Locke & Key/Sandman: Hell & Gone #1 Review

by Nick Devonald on April 13, 2021

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

Following on from last year’s Locke & Key: In Pale Battalions Go, the long awaited and much anticipated Locke & Key crossover with Sandman. Joe Hill takes on the solo writing duties which covers characters from Neil Gaiman’s much celebrated masterpiece. This double-sized issue, first in a two-part crossover, is set during Morpheus’ imprisonment by Roderick Burgess which marked the beginning of Gaiman’s epic story. It revolves around the dreaming shortly after his absence, and rather than a new story it feels like we’re seeing a chapter only alluded to previously, a chance to see first-hand how his kingdom falls apart in Dream’s missing presence.

In Pale Battalions Go perfectly set this crossover up, following on from the tragic tales surrounding the Locke family in the early 1900s, we have a family hurting and in pain, far too many lives lost before their time, with one son trapped and suffering in Hell. Desperate to make amends a plan is hatched to visit him in Hell, with the eventual goal of rescuing him. What follows is an excellent entry into Dream’s realm, with dozens of familiar characters making appearances.

Comics love a good crossover, they’ve such a key staple of the industry, but this is one of the more inspired ones. The fantasy worlds born from Hill and Gaiman’s vivid imaginations are rooted in a fantastical logic that perfectly complements one another, and if it wasn’t for the logistics involved with two properties under different Publishers it’s not difficult to imagine them crossing over more regularly. Hill deftly plays with the cast of Sandman with such skill it could easily be Gaiman writing them.

Crossing over two huge properties like this carries a huge expectation, with so much potential to disappoint. Joe Hill hasn’t written a bad Locke & Key story yet, and his clear reverence for Gaiman’s Sandman shows in every page, he writes the characters as if they’re old friends. And there are appearances from fan favourite characters, from Cain & Abel, right through to the Corinthian.

It would be impossible to imagine a Locke & Key story without the talented Gabriel Rodriguez drawing it, and he does his usual magic at bringing Keyhouse to life, but when we reach The Dreaming, he absolutely dazzles. The scenery changes in a way that only a dream could, switching from nightmarish to fantastical in a moment, filled with humour or menace when appropriate, and each area that our heroine visits look stunning. And Rodriguez is joined by Jay Fotos on colours, who’s colours are instrumental in bringing this outlandish world to life.

One of the most ambitious crossovers between two comics which regularly appear on all time best lists, it doesn’t just live up to the expectations, it far exceeds them. If this is any indication to go by this crossover, extending from In Pale Battalions Go, to Hell and Gone, will be one of the best chapters in both sagas. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez are incredible collaborators, a team that never fails to impress and amaze, and they’re both on their A-game here.

Our Score:


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