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    Review: Locke & Key – Alpha #1

    By | September 13th, 2013
    Posted in Reviews | 7 Comments

    This is the beginning of the end.

    Written by Joe Hill
    Illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez

    “Omega and Alpha,” part 1: In the second-to-the-last issue of Locke & Key, the damned and the saved alike will make their final stand in the Drowning Cave, in a clash of blood and fire. The shadows have never been darker and the end has never been closer. Turn the key and open the last door; it’s time to say goodbye.

    After five years, we’ve come to this: one of the best comics currently being released, “Locke & Key,” is in its final moments. With the release of ‘Alpha’ #1 we’re given a double-sized first half of a two-part finale, picking up directly from the events of ‘Omega’ and bringing the characters to some of their darkest points. The horror aspect of the book is put into overdrive as the villainous Dodge takes the wheel, and all is not calm and nothing is bright.

    What “Locke & Key” has always managed to do well in its five years of existence is deliver a book that oozes with tension. Few comics reach the emotional peaks that “Locke & Key” has over the years, and the latest issue keeps it up with a bleak rampage through the “Locke & Key” universe. No one is safe here and there’s no inherent light at the end of the tunnel; this is a book that revels in making its audience fear for their heroes in a no-holds barred devastating drive through the heart of the book. The first half of the finale takes the time to go through all of the hits of the books, with quick callbacks and easter eggs hidden in the boards of the house as everything spectacularly comes crashing down, and we’re left with a tragic if not incredibly satisfying first entry into Keyhouse’s ostensible final days. There’s a slight sense of optimism, even, though it’s mostly drowned in the darkest depths of the Drowning Cave.

    Hyperbole aside, it’s important to note that Hill and Rodriguez make quite a pair. “Locke & Key” is the kind of book where you’re never quite sure where one creator ends and the other begins; this book thrives just as much on Rodriguez’s artwork as it does with Hill’s words, and you assuredly could not have as in-depth an experience with the material without the concerted efforts of both talents. Rodriguez in particular really brings to life the characters inside, mastering the range of human emotions that consume hero and villain alike; Dodge as Bode seems more maniacal than ever, which is balanced wonderfully against the reactions of the rest of his family, and Tyler and Kinsey both are given opportunities to seem more heroic than ever.

    However, if there is one thing that the book falters on, it’s in the use of a rather tired trope that talks down to the reader. There’s a particular sequence of the book in which Dodge becomes a venerable Bond villain, explaining every inch of his nefarious plan in great detail to both the reader and the characters present. It’s a bit overdone; Hill and Rodriguez have always struck a tightrope walk of balance in the book in terms of executing the overall concept via a lot of dramatic irony and general mystery. Seeing the finale resort to more tried and tired methods of exposition felt out of place in an otherwise thrilling read, throwing off the pace of the book and slightly hindering the dire nature of it all. Rodriguez gives it all an interesting backdrop to occur over and indeed there are many clever tricks pulled, giving one scene a real sense of animation, but it still feels largely out of place.

    Still, the landing is struck when the ending is reached. If there’s one thing that Hill’s comic writing visibly has over his prose, it’s that Hill clearly has a fun time playing around with the voices and opportunities afforded in the more visual medium. Hill’s prose work is entertaining, but there seems to be a more comfortable ease in writing for the characters of “Locke & Key” than in “Horns” or “NOS4A2”; since Hill has Rodriguez to share the load with, he can really embody the wide range of characters present to give them their own unique voices and reactions to the situations and deus ex machina that come along. Really, outside of the one overly-verbose sequence, Hill’s writing here is fantastic from beginning to end, and the emotional apex that the book hits is a touch devastating; it’s hard to read at points because you can tell it was hard to write.

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    As “Locke & Key” begins its wind down, it’s impossible not to reflect on the entire series run and marvel at what a journey it has been. For all intents and purposes this issue is the “main ending,” wrapping up most of the plot threads prevalent throughout the series and offering up a lot of answers to questions we’ve always had. Delivering answers can be tough and nobody wants to polarize the audience by not offering too many definitive explanations, so the book has a hard job in striking that balance. Yet despite a short misstep in delivery, the first half of the series finale offers up a very satisfying read to fans of the book that wonderfully reflects the bleak nature of the series with a concise contrast of emotional storytelling. This is the story that fans have been waiting for.

    Final Verdict: 8.0 – Buy

    Matthew Meylikhov

    Once upon a time, Matthew Meylikhov became the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Multiversity Comics, where he was known for his beard and fondness for cats. Then he became only one of those things. Now, if you listen really carefully at night, you may still hear from whispers on the wind a faint voice saying, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not as bad as everyone says it issss."