Thursday, August 19, 2010

The thing about keys is, they open

I don't normally find myself in perfect sympathy with a seven-year-old boy. (Okay, my eating habits aside. What? French fries are totally a meal.) But I remember moving to yet another new school in fourth grade, and using the word "precocious" when introducing myself. Even worse, defining it in detailed and correct fashion when Sr. Nathalie assured me I didn't know what that word meant, thus condemning myself to years of direst nerddom. When I led the march of Birnam Wood at recess, with the convent standing in for Dunsinane, my Mom got the first of a number of communications about her weird daughter, who really needed to try harder to fit in. (Bless Mom, her response was something along the lines of, "My ten-year-old is reading Shakespeare. I fail to see where the problem is.")

So when I opened the latest issue of Locke & Key, "Sparrow" (words: Joe Hill, art: Gabriel Rodriguez, #1 in the Keys to the Kingdom arc), and saw Bode Locke's Mom in conversation with his teacher about how he had just a bit of a problem relating to the other kids, and did things like drop "befoul" into casual conversation, well, dear reader, my happiness was unbounded.

Remember when I told you that I didn't know if I could know you any more if you weren't reading this comic? And maybe you thought that was just revision-induced madness talking? No. Not kidding. You really, really need to be reading this. The latest arc is going to be all stand-alone issues. All three previous arcs are out in trade collections. You are completely out of excuses, unless your excuse is that you actually hate smart words and gorgeous pictures (I mean, really gorgeous. Gabriel Rodriguez is on the short list of people I would give a less-necessary organ to work with. And this last issue... just, wow.)

Because here's the thing about this series: it's true. Not true in the sense of these things happened, but true in the sense that it's full of real characters, who are complex, and honest, and actual. Bad things, sometimes horrible things, happen in this universe. Trust me - if you are the sort of person who cries over the fall of a sparrow, you are going to be undone. (My copy, it has dents in, from where my fingers gripped.) And there are moments of quiet grace and loveliness, snarky lines, a bad guy who was on the fencing team, and an issue with a production of The Tempest in. (I know. Is it any wonder I love this comic?) Things get broken that can't be fixed, and when maybe they can, that's even worse. 

I have a necklace that is nothing more than an antique key strung on a chain. Recently, when I was wearing it, a guy asked if it was for Phi Beta Kappa. No, I said, I just like keys. "Why?" "Because they open." He didn't understand. Locke & Key does. 


  1. Yes! Extraordinarily layered and textured storytelling, with characters who make you laugh, ache, and shiver.

    At Clarion ('09), editor Chris Ryall came and talked to us; the following week, at Comicon, several of us caught a panel discussion with him and Joe Hill. Good stuff.

    I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of your Clarion class at World Fantasy last year in San Jose (and at an informal writing retreat we had there in the spring, as well). Are you planning to go to Columbus?

  2. Hi Leonard,

    So nice to see a fellow Clarionite! Especially one with such excellent taste in literature.

    My plan was originally to be in Columbus, and to combine WFC with a visit to family. Circumstances may lead to my trip out being earlier, which means I probably wouldn't be at WFC if that happened.