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Locke & Key: Small World #1: Small Wonder (And Other Small References)

Written by Writrzblok on Thursday, December 22 2016 and posted in Reviews

Locke & Key: Small World #1: Small Wonder (And Other Small References)

Children and magical dollhouses should come with instruction manuals.

Source: IDW Publishing

Written by Joe Hill

Art by Gabriel Rodriguez

Colors by Jay Fotos

Letters by Robbie Robbins

In the island town of Lovecraft, Massachusetts sits a mysterious mansion known as Keyhouse. For centuries, this enigmatic abode has been watched over by the Locke family. Inside the walls of this house, there are keys that can unlock the impossible. One such key is the Dollhouse Key, which allows a toy-sized simulacrum of Keyhouse to show who is inside the house. Jean and Mary Locke have been gifted the Dollhouse and its key for Mary's birthday. But, as children are wont to do, misuse and mischief are inevitable when it comes to toys. Especially magical toys. And, like anything in Keyhouse, misuse can bring about disastrous results.

From the moment I had opened and read Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft a few years back, I was hooked on Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez's horror-fantasy masterpiece. Rodriguez's artwork was exemplary, creepy, and brutal, while Hill's writing wove a tight, tense, but human tapestry of magic, murder, mayhem and mystery. It never pulled punches with regards to content, tone, and danger. It was a world of full, dynamic characters who had their struggles, but tried their best to cope with the unreal situations they were put in.

Part of what made Locke & Key such an engaging read was Joe Hill's ability to write the characters as people, flaws and all. Teenagers were impulsive, pushy and impatient, kids were precocious but bratty, adults had complex opinions and actions. The masterful characterization continues in this issue with the main protagonists, Mary and Jean Locke. Though the rest of the family (Parents Fiona and Chamberlain Locke, brothers Ian and John, and housekeeper Harland) also have significant roles, the girls and the Dollhouse are the focus due to their use and misuse of the magical trinket.

Mary, the older sibling, lords her age and experience over Jean by correcting her grammar and trying to keep the Dollhouse all to herself, despite their father giving it to both of them. Jean exhibits childish jealousy, seeing how unfair Mary is. As for the two brothers, Ian is a dreamer, while John is much more aggressive, quick to anger and hot-tempered. They behave like children, they taunt and tease each other, even playing pranks on their parents. One particularly humorous bit involved Jean using the dollhouse to take her dad, who was bathing, and drag the tub through the house like something out of a wacky family comedy.

The adults, for the brief times they appeared, personified the early 20th century attitudes towards people of color and women. Chamberlain, in particular, put forth the usual "women's place" argument, thinking the Dollhouse would teach the girls about responsibility and "contemplate the functions of a happy family." He still seemed a benevolent and loving father, outdated ideals notwithstanding. It was the mindset of the time period and Hill keeps that aesthetic around even though the Lockes are genuinely nice and friendly people.

Ramping up the tension is the inclusion of a spider that makes its way into the open Dollhouse, causing the tiny annoyance to become a monstrous nightmare. Gabriel Rodriguez's artwork remains stunning, showing how terrifying and utterly horrific it would be to have an enormous arachnid suddenly appearing and spinning you into a Tupperware snack for later. The crown of shadows features in this issue as well and Rodriguez exerts masterful control over the shading as well as the house itself. With the artist's detailed inkwork, every inch of Keyhouse looked alive, though showing its age.

While I highly recommend picking the book up for fellow Locke & Key fans, I think it almost could've worked as an introduction to the series, seeing as how multiple keys are used especially at the end. But I feel this was structured more towards current fans as there's not a whole lot of explanation with the way the keys work or where the Crown of Shadows came from. With that being said, Locke & Key: Small World serves as a worthy one-shot and it was clear to see Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez missed Keyhouse as much as it missed them.


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About the Author - Writrzblok

Jeff Gwinnup/Writrzblok is a comic book-loving, movie-watching, mac-and-cheese devouring Florida-born nerd who would like to write for a living one day. That is, if the inanities and stress of modern living don't kill him first. He's been reviewing/critiquing in either print or video form for almost seven years and shows no signs of stop- Wait, why is he writing in the third person? Who's typing this? WHO IS THIS?! GET AWAY FROM THAT KEYBOARD!
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