“Locke & Key” and “Lumberjanes”: Two Reviews
I’m not much of a comic book reader, but I indulged in two new-to-me comics just for Comic Book Week. Here are my reviews:
Story by Joe Hill
Art by Gabriel Rodriguez
“Locke & Key” is a tale of suspense and horror from writer Joe Hill. There are six volumes in total. There was even a TV pilot made (though the series never came to fruition), and an audio adaptation is due to come out for free in October.
At this point, I have only read the first three volumes. I plan to collect the other three over time. One of my ongoing complaints about reading comic books is the outlandish cost–the full “Locke & Key” experience will cost me $60, and while I don’t think it’s unfair to pay that much for quality artwork and storytelling, I simply can’t afford it on a regular basis. A novel takes hours to read, and costs far less. However, sometimes the expense is worth it. “Locke & Key” was definitely worth it.
The storytelling is unique and fast-paced. The Lockes move into an old family house called the Keyhouse after their father is killed in a home invasion. As they adjust to a new life, new schools, and the reality of loss, the youngest Locke child begins finding magic keys all over the house. The keys do all kinds of cool things–many of which I don’t want to spoil–including one that opens your head and allows you to add or remove content. Imagine, we could simply reach in and remove fear or grief or the memory of a person.
There’s an antagonist causing trouble for the Locke family, too. He quickly dumps the kids into many different episodes of trouble. The Locke kids respond with bravery and grace as well as some very real teenage angst, and I absolutely love the character growth in these books. Not only do we see them fight with the supernatural, we also witness the real-world struggles of people trying to cope with loss.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t earn its horror chops. These comics are as scary as I’ve ever seen comics get, and at some points I was holding my breath while reading, not sure what would happen and whether everyone would be OK. Sometimes, everyone isn’t OK.
Sometimes the story moves so quickly it can be difficult to follow. Readers are left to intuit much of what’s going on from images that can be very overpopulated (though beautiful). On occasion, I found myself wanting a bit more exposition than I was getting. I am certain that part of the problem is my lack of experience reading comics, but the story is complex enough that I am looking forward to listening to the audio interpretation. I’d love to hear it more fleshed out.
I highly recommend you check out “Locke & Key” if you have a little extra cash. I bought it digitally, but I think having the volumes in your hand might be even better–the art is worth careful consideration all on its own.
(image credits: “Locke & Key” published by IDW)
(mild spoilers for the series follow)
Story by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
Art by Brooke Allen and various
“Lumberjanes” is a fantastic comic featuring five girls at summer camp. Of course, this is no ordinary summer camp. This is the Lumberjanes, where your badges might include staying out all night to fight monsters or telling an outrageous pun. The five girls band together and use the power of “friendship to the max” to defeat traps, gods, monsters, bear women, possessed Boy Scouts, and an overprotective camp counselor. Also they play capture the flag and stuff.
I can’t say enough good things about this comic. The characters are well rounded, diversely represented, deeply committed to each other, and very real. Mal suffers from an anxiety disorder, and Ripley is a total spaz. But they use their personal traits to help the group. Each of the main characters has her own struggles, deftly unfolded as part of storylines and in unexpected moments. No one is made to feel inferior or weak.
In rare and awesome form, the girls swear to various feminist icons constantly. (“FOR THE LOVE OF NELLY BLY, RUN!!!”)
Also, dinosaurs bust out of the outhouse, and Ripley harnesses one with the friendship bracelets she made. Alice, the most femme of the bunch, takes out a sea monster with a hair scrunchie. Jo figures out a puzzle using the Fibonacci sequence. Two of the girls seem to be cultivating a sweet summer camp romance. No one at all is refrigerated, unless you count some moments with the possessed boys. This comic is glorious.
The first eight-issue arc is the best of the bunch, and it ends on a note so funny I laughed out loud in my empty office. As the comics continue, the storytelling and art style becomes hit or miss for me, and I enjoyed it less. Partly, I think, because some of the art styles rendered the characters more feminine–fluttery eyelashes and differently shaped bodies. I liked the original artwork and varied representation of being a woman. I was pleasantly surprised to see that original artist Brooke Allen rejoined the team with issue 13 and has continued on so far.
I am so glad comics like this exist in the world, and I was doubly pleased to turn it over to my 10-year-old son, who ate it up, laughing as much as I did. Note to everyone who makes stuff: Boys like comics starring girls. He read it with no hesitation or dislike, and decided Ripley was his favorite character (she’s mine, too; she’s a freaking delight). The story has been optioned for a live-action movie, and I can only quake in fear about what things will change, who will be white-washed and whether they will erase the queerness (probably).
Run, do not walk, to your local tablet, and buy this in digital format right now. Now, now, now. It’s fantastic.
(image credits: Lumberjanes published by Boom! Studios)