Locke & Key: In Pale Battalions Go #1 Review

by Nick Devonald on August 25, 2020

Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
Colours: Jay Fotos
Letters: Shawn Lee

It is always a great delight to return to Keyhouse in Lovecraft island. It’s clear the love that Rodriguez and Hill have for this series and it comes across in every panel. There is a magic here which extends beyond the Keys and comes from the having a creative team with complete mastery over their art.

‘In Pale Battalions Go’ has the unenviable job of setting the series up for the incredibly exciting Locke & Key/Sandman crossover which is set to come out later this year. What an exciting premise that is, two of comics greatest series uniting in one of those rare crossovers which manages to surpass the obstacles of having two different Publishers. And what an exciting crossover the two promise to be. Unlike so many crossovers this doesn’t feel forced, Locke & Key and Sandman feel like a natural fit for each other.

It also has the job of introducing us to a new period in Keyhouse’s history, and new characters. Our main protagonist is young Jonathan, who, like many other heroes in many other stories, wants to enlist and fight in the First World War. There is an innocence and naivety about him and his desire to fight for Justice for his Country that makes him endearing. And of course he asks a reasonable question, with war on a scale never before seen, why wouldn’t the Keys be used to turn the tide of war? And while the reader can empathise with him and his plight, it’s difficult to share his same naïve point of view. And yet it’s far too easy to root for him and explore the chapter which comes next.

Locke & Key is undoubtably amongst Joe Hill’s finest work, high praise when you look at the rest of his career. The whole comic is good fun, there is a sense of humour here, as well as a cleverness with the writing where the reader is left guessing the whole way through. But it also explores darker themes as well, and lays all the pieces for a coming of age story. It’s clear that by the time Jonathan’s experience with the war is over he’ll no longer be a child. Hill’s characters arrive on the page fully formed and it’s not long before the reader has a good grasp of all the characters. Not only that but this issue also introduces readers to a new key, and teases that there may be more we haven’t seen yet.

It’s impossible to imagine anyone other than Gabriel Rodriguez drawing Locke & Key. While other series may have guest artists, or change the artist mid way through, Locke & Key is as much Rodriguez’ baby as it is Hill’s. The fact that he’s listed as storyteller with Hill and not the artist speaks volumes. His art is stunning and completely synonymous with Keyhouse. It’s filled with nice little touches, small details like the father in the story strikes a certain resemblance to the Locke family we know, a clearly hereditary look that’s a nice touch.  And having the same artist on the entire series means that there is a consistency and style to each issue which never changes. Then there’s Jay Fotos’ colours, which likewise bring that consistent look and feel for the series to life. He pairs well with Rodriguez’ art.

The fact that it’s Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez returning to the fantastic world of Locke & Key should be enough to sell this comic. Not only is it always a delight to return to the world of Keyhouse, but it’s also an excellent story which draws the reader back into the world of Locke & Key. While the fact it’s also an important part of the setup for the upcoming crossover with Sandman is an added bonus, the excellent writing and art are the real attraction here. And for fans of Sandman who’ve never picked up an issue of Locke & Key before this is a great starting point, a stand alone adventure which is sure to paint enough background to enjoy and appreciate the crossover.

Our Score:


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