It’s been three months since Locke & Key: Clockworks ended, and Locke & Key: Omega #1 isn’t due till November. Thankfully, we have Locke & Key: Grindhouse to keep us entertained. The last L&K one-shot, Guide to the Known Keys, got an Eisner nomination for best single issue. Does Grindhouse live up to that legacy? Here’s the official description from IDW:
THIS is the blood-splashed, bare-knuckled Locke & Key standalone story you’ve been waiting for! In the glare of a Depression-era summer, three Canuck gangsters pull the heist of their dreams and take off for the perfect hiding spot… an isolated mansion on the tip of Lovecraft Island known locally as Keyhouse. Locke & Key: Grindhouse includes an expanded “Guide to Keyhouse,” revealing every dark corner and secret room in America’s most frightening mansion!
The title Grindhouse evokes an entire genre of low-budget, oversexed, gore-infested horror movies, and the book mostly fulfills that promise, without succumbing to the weaknesses typically associated with those films. While it’s really not as bloody as you might expect, it does show the three Canadian gangsters fall prey to the various horrors of Keyhouse. Most interesting to me is the depiction of a generation of Lockes that is completely aware of and in control of the powers of their home. Joe Hill doesn’t really have time to develop a big plot, but he succeeds at showing how formidable and terrifying Keyhouse can be for the unwary. His writing for one of the gangsters, who speaks with a strong accent, provides a dose of sardonic humor, but is also extremely creepy in its own way. He also makes at least two Stephen King references (they’re in same word bubble). Hill has, to my knowledge, generally avoided allusions to his father’s work, so I find it interesting that he changes that here.
The art is noticeably different from previous Locke and Key stories, even though Grindhouse still features Gabriel Rodriguez‘s pencils and inks, Jay Fotos‘ colors, and Robbie Robbins‘ letters. Every aspect of the art is intended to give the book a Depression-era look and differentiate from other L&K series. Rodriguez’s lines are lighter than usual, especially on the figures. Fotos uses a flatter coloring style, with fewer gradients, that makes everything look older. And Robbins’ lettering is a stiff block print, rather than your stereotypical Comic Sans style.
While perhaps not as big of an initial draw as the key catalog found in Guide to the Known Keys, the Guide to Keyhouse segment in the latter half of the book is both stunning and engrossing. Rodriguez’s attention to detail is mind-boggling, and one could literally spend hours comparing the blueprints of Keyhouse to the events in the books. My only disappointment was that the blueprints stop at the fourth floor, so we get no information about Keyhouse’s towers and turrets, one of which (I believe) houses the Philosophoscope key.
While not as emotionally gripping as Guide to the Known Keys, Grindhouse will please most Locke and Key fans. It maintains the series’ characteristic sickening blunt trauma quality even as it injects a sense of fun that’s grown scarce as we draw closer to the series’ conclusion.