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Review Group Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows #1

Written by John Martin on Tuesday, November 17 2009 and posted in Reviews
Chubbles had the pick for new comics shipping November 11th and he selected Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows #1 by Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez and Jay Fotos.


The Review Group is a collection of posters who get together and review a new comic each week that we each take turns selecting. Our threads can be found in The Outhouse’s News Stand forum and is open for anyone and everyone to participate in.

In a week that could have lead to many a Review Grouper getting a taste of one of the most fresh and exciting comics on the stands, the issue was apparently under shipped by Diamond.  A few of us still managed to get out hands on a copy though so it wasn't a total disaster.

Review by thefourthman

"To those who have not been reading the series, the summary above probably seems a lot like gibberish. See, that’s where Hill’s book fails. The book is set up as a series of interlocking mini-series, much like Umbrella Academy or Hellboy. It’s a great conceit when done correctly. However, unlike the two Dark Horse titles, Locke & Key has a cumulative element that creates problems for the new readers that the format is meant to entice.

No doubt, the readership for the book is growing. This is probably a reaction to the strong word of mouth behind the title or the impatience of trade waiters who have to know what happens next. That kind of reaction is understandable. It really is a marvelous book. However, Way and Mignola go to great lengths to tell a complete story with each new volume. Hill is merely telling a chapter of a much larger story. This is not to say that the adventures of the B.P.R.D. or Number 5 and his family are not, just that they are told in story units that work on their own. Locke & Key forgets to tell a satisfying narrative by making exposition nonexistent. The main characters of the series are so sidelined in this issue, that even the faithful reader may not recall all the history involved until the end of the issue. Not really a problem for an entrenched reader but it is a massive hurdle for anyone new to the book."

Read the rest of the review at

Story - 7
Art - 9
Overall - 8

Review by amlah6

At some point last December while I was trolling around the eBays looking for bargains I came across a copy of the first Locke & Key hardcover for under $10. I had heard a little buzz surrounding the book, but I honestly didn't pay much attention to it. I don't consider myself a Stephen King fan so why should I give a crap that his kid was writing a comic book? Whatever though, a bargain's a bargain and no one else bid on the book so a couple of week's later it showed up in my mailbox and I'll be damned if that wasn't some damn fine comic booking. Just new and refreshing in almost every way. Interesting ideas paired with strong characters and stunning art. Eight months later the hardcover for the second volume Head Games came in my Box-O-Comics and it just built upon the goodness with more intrigue and even better art. So did I beg Chubbles to pick this when it showed up as an option for the Review Group? Damn right I did.

The first thing you'll notice about Crown of Shadows when you pick it up off the shelf is the cover treatment. Damn cool trick there by IDW, it really looks like Sam's ghost is floating off the page.

I wasn't expecting it, but it was nice to get that basic recap page on the inside cover of the book. Simple, effective and straight to the point. That being said, this is a direct continuation of Head Games and begins just minutes after the last issue ended. While this issue does read more like a thirteenth issue than a first, between the recap and the interactions between the characters there should be enough there to get readers up to speed.

As an existing reader, there were a ton of really cool things going on in this issue. Getting back to Sam feels long overdue after how his character was left at the end of Welcome to Lovecraft and it was nice to see a bit of character progression for him. I can't wait to see where his character goes from here. The thing with Dodge was kind of a wow moment even if it's not yet clear to the reader what it means. For now I'll just add it to the ever growing list of mysteries surrounding the Key House. Great cliffhanger at the end, it would appear that the Echo Key is going to be the focus of this volume of this series.

Gabriel Rodriguez is awesome, pure and simple. I love the detail he puts into each panel, it's one of my favorite things about the series. He's also fantastic when it comes to the expressiveness of each character. He really should be a bigger name within the industry than he is. Some of the ghost fighting in this issue could have been a bit difficult to follow if not for the work of Jay Fotos. That could not have been an easy issue to color. Beyond that though, Fotos always does a really superb job of setting the tone of the book. When you think of horror comics you think of things being dark and overly shaded, but in Locke & Key the pages absolutely pop. Rodriguez and Fotos are one of my favorite artist combination working together right now.

Story: 8.5
Art: 9.5
Overall: 9

Review by Punchy

Story - Uh.... yeah, so.... um, that was... different. This is a difficult review to write, because I'm really quite lost here. The only previous installment of Locke & Key I've read is the very first issue, which I picked up when it first came out, and liked it a lot, but my LCS didn't get anymore issues in, and now I pick this up, and while I have a vague idea of what's going on there's this family who's dad was murdered, and they live in a magic house, but I just... I just don't know, I was confused, and while there's obviously a lot of craft and thought here, to someone who hasn't been reading the book, it was a load of guff.

This issue really boils down to a Ghost Fight, as this guy Sam fights this other guy Dodge, and they argue about stuff, and I really have no idea what's going on, there's something about a weird contraption on Dodge's back, and there's some magic keys. Huh? Wha? Meh. Some of the dialogue here was a bit over the top, and you can tell that Hill is chiefly a novelist, but it worked. I just don't have the knowledge to care. But I did enjoy when Sam and Dodge were both inside one body, and punching each other, it was clever. I did find it interesting too that Sam, who is a serial killer or whatever, has been made into a sympathetic character.

It's clear that this is a pretty unique book, with a lot of ideas, and some truly interesting horror story ideas, but this issue makes no real attempt to appeal to new readers, but hey, this is my fault, I should probably be reading this book, and reviewing this was a reminder to me that I'm missing out on something special, and that I have to go and pick up the trades. Much like with Mice Templar, it's not you, it's me. Maybe I should pick up the trades of volumes 1 and 2, and then come back and Re-review this, because I'm sure I'll like it a whole lot more.

Art - I can properly review the art here, since recognizing good art doesn't require me to have read the previous series, and I liked Rodriguez's art a lot. The facial expressions of the characters are strong, and Sam and Dodge were recognizable as Ghosts. The way the Ghosts were portrayed was also interesting, I liked how each of them was a different colour. Good, somewhat cartoony stuff, but surprisingly appropriate for a horror/mystical comic.

Best Line - 'Yeah, sorry on that. I'm not sure Ghosts can. Fuck, I mean. Souls don't even have a gender'


Review by Chris

Story: I'm used to reading this in trade, so it's weird for me to only get the first part of the story... but I liked what I read. The first two arcs of Locke & Key were great, and one of the most consistently good books out... this seems to follow that trend. I'm just hoping that the pacing picks up. After two arcs, I think we should be a little deeper into the story by now.

Art: Rodriguez's art took a while to grow on me, but by the end of the first book, I loved it.

Story: 8
Art: 8

Overall: 8/10

Review by starlord

I didn't get it. Plain and simple. Wish I could say I did and that I enjoyed it, but I felt totally lost. Writing seemed okay, not thrilled with the art but I've seen worse. All in all, I just didn't get it.

Of course I may like this more once I read next weeks pick, but that's just me.

Story: 6
Art: 5
My Score: 5.5

Review by 48THRiLLS

I was pretty lost from the get go on this one. I definitely felt that I needed to have read the first couple of trades to have gotten a grasp on this. I have been wanting to check this out since I read and really enjoyed 'Heart Shaped Box' so I know that he can do the ghost story stuff. I will say this didn't really push me to want to go seek out the first two trades but that can possibly be blamed on the out of the loopness that I felt while reading.It is hard to review a book like this and give it a score one way or another, I can't say I hated it but I know I didn't like it so it is somewhere in the middle. I have too many questions in the end and felt more frustrated than disappointed. The art was inconsistent in my opinion, sometimes I really liked it and sometimes the faces looked really wonky to me. I did not care for the ghost fight, the colors were distracting and hard to follow. I wish I liked this more considering the trouble Amlah went through mailing it to me.

ART - 5


That gives Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows #1 a group score of 7.00.  Pretty clear division between the have reads and have not reads.  Hopefully the have nots go back and read what they've been missing out on.

For further discussion of this week's book feel free to join us in this week's thread ( found in the News Stand forum where you are also invited to post your own review.

guitarsmashley has the pick for November 18th and he has selected Punisher #11 from Marvel Comics.  Look for the new thread after it becomes available Wednesday morning to post your own review.

Punisher #11

WRITER: Rick Remender
PENCILS: Tony Moore

In the belly of New York, skulking and forgotten creatures of the night uncover the remains of a man in a familiar outfit. Frank Castle is dead. What exactly IS Frankencastle? Long time collaborators Rick Remender and Tony Moore (GHOST RIDER, Fear Agent, The Walking Dead) are reunited for what will be the greatest struggle in the afterlife of the Punisher. Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster… Parental Advisory …$2.99


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