REVIEW: “Locke and Key: Alpha” #2

(IDW Publishing, 2013)

Review by Jeremiah Kielman

Written by Joe Hill
Artwork by Gabriel Rodriquez
Color Artwork by Jay Fotos
Lettering by Robbie Robbins

Endings and loose ends.  That is what we get in this the final installation of the much loved Locke & Key series by Joe Hill.  And there was no shortage of loose ends to tie up in this long running series.  There was the father who we met in the mending medicine cabinet.  The dead boy/girl/demon thing in the well.  A dead baby brother.  An orphaned simpleton.  Memories to restore to an old woman.  Friends to bury.  Lots of loose ends, like I said.

But it is not a time to be sad.  It is a time to rejoice.  It’s sad when a story gets cancelled.  When the storyteller doesn’t get to finish his tale.  This is the opposite of that.  This is a story ending when it is supposed to.  Comic book fans tend to forget that, as fine a hobby as comics are, their stories are missing a key element necessary to good storytelling.  Namely, an end.

Have you ever noticed that books from the big two always start off with a bang and then fizzle into nothing towards the “end”?  Well the reason for that is that the “end” is exactly what those stories are missing.  Take World War Hulk, for instance, the Hulk blames the Illuminati for the death of his wife and unborn child.  Wow!  The Hulk’s strength is fueled by his rage and dead babies are just the thing to set him off.  So off he goes towards Earth and his vengeance.

Here is where you run into trouble with characters that can never change in any significant way, much less actually die a death that sticks.  So do you really think that the only conclusion of that tale that makes sense would/could happen in the 616?  Hell no he’s not killing off the Illuminati.  In fact the only purpose that story served was to bring the Hulk back home.  Nothing happened, really.  So next month all the characters are back to normal.  The Hulk seemingly just forgets that these men killed his unborn child in his wife’s womb.  Makes sense, right?  Of course it doesn’t.

When your characters are forced to stay static for fifty years there is not much in the way of growth possible for them.  And without an end there can be no middle either.  What your left with are beginnings.  Which is why they tend to reboot books, characters and whole universes all the time.

So when I see a book ending at an appropriate time I rejoice.  I mean, do you really want to be reading a Locke & Key story fifty years from now?  A story filled with characters who managed to age a few years over the course of decades?  Doesn’t interest me at all.  Luckily there are some good indie books out there.

Joe shows us how a story should end.  Namely when planned or when it seems natural in the plot (sometimes if your lucky the story takes on a life of its own and the ending happens organically without the writer needing to plan it).  We get to see the cast of the tale one last time as they say their goodbyes to dead friends, give back to people robbed of themselves years ago back their life, give homes to orphans and even say goodbye to the house that was as much a character as anyone else in the story.  He accomplishes all this in an issue without it feeling rushed.

As we look at these fictitious people and see how they have grown we realize how immature they were in the beginning and realize that we grew up with them.  Making the goodbyes all the more poignant.  Even the villain is redeemed by the growth of others.

All in all, this goodbye is a good buy.  Goodbye!


Jeremiah Kielman
Alliance Comics
904 Light Street
Baltimore MD
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