Sunday, 23 September 2012

Locke & Key: Head Games

One of the central aspects of Locke & Key's second volumes is so brilliant that other creative teams would milk it and force it to last far longer than six issues. In Head Games Bode Locke tinkers with the key he fished from the pond of Keyhouse at the end of volume one, eventually discovering that it grants access to people's minds. Memories can be looked at or removed completely, and gaining knowledge becomes as easy as stuffing a book into your head.

The concept is approached in a fun manner that makes use of the visual aspects a comic book provides. Every person’s mind is depicted as an assortment of miniature people living inside their minds, acting out the memories they represent. It gives artist Gabriel Rodriguez the chance to give us some memorable splash pages and have some fun. Young Bode’s mind is a colourful and eclectic mix of superheroes, dinosaurs, and monsters, while Tyler’s is a sombre grey landscape of guilt, angst and teenage lust.
Easy to imagine a 70 issue Vertigo series centred on this concept isn't it?
Joe Hill shows great restraint, refusing to wear the idea out. Instead he focuses his attention on his cast. Bode is as infectiously carefree as he was in Welcome to Lovecraft, behaving just as we'd all want to if we discovered the magic of Keyhouse for ourselves. Tyler remains stoic, but we get a little of his playful side too. It's a welcome change and keeps the book feeling fresh.
It’s Kinsey that gets the most to do of the three Locke children. She is the most affected by the key gimmick and grows the most as a character. We can identify with all the players, but her most of all. Her decision in issue three when it’s realised that things can be taken out of the mind is a pivotal moment for the series.
Rodriguez remains as reliable as he was during the title’s first volume but is given more moments to shine thanks to the more fantastical nature of the new key. In addition to the splash pages mentioned above we also get a brief glimpse of a stage play that turns out to be very important in a later volume, some worryingly cute evil memories and emotions, and a highly inventive way of crediting those who worked on the book at the start of issue four. The quiet moments are handled delicately, with the mostly black-and-white epilogue issue being a moving affair.

Head Games showed that Hill and Rodriguez hadn’t been lucky first time round and that Locke & Key was a consistently enjoyable title. More to the point it showed that the series was going somewhere. This is a second outing that doesn’t disappoint.

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