Review: This is definitely a unique review this website, but it definitely fits under the credo. It doesn’t really get any more indie than this. Apparently AudioComics are a thing, taking away the visual element of comics and instead using sound and your imagination for that part. It’s not a bad way to do things however, and it’s definitely great for adapting comic stories themselves for the audio medium.
This is also unique in that before listening to this 13 hour adventure that tells the entire 6 volume story of Locke & Key I had never experienced the comic. So as far as story goes, I have nothing to compare this audio drama to so I can only imagine it was faithful to the source material. So keep that in mind if you’re a fan of the original series.
Finally, I originally heard about this audio dramatization from Fred Greenhalgh himself on his weekly podcast Radio Drama Revival, which I listen to regularly, where he offered up the entire adventure for free for a limited time on Audible. Having always wanted to read this series, and being given this opportunity I could not pass it up.
And damn, Locke & Key is great.
That’s the short review. The long review goes like this:
Speaking on the story alone, in 6 volumes Joe Hill weaves a tale of horror and magic mixed with genuine human emotion and family dynamics. As the story focuses more closely on the three kids of the Locke family: Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode after they lose their father. Them and their mother, Nina, move across the United States to the Keyhouse Estate that had been looked over by their Uncle Duncan for years. And had been in their family for hundreds of years.
They discover magic keys filled with a very powerful magic that is only privy to kids. Once life as an adult begins to seep into you though, you forget the magic. This places the kids in an interesting predicament because not only do they have to keep all of this away from the adults in their lives, but also juggle real life while secretly battling off an evil spirit that wants the keys for itself.
Listening to Locke & Key I consistently got a feeling as if I was listening to a more mature version of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. I wonder if Joe Hill got any inspiration from Snicket. These kids certainly go through a series of unfortunate events. There’s also the themes of legacy and accountability, as the Locke kids must deal with these events as they tie into a dark past left originally in the shadows by their father, Rendell.
What caught me off guard immediately when digging into this coming of age tale is just how real the Locke family feels. A father who means well, but is too overbearing for his own good. A mother who cuts herself off from the world and hides behind the drink on the regular. A couple of teenagers, one who’s in that “rebellious stage” as he looms closer to adulthood and another who is 16 and full of insecurities. Finally a young boy who means well, but is too adventurous for his own good.
It’s these traits that lead to many complicated situations for the Lockes, and it’s also these family dynamics that lead to many of my favorite moments throughout the series.
The magic of the keys is a very interesting concept and something Hill uses with care. There’s one-hundred keys but in completion we only see a handful by comparison of that number. Each one casts a different spell of sorts, from being able to open one’s head and either add ideas or take out ideas using the Head Key to being able to turn into your “true” beast form using the Animal Key. And everything in between.
What I was impressed with the most as far as the keys went was Hill’s explanation for how the keys came to be made and how they work. It’s still very supernatural but also very logical within the context of the series. Hill takes precise care to make sure all of his story elements not only flow together well but flow together logically. If there was ever a moment in the story where I felt the story felt forced in order to get all the characters in their desired places was near the end of the series when Rufus travels from a Psychiatric Ward to the Keyhouse without any supervision. There is a moment where a lady asks him if anyone is watching over him, and I feel after that first contact he would not have been allowed to go the rest of the way to Keyhouse from the bus by himself due to his obvious down syndrome.
Speaking of Rufus, there is a plethora of side characters in this series whom all find some way to be important to the plot all throughout. Whether it’s being a victim to the demon known as Dodge or helping bring Dodge to his demise, each side character becomes important in some small significant way and I love that.
On the topic of Dodge, it is a wonderful villain. One of the best I’ve encountered in awhile. Perhaps I’m too used to substandard villains who don’t have the drive or balls to actually hurt the main characters. Too used to villains in name only who want to “end world suffering by becoming a God,” essentially making them good guys with a knack for bad deeds. No, Dodge is EVIL and his body count is astounding and without remorse. He wants to become a God yes, but he’s out for blood and to make the Earth a scorching hell.
I loved hating Dodge and being challenged by my emotions because I loved it and hated it at the same time. You’ve probably noticed I keep saying “it,” it’s because Dodge goes by no gender denomination and takes the form of both male and female throughout the series. It’s a great way to comment on gender identity using your villain as a sinister asshole and cunning bitch all at once.
Unfortunately there’s no thoughts I can give on the art of Locke & Key originally illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez. I’m sure his style is wonderful, but since this was purely audio I can only leave it at assumption.
On the subject of the production values, this was a pretty damn solid. The sound was expert, it was all really crisp and easy to hear. And only a few times did I get lost in what was going on because perhaps it was a couple of people grappling with one another and no narration to tell me what was going on. The voice actors were all really spot on. Some of the minor side characters could’ve use more practice in delivery their lines with more emotion, but that was never a thing that grated on me. It was never a sin that plagued the main actors either.
I was really impressed by the voice actor for Bode who does a great job at turning from an innocent little kid in the first half of the series to a wicked, potty mouthed baddy in the later half. It’s a turn that really takes a lot of talent to pull off. They cast Bode well. I was also very impressed by the actress who played Nina. A constant drunk who’s also in a constant depression from losing her husband is really not easy to pull off and like Bode was a shining beacon with acting that out shined everyone else.
Finally, my two favorite parts of the adventure had very little to do with the adventure at all funny enough. First, I was always satisfied when each volume came to an end. It felt like I had listened to an entire movie and I was marathoning 6 movies at once. Hill does a great job at ending each volume with resolutions to that book’s plots while setting up plenty of others for the next one. Usually resulting in seamless transitions in the story.
Second, the soundtrack to this drama was brilliant. It felt like I was listening to Harry Potter’s soundtrack minus that key theme everyone knows from HP. I want the music from the series in my mp3 player to listen on repeat all day. I love orchestral music. This was perfect.
I highly recommend Locke & Key, whether you experience it through the comics or the audio drama. I personally will still seek out the comics and read all of them, and if you’re a fan of Locke & Key already then by all means check this audio drama out. It may be 13 hours long, but where as comics help you form a visual attachment audio helps you form a personal attachment. There is a reason I cried during this story several times, and at the end of it all I smiled and cried in unison.
I haven’t done this in a very long time, but this was so good. And so I give this series…
Final Score: 5 Magical Keys out of 5
Editor’s Note: Interested in checking this out for yourself? Head right over to here!
Locke & Key: Complete Series – Audio Dramatization
IDW Publishing/FinalRune Productions/Audible Studios/AudioComics
Created by: Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez
Adapted by: Elaine Lee and Fred Greenhalgh
Directed by: William Dufris
Reviewed by: Derrick Crow
Summary: Adapted from the original comic from IDW, the series follows the Locke family after their father is killed. Finding themselves at the Keyhouse in Lovecraft, Massachusetts, the kids begin discovering magical keys that allow them powers in many different forms. However, they’re not the only ones after these kids as a powerful demon seeks to use the key of Keyhouse to bring about a new dark age.