Locke & Key: In Pale Battalions Go #2 Review

by Nick Devonald on October 06, 2020

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

Throughout this issue Joe Hill manages to constantly subvert expectations. Following on from the first issue the reader expects to follow John Locke into the war, instead we’re introduced to a German battalion. Rather than portray the Germans as the villians within the Great War we’re instead introduced to Willem Veidt, a young man with high moral standards whom the reader will almost immediately warm to. Not to say we don’t have villains, Oberlutnant Murnau promises to become a particularly memorable villain as the series progresses. Don’t worry though, the keys make their presence felt, in a classic Locke & Key way, but they’re almost incidental to the main story rather than the focus. Of course their importance increases towards the end of the issue, but the story could almost stand on two feet without their inclusion.

We don’t believe in spoilers here at CTG which makes this review particularly difficult. There are so many excellent twists and turns which can’t be discussed, other than to say it’s incredibly well done. Hill’s writing is always great, the Locke & Key comics in particular always stand out from their peers as being exceptionally well written, but with this issue Hill continues to pull surprises out of the bag, the reader having no idea what to expect other than a thrilling issue. Then we have the conclusion to the issue, which not only will blindside readers it also doubles as one of the best cliff-hangers in comic history. It feels like there are no limits to where Hill can take us with this series.

Another strength of the story is the way that Hill manages to bring home the realities of war. Neither side is made out to be monstrous, both sides are humanised, which makes the brutalities of the combat and the death even more impactful than they might otherwise have been. The senselessness of war is really felt here, which gives it a much more emotional impact.

Gabriel Rodríguez’s art is always excellent, and this story gives him the opportunity to dive into some of the most horrific scenes we’ve yet seen in Locke & Key. The two armies battling, some of the measures being employed, all really emphasise the horrors of war. It feels unjust to call him the artist as well, since the comic lists him as a storyteller and he’s as intrinsic to the Locke & Key storytelling formula as Joe Hill is. Despite the different setting and wildly different story to a typical Locke & Key tale Rodríguez manages to capture the feel of Locke & Key and bring it to this story, so that it only feels natural when the keys begin to make their presence felt.

Locke & Key consistently ranks as one of the all time greatest comics, and this welcome return marks what might well be one of the best Locke & Key stories of all time. That it’s also part of the build up to the crossover with the Sandman Universe make it even more exciting. Readers will constantly be surprised by the twists and turns of this issue, and keep guessing throughout. The art is as incredible as the reader has come to expect from Gabriel Rodríguez, and if you’ve been sleeping on this story you need to get in on the action now.

Our Score:


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