Locke & Key – Joe Hill (series review)

September 29, 2017

Locke & Key was the first graphic novel series I’ve ever completed, and I loved every beautiful, gruesome, weird second of it. I enjoyed it so much that I’m currently in denial that it’s over, so I thought I’d distract myself by posting a full series review for you guys! I’ll split the volumes up into SPOILER-FREE mini-reviews, but first, I wanted to give you guys a heads up:

While I adored this series with my whole heart and think that any horror fan who can handle its contents should check it out, it does deserve a content warning for violence, sexual assault, physical abuse, homophobia, racism, sexism, and severe ableism.

Each of these -isms are challenged in the text, and I do not believe that they reflect the thoughts of the creators in any way, shape, or form, but there are some triggering moments that I wanted you all to be aware of ahead of time.

NOTE: I read the first few volumes months apart from one another, so forgive me for how much the length and styles of the reviews differ from one another!

Avg series rating: 4.83/5 stars

Volume 1

3217221I love – no, really, love Joe Hill’s writing. I think he has a beautifully wicked imagination, and to be frank, I believe that even the man’s grocery lists are probably strange.

Like everything else I have read by Joe, the story line was simultaneously sad, unsettling, and downright odd; however, the icing on the cake came from Gabriel Rodriguez’s gorgeous illustrations. From the front cover to the back, each panel was just captivating, with brilliant color schemes and mind-blowing attention to detail. Artistically speaking, this was by far one of the most enjoyable graphic novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

As far as the story goes, where do I begin? It’s devastatingly sad, in parts; right off the bat, we’re dealing with a couple of kids who have just watched a classmate murder their father, and to make matters worse, the big brother of the crew blames himself for every bit of it. His guilt is positively tangible, as is the sense of loss their mother drowns in spirits, or the desperation to go unnoticed that his previously free-spirited younger sister falls into.

Beyond the sadness, there’s just a fantastic sense of dread from start to finish, and that’s got to be one of my favorite qualities to Joe’s writing. Once the action really got going, I was on the edge of my seat through to the very end. I found myself rooting so hard for the Locke kids, especially little Bode, who was just adorable and zany and loving.

I would recommend this to any horror lover – especially those who love Joe Hill’s quirky writing as much as I do.

Volume 2


Another great volume of Locke & Key! I love Joe Hill’s bizarre, creepy writing style, and the illustrations in this graphic novel are just gorgeous. There’s so much detail and intricacy, and you really want to look closely at every panel because sometimes, there are tiny little details hidden that are just so neat.

This volume introduces the Head Key, which is literally a key that, when inserted into the back of one’s neck, opens their skull and allows them to see all the little goodies (and baddies) inside their brain. You can remove items you don’t want to remember, or shove in a book you need to learn the contents of… the possibilities are endless.

Volume 3

7202841.jpgI think this may have been my favorite Locke & Key volume so far. There’s been such a solid well of character development built up in the last two volumes that this one was capable of playing off of nonstop action without feeling rushed or lacking. As usual, the artwork is beautiful and the writing is Joe’s typical bizarre, creepy, delightful style.

In volume 3, Dodge is determined to find the Omega Key, and raises an army of shadows to fight the poor Bode children, who are realizing that the stakes are steadily increasing. Sharks are circling them fast, and blood is in the water.

Volume 4


Funny enough, given that Volume 3 was my favorite of the series so far, Volume 4 was my least favorite. There was a lot of action without dialogue that made it just feel like filler material, as well as some particularly sad events that were a little bit hard to follow through the storyline.

One thing I did enjoy about this volume, however, was the opportunity it took to make fun of bigoted, racist assholes. I never get tired of that.

Volume 5

13490570.jpgJoe Hill has this bizarre-yet-fantastic writing aesthetic in which he likes to save the backstory for last. He just kind of plunges you into the heart of the story, and slowly works his way back until you understand why things are happening. This volume proved to me that Locke & Key is no difference. Fantastic volume with beautiful artwork and a twisted, delightful story, as always. I’m just sad that it’s almost at an end.

In this volume, Tyler and Kinsey discover a brand new key: a time-shifting one, that will take them to any day they want to visit (as long as it’s pre-Y2K). Naturally, the teens use their newfound toy as an opportunity to learn a bit about their old man, and in turn, we get to learn a lot about old Keyhouse.

Volume 6

16164271.jpgIt feels really weird for a graphic novel – a horror one, at that – to make me laugh, grin, rage, and even ugly cry a little… but I guess that’s Joe Hill for you. This was such an incredibly delightful series and I’m so happy that I picked it up. If Joe ever decides to write more graphic novels, sign me up. This was the perfect ending to the series – everything I wanted and more. This volume broke my heart, stitched me back together, and patted me on the shoulder before driving away, leaving me awestruck in its dust.

(What I’m trying to say is, I adored every damn volume of this series, and if Joe and Gabriel ever decide to continue the series, or write a prequel, or a spinoff… I’m so there for it.)

I can’t tell you what happens in this volume, because it would spoil the whole series, but what I can tell you is that you won’t be disappointed.

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More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

    1. Awesome – I haven’t seen many people talk about them on here or Gr in general. I love the whole series (obv with a grain of salt because the whole thing is pretty messed up). I didn’t like the last one though – it was just too weird even for me, and it was sooooo drawn out.
      Love the post ?

      1. I don’t feel like I’ve heard much about them, either! I wouldn’t have even known they existed if I hadn’t randomly pulled up Joe’s GR profile one day to see if I was missing any titles of his, and lo and behold, there was this GORGEOUS graphic novel series, lol. Sorry you didn’t enjoy the last one much! I did, but mostly because it was exactly the kind of ending I was hoping for (I don’t want to spoil but you probably know what I’m talking about)! Thank you!

        1. I was actually surprised they got a good ending I was so sure everything was just going to go to shits! It was so insane! For me it dragged on a bit too much.
          I really liked how the medicine cabinet thing played out – it was pretty cool. And obv the future of Rufus – that made me so happy ?

          1. Same! I definitely didn’t expect things to pan out the way they did, but then again, I never know what to expect from Joe’s endings. They’re always so warped, lmao. I also thought the medicine cabinet thing was very cool. As soon as it was introduced midway through the series, I remember thinking it would be very important later on! Aw, yes, Rufus. <3

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