characters could have used some polish, the art was, as always, a faithful representation of pain and subjugation. Gabriel Rodriguez is flawless when it comes to his scenery, creating perfectly intimate and closed spaces when he needs to, and giving the larger scenes depth and weight, especially in regards to his shadows. He also needs to be commended on his gore and violence, which is utterly terrifying. Though, it does feel odd to compliment someone’s ability to dismember and impale.
The work of colorist Jay Fotos and letterer Robbie Robbins should also be praised. Jay’s colors are strong, making each page feel large and involved. WhileRodriguez crafts wonderful scenes, the colors are a bust of life. Fotos never shys away from allowing color to exist in a terror-filled world. Gritty art can be exhausting, so keeping this world bright felt honest. Color doesn't leave the world when you're having a bad day, so why should it here? This contrast lets the world breath, even when the characters are suffocated by their issues.
Robbins’ letters are, as always, consistent. The word balloons are effectively invisible, and the sound effects are easily read and well placed. He guides the reader in a smooth arc, while still maintaining a sense of inclusion. Specifically putting Rendell’s foot inside the O of a THOOM, which was oddly pleasing.
The image of Kinsey flyingabove threatening ocean side cliffs is serene. I don't imagine these kids having many moments of peace, but seeing her shoeless and soaring above the nightmare in her home is like courting hope: dangerous, but I can't blame her.
There's only one volume left before the story concludes. As high as the stakes are, Clockworks put the horror they're facing into perspective. Why would their fight end any differently? Are they going to lose as much as their father did in the process? Even though their newfound knowledge sets up a path for them, its impossible to not recognize the weariness these kids have acquired. I want to believe things won't get much worse for them, but that's not how stories work.
And now that I said that, I know they will. Check out The Run Through next week for our first conclusion of a series, with Locke & Key: Alpha & Omega.
P.S. I will not apologize for the copious amount of time travel references. Not even if H. G. Wells came by with a dozen monkeys in Delorean.
Fermin is sometimes a substitutes teacher, speaks quite a bit of Spanish, and isn't shy about his emotional reaction to reality shows, but is slightly ashamed. Make fun of Billy with him on Twitter, or just follow him @koky_sorta.