Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez tear it all down in this penultimate issue of the critically acclaimed series Locke & Key.
Trust me when I say that the story is too intricate to sum up in a few sentences, so don’t try to jump in on this issue hoping to pick up enough to get through the story. Locke & Key: Alpha #1 is half a decade worth of story coming to its climax. I actually reread the entire series in a couple of hours before going into Alpha (and it was totally worth it). All the issues are available on Comixology and probably in your local comic shop in trade paperback as well.
First off, the pacing, the action, the art, and the overall storytelling of this issue are amazing. Though I said this story is a climax of sorts, it’s by no means rushed or frantic. It maintains the strong voice that drove the other series. The main difference between Alpha and the rest of the series comes from the sheer volume of no-turning-back moments.
As you might have guessed, a ton of characters die this issue, and not just nameless filler characters like in the last issue. Characters you know and care about close their eyes for the final time with no hope for resurrection. I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just say that although I applaud the author for making this a story with serious consequences, I have to disagree with Hill’s choices for who lives and dies. At times it felt like too much of the action was focused on the main characters and keeping them alive. The supporting characters were almost unbelievably willing to sacrifice their lives for the Lockes.
Normally that’s something easily forgiven for the sake of such a great story, but Locke & Key does such a good job at creating realism in all other aspects (despite the nature of the story) that this aspect stands out in comparison. Hill has done an exceptional job at explaining the rules of the world and the characters’ motivations, and Rodriguez’s design and art are incredibly detailed and thought out. In addition, so much of what happens is the result of small loopholes in the logic of this fictional world, so the world feels so concrete in the reader’s mind.
Despite this one small criticism, I have to say that I am so in love with this issue. Hill and Rodriguez took their time to fully flesh out the details of an expansive mythology through Welcome to Lovecraft, Head Games, Crown of Shadows, Keys to the Kingdom, Clockworks, and Omega, and it all pays off in Alpha. In the earlier series the action was much more subversive and everyone kept their closely guarded secrets to themselves. In this issue, all the plotlines have come to a head, and all the cards are laid on the table.
Alpha #1 already brings a satisfying close to Locke & Key. Heroes triumph and villains fall, but not without a cost. With one issue left, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez will presumably pick up the pieces and tie up loose ends.
What a long, strange ride it’s been, and I hope we see each other again!
Joe Hill (W), Gabriel Rodriguez (A) • IDW Publishing, $7.99, September 11, 2013.