Sunday, 6 October 2013

Locke & Key: Clockworks

If Keys to the Kingdom was where Joe Hill started playing around with the potential of the Locke & Key world then Clockworks is where he begins to look at what makes that world work. Clockworks is the most revealing volume of the series. It delves into the mythology of the title, the history of the Locke family and the nature and origins of the titular keys. These are the six issues where we start getting answers to the big questions.

The volume begins with a story set in 1775. This sets the revelatory tone. In just one issue we discover how the keys are made, gets hints as to why, teases of where the series could end up, and some interesting information about the Locke family of the time. It’s a wonderfully written opening instalment, all the more impressive for the fact that we’ve never come across any of the characters in it before.

Issue two is the only one of the six to have a primarily contemporary setting. It exists partly to introduce the key that is central to this volume, the timeshift key. As you can probably guess this key allows those using it to travel through time. There are some limitations placed on it, introduced in a nifty way, and the key instantly becomes one of the most intriguing of the series.

The rest of issue two has the tough job of cramming in the lion’s share of the character development for the volume. The cliffhanger volume four ended on is acknowledged and looked at but surprisingly not resolved, a clever decision that allows Hill to carry it over into the concluding sixth volume. That’s what the second issue is largely about, nudging things into place for the series’ final stretch and conclusion.

Which leaves issues three to six. Those four issues see the timeshift key put to use allowing Tyler and Kinsey to see the lives of their father and his childhood chums play out. The four issues are written just as impressively as anything else in the Locke & Key series, with Hill doing a wonderful job of making his almost entirely new cast likeable and interesting. The story of these issues plays out like a conclusion in its own right, just one we’ve not seen the build up to and don’t fully understand. It’s perfectly accessible and any questions we’re left asking are clearly ones that will be addressed when the series wraps up.

Clockworks is all about expanding the Locke & Key mythology at the same time as explaining certain aspects of it. It’s a peculiar volume in that respect as it doesn’t really have a story of its own to tell as previous volumes have. The things that hold it together are the timeshift key, the various revelations, and the sense that the story is heading towards a satisfying, mythic conclusion.

It should be noted that this volume ends on a powerful cliffhanger in its own right, involving the much sought after omega key and the character who was involved in the conclusion of volume four. Sounds vague and irritatingly non-informative? I apologise. Locke & Key is one of those rare comics that urge you not to spoil them. To get the most out of it you have to read it without knowing too many of the specifics in advance. I urge anyone reading this to read the entire series, in order. It’s one of the greatest books, comic or otherwise, of the century.

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