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.
Peter Pan never wanted to grow up; we all know that. To stay a child forever, living a fantasy bridled with games and stories and imagination would be bliss, and some people choose to remain young at heart until they go to bed for the last time. Other are forced to grow up, from one tragic day to the other, taking on the burden of responsibility for an entire household.
I was a little worried coming into Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows. The last volume, Head Games, juggled multiple characters in various locations, but did so dutifully, without making the book feel stuffed. Joe Hill reels back his cast this time around, focusing on the immediate Locke family in a tale that watched one character rise, one character run away, and another remain broken.
Tyler is expected to be the savior of the family, and the physical manifestation of his new found responsibility, quite literally, enlarges him. Gabriel Rodriguez kills every expectation with his art, giving us eleven (if you’re reading the trade) powerhouse pages of a larger than life Tyler Locke, battling for his family. With fists the size of obnoxious yellow Hummers, each page felt like a hammer, nailing the journey Tyler is on. Then again, it could definitely turn ugly for him, and the bigger they are, right?
Last volume, we didn’t get much of Nina. This time around, while her character hasn’t really gone anywhere, the grief and pain she’s enduring extends beyond her new found alcoholism. Kinsey, who now feels no fear or sadness, berates her mother for failing the family in a time when they need her most. No fear means no censor, and despite it being an understandable outburst on Kinsey’s part, the words she uses are clearly out of line. As heartbreaking as the exchange between the two is, what really cuts deep is Nina’s realization of her shortcomings. She can’t juggle like her husband, disappointing Bode, and her discovery of a new Key of Mending does nothing for her ailing heart. After reading this, I sincerely want nothing but good for Nina Locke.
Yet, out of all the characters, the direction Kinsey has taken is the most frightening. As I said, in Head Games, Kinsey removed her fear and sadness, distancing herself from the emotions plaguing her. Initially, it may seem like a good idea to become numb in the wake of a horrific crime, but this is Kinsey’s emotional equivalent of running away, and it is dangerous. It leads to actual near-death experiences, but does help her confidence, and how she reacts to the shadows that attack her and her siblings. Ironically enough, her lack of fear helps create a gap between her and the malicious Dodge, despite it being the catalyst for romance between the two. It’s difficult to say whether her loss of fear is actually bad for her, since it’s lead to better things, but how can you know what danger is if it doesn’t seem threatening?
One thing I haven’t mentioned about Gabriel Rodriguez is how meticulous his work is, especially in regards to his composition. The placement of the characters has such movement that the transition between panels is beautiful, and the design of the keys make the reader seriously excited whenever a new one is discovered. I know once I finish the series I’ll be looking for replicas online to gawk at. If anything, he's one of the most consistent artists out there.
While he does keep his character designs fairly minimal, the work he puts into the supernatural objects and characters, such as the ghosts and the shadows, is outstanding. Specifically, the shadows look wet and solid simultaneously, allowing you to feel their consistency between your fingers when Kinsey claws at them. Jay Fotos, whose colors are always fantastic, does great things with the shadows, giving them depth and shape, despite only using black and gray.
As much as I loved the development of Kinsey and Nina, Bode and Tyler seem to be lacking growth. Bode is a kid, so his journey will be slight compared to older characters, and while I'm sure Tyler is being set up for something greater, he felt stoic throughout the book. I would have loved to see some personal turmoil, even in privacy. We know he feels guilty for what happened to his family, and is probably aware it isn't his fault, but even just sprinkled hints of that would be fulfilling for his character.
Next week I'll be looking at volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom, so let's meet up there! This may also become a biweekly endeavor, so keep a lookout for a second book to hit The Run Through early next week! (Spoiler: it'll probably be Jeff Lemire's Sweet Tooth.)