Review: Locke and Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

On February 8, way back in 2008, we were first introduced to the horrific world of Locke and Key by IDW Publishing with the comic book issue aptly titled Welcome to Lovecraft. The award winning dark story Written by Joe Hill and exemplified by the dramatic artwork of Gabriel Rodriguez hooked fans from the start. Readers enjoyed this twisted journey until December 18, 2013, when the last door closed with the issue, again fittingly titled, The End.

But don’t let these overly obvious titles fool you into thinking Locke and Key is an indifferent comic with expectant content. This is a complex graphic tale with just as deep and multifaceted cast of characters. Being that the story was presented as a three act production over nearly six years of publication, the term “cast” is also well placed.

Locke and Key coverThis is where Amazon.com’s digital producer Audible comes in. A full audio adaptation of Locke and Key has just been released and fandom gets to experience the horrid tale all over again, but this time with bone crunching sounds, blood curdling screams, and startling voices to the speech bubbles. Running 13 hours and 26 minutes (13 cd’s for the disc version), and a slew of talented character actors playing our favorite parts, in some ways it may be more disturbing than the original print platform.

According to Audible, this production of Locke and Key features performances by Haley Joel Osment (Entourage, The Sixth Sense), Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black), Kate Mulgrew (Orange Is the New Black, Star Trek: Voyager), Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez, and Stephen King (The Stand, 11-22-63), as well as a cast of more than 50 voice actors, this audio production preserves the heart-stopping impact of the graphic novel’s astounding artwork through the use of richly imagined sound design and a powerful original score.”

The story revolves around the dysfunctional Locke family living in an old house in Lovecraft, Massachusetts. The horror within this family estate is roused by the character changing doors and the mysterious keys needed to unlock them. From an “anywhere” key that allows you to move about in a ghostly form to a “head” key that enables the holder to open someone’s head and add or remove memories, the possibilities are as twisted as the evil entities trying to find them.

The audio version remains loyal to the original comic content, which includes the explicit language and shocking violence that has made the story so, well, realistic and popular. So don’t let the younglings listen to this one, especially at night before going to bed.

Admittedly skeptical when news of an audio presentation of Locke and Key first emerged, it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. After all, how can a graphic novel succeed without the visual participation of co-creator Gabriel Rodriguez (though he does get to do some voice work along with Hill)? Well, like some of the mysterious doors in the key house, the mind’s eye can play some pretty crazy tricks on the audience. Fans who have already read the graphic novels might be able to visualize the action a bit better, but those who are new to the story will be just as entertained. Like the old radio theatre broadcasts, the sounds can be just as colorful and convincing to the ears as what the eyes can see. The talented multicast of voices kinda helps too.

The only flaw, subtle though it may be, is an occasional barely audible character talking in the distant or perhaps someone speaking just above a whisper. Listening at home with the headphones or the sound cranked up is fine, but in a moving vehicle for the morning commute can make it difficult to understand at times. With that said, any startling actions can sometimes make one jump when the sound is turned up a bit too much, which is fine at home, but not so much when behind the wheel.

Starting on October 5, 2015, the audio publication of Locke and Key is now available for free at Audible.com until November 4, 2015. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez have created a macabre world that fans have enjoyed for over half a decade. And now those fans can return there with an entirely new perspective while new fans have a lot to discover. It’s difficult to determine which platform is better because both are appealing to their target audiences. Though for this version, it’s probably best to experience it at home with the lights turned way down low and the volume turned up. Oh, and keep an eye on those locked doors.

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