Has it really been three years already?
Yup, guess it has been that long since Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez locked (sorry) the doors of Keyhouse and concluded their modern long-form horror masterpiece, Locke & Key, and while the time has certainly flown by in many respects, now that we’ve been granted entry into the most mysterious home in Lovecraft, Massachusetts one more time, the truth is that it also feels like it’s been a lot longer than that. Maybe that’s why it’s good to know, especially right around Christmas, that you (or, in this case, we) actually can go home again.
Okay, sure, Locke & Key: Small World #1 may be a good, old-fashioned “one-shot” — and it may be set in the past (specifically the early part of the 20th century) and feature a different cast of characters than the one we came to know in the series proper — but that doesn’t mean it’s not a seamless addition to Hill and Rodriguez’ mythos or that it’s anything less than an absolute delight. In fact, for long-time fans of this world, reading this book is almost certain to make you feel like — dare I say it — a kid at Christmas.
The perpetually cynical (a group to which many insist I belong myself) have always said that “familiarity breeds contempt,” of course, but based on the evidence offered here, I humbly beg to differ. Small World serves up nothing you can’t and/or won’t see coming from a mile away — the “surprise” ending, for instance, is nothing of the sort — but for all its predictability and simplicity, it’s much more undeniably charming than it is the product of rote and clinical calculation. An old favorite pair of slippers doesn’t represent anything unexpected or challenging or different, either, but is there anything better to slide your feet into after being out on a cold winter’s day? Tried and true things in life are great comforts, my friends, and in this suddenly-much-more-uncertain world we find ourselves in these days, we need ’em more than ever.
If you’re getting the distinct impression that there’s nothing precisely essential about Locke & Key: Small World, well, shit — I can’t deny that’s absolutely true. Nothing in these pages will enrich your appreciation of the original series or shift your understanding of it in any way. There are no new perspectives to be had or secrets to ponder. But between Hill’s meticulously-crafted script, Rodriguez’ absolutely breathtaking richly-detailed art, and Jay Fotos’ amazingly well-chosen colors, what we have here is a near-perfect representation in microcosm of what made this series such a runaway sensation in the first place. It’s almost impossible to imagine somebody not being utterly transfixed by this gem of a comic, to the point where I can easily imagine one who may be new to this world feeling downright compelled to track down everything that’s come before once they’re read it. “Newbies” are hardly the so-called “target audience” for this book, it’s true — and I can’t see anyone unfamiliar with the franchise being willing to plunk down the $4.99 cover price that IDW is asking for a standard-length, single-issue publication (okay, that’s a bit of a lump of coal in our collective stocking, I suppose) — but there are bound to be some out there, and my money is on them becoming instantly hooked. Every aspect of this comic is expertly executed. Every single one. And whether you’re falling in love with Keyhouse and its denizens for the first time or all over again, it doesn’t matter — “love is love,” after all, as the title of another IDW special that hit LCS shelves this week reminds us.
As I mentioned already — probably more than once — the comforts of beautifully-established “known quantities” are at a premium these days. I love comics that push my thinking in new directions and upset the apple cart of my preconceptions, but there’s always a place on my pull list for books that counteract life’s uncertainties and give me exactly what I’m hoping for. Locke & Key: Small World is the best example of this type of storytelling that it’s been my pleasure to encounter in an awfully long time, and for half an hour it let me pretend that all was right with the world, so ya know what? For all my bitching about the fact that this thing cost five bucks, who are we kidding? That feeling is absolutely priceless.