Locke & Key: Omega #4 marks the halfway point for the final series of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’ masterful epic. The poop hit the fan at the end of last issue, and things are about to get even messier. Here’s the official description from IDW:
Human Sacrifices: The bottomless pit of the Drowning Cave threatens to become a mass grave, as Dodge springs a fatal trap on the senior class of Lovecraft Academy. Hope is as fragile as a candle-flame wavering in the night… and as easy to extinguish.
There are three smaller storylines in this issue, plus a heartfelt two-page scene where Rufus encounters a stranger on his journey toward Lovecraft. Each thread needs to be judged separately, as there are some significant differences in quality between them.
First up is Bode, who’s trying to help his mom call the police. The attack on Nina Locke last issue prompted a number of reader complaints, and the situation is no less disturbing now. Nina, in her drunken state, can partially see Bode in his ghost form. Hill really goes for the heartstrings here, but readers may again consider these scenes beyond the pale.
Meanwhile, Kinsey is partying down in the cave. The writing is great here, particularly the way Bode/Dodge is just a bit off, but Rodriguez’ art is what steals the show. The layouts and flow of action are brilliant. When Dodge finally drops the act, and the living shadows come boiling up from the depths of the cave, they do so with a ferocity that will blow you back in your seat. Hill and Rodriguez have also mastered a great technique in this series, where they visually establish the next plot development before the previous one is quite finished.
That brings us to Tyler’s storyline, which is easily the weakest of the issue. Ambushed by shadows, he’s saved by his uncle, and they end up hiding in the trunk of a car. The awkward situation for them breaks some of the tension for us, but the subsequent heart-to-heart lacks the necessary emotional pay-off. Similarly, Tyler’s cliffhanger feels awkward, as if it’s been tacked on because we have to have one.
Success on three out of four storylines is more than a passing percentage, but the bungled cliffhanger feels cheap, especially so late in the saga, when virtually every reader is on board ’till the bitter end.
Zac Boone still can’t believe there’s not a comprehensive list of the known keys – not written in German – on the Internet. Follow him on Twitter.