About a year ago I read "Welcome to Lovecraft", the first book in the Locke & Key graphic novel series. I was impressed by the creativity and unique nature of the story being told but was turned off by the graphic violence and strong language. The story was rather compelling and I had some people tell me that it only got better throughout the series and that the violence and language did tone down a bit in future books. So with their prodding I hesitantly picked up book two, "Head Games" and started reading.
In the first book a lot of the graphic violence comes from the brutal murder of the father. His kids and wife are present and are pursued by the murderer and forced to confront him. The scene itself is violent and portrayed rather gruesomely and is then replayed in flashbacks or nightmares a couple of times throughout the book.
In this second book the event of the murder has been put behind us. The family is still reeling with the emotional turmoil of the event but they are not visibly reliving the details on the page. Just removing that scene lessened the violence level of the book. There was still some swearing and though there was less, it was still jarring.
The story of Locke & Key follows the lives of this family as they try to adjust and move on after their father's death. But more than that this is a story of magic. They are living at "Keyhouse", a strangely magic place where their father grew up. Within Keyhouse there are (apparently) a vast number of magical keys with a variety of special properties. In the first book we found out about the Anywhere key that allowed the user to open a door to anywhere and step through. We also found the Ghost key which literally opened a door that when the user stepped through they turned into a ghost flitting and floating around.
In Head Games, we are introduced to the Head key. When used, a keyhole appears on the back of the neck of individuals nearby. The key bearer inserts the key in the hole and literally opens the top of the person's head. It's creepy looking in a cartoony sort of way. We don't see brains and skull but rather the head opens to show us into the thoughts, memories and knowledge of the person. So when the kids open their heads the find that they can remove some of the fears and nightmares that have troubled them since their father's death. One of the boys shoves his school books into his head for some literal cramming for a class at school.
In the first book we were also introduced to a mystical demonic creature of unknown origin or importance. This creature is some sort of nemesis to the family and is searching for something at Keyhouse but the overarching plot is still somewhat unknown even at this stage in the series. The demon has taken human form and befriended the older brother in an effort to undermine the family and gain access to Keyhouse. I'm still unclear as to the full motivations of this creature. If he just wanted to destroy the family, he's had plenty of opportunities. If he needs something at Keyhouse, it seems he should just destroy the family and then search for it unhindered. I'm really unsure as to why there is this subtle cat-and-mouse play.
While there was no ghastly murder scene replayed there were still a number of confrontations that were rather violent. They weren't nearly as gruesome as the scenes from the first book but still bloody enough that I think this will be my final voyage into the Locke & Key series.
I certainly applaud the creativity and unique story being told. I like the art style when not splattered with blood and violence. The writing is crisp and fluid when not interlaced with cussing. I know it goes against the "artistic tendencies" of the author and artist but I would love to read a PG version of this series. I may go to wikipedia or some other source and catch up on the plot synopsis but I know it's not the same experience. Personally I wish I could have the interesting and fun experience without the violence and harsh language. There is definitely some talent to be had and it has enjoyable moments but for my own personal taste, I'm afraid I'll pass on the rest of the series.
3 out of 5 stars
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