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 my head and take out memories, I’m pretty sure a TARDIS key isn’t too unbelievable. Usually, temporal tales rely on too many tropes. The protagonists realize time travel is possible and go back in time to fix what went wrong, but realize the butterfly they stepped created an even worse future! Or that time isn’t malleable, and the original course of events self-corrected! All that wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff. Luckily for us, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke & Key: Clockworks doesn’t allow the story to falter like a broken ocarina.
What Joe Hill cleverly did is replace what could have been a wasted, cliché filled story, with an excellent adventure into the past. Kinsey and Tyler travel backwards in time (though, unfortunately, not space) and become audience members to the Locke ancestors’ first involvement with the demons behind the keys. Most of their time is spent watching their father, Rendell Locke. They learn what really happened in the cave, and how their connection and abuse of the keys lead to Locke family's present day problems. The story primarily focuses on characters other than the immediate Locke family, and I'm on the fence about it. I would have enjoyed seeing Tyler and Kisney's reaction to their father's decisions, but it woulnd't have added anything of value. In fact, it would have broken the flow of the story. Seeing the children materialize at the end, riddled with pain, and silent, lends itself so well to how the next volume will begin. But that's next time.
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 the minority best friend in love with the main character Rendell who is of course in love with the actress. Then, there’s Duncan Locke, who has an affinity for the Gender Key, and is constantly seen in a dress and flowers (because every gay man secretly wants to be a woman, right?). This is short lived, however, since the characters redeem themselves towards the end. Selfless sacrifices, intelligent plays, and courage despite facing an unknown, impossible looking task were welcoming ideas, since so many of them felt vapid towards the beginning. 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.
While the story was thrilling, and the characters were lacking yet ultimately fulfilled, it was the art that drove the magic school bus on the voyage home. Gabriel Rodriguez is flawless when it comes to his scenery, creating a perfectly intimate and closed space 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, but life is strange, isn’t it?
The work of colorist Jay Fotos and letterer Robbie Robbins also need to be praised. Jay’s colors are strong, making each page feel like judgment day. The amount of contrast he can fit into every panel is astounding, as well as how smooth the shading is. I’m suspicious he has a Time-Turner, if I’m being totally, and justifiably paranoid. Robbie’s letters are spot on as well, always consistent, always faithful. I never notice the word balloons, which is exactly how it should be, and the sound effects are easily read and effectively placed. He even put Rendell’s foot inside the O of a THOOM, which was weirdly pleasing.
There’s only one volume left before the story is wrapped up, but Clockworks did its job by making me more excited than ever for the conclusion of this story.. After returning from the past with the use of the Timeshift Key (there’s a flux capacitor inside the clock, I know it) the kids are bound to be exhausted, if not horrified by what their father had to go though. Even though this new found knowledge will be helpful, messing with the sands of time is never a fully joyful affair, though I doubt things can get much worse from here.
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.