Locke & Key should be kept under Lock & Key
Locke & Key: Head Games #6 is the end of the six-issue “Head Games” series, but asks more questions than it answers. It is a psychological thriller, as the sadistic Dodge holds Ellie Whedon in thrall, and seeks to erase all her memories of him so as to cover his tracks. The issue is an extended flashback of Ellie at a New England beach house with her evil mother and mentally retarded 14-year-old son.
The comic book exudes an aura of pure nastiness through the characters of Dodge and Ellie's mother. Dodge has Ellie's skull open with a mystical key and taunts her in her helplessness. There's a phenomenon called “sleep paralysis” (which I've experienced) where you awake from sleep while your body is still unable to move. It's rather horrific and is the best metaphor for how Dodge deals with Ellie.
In the flashback his magical control generates, Ellie's mother is an old crone who constantly insults and demeans her daughter. She constantly chain smokes, despite her grandson's health problems, and even burns him with a cigarette. Ellie's mother is completely revolting and hatred emanates from her. She reminds Ellie that her son's father left them, that men have taken advantage of her in the past, etc.
Although the book ends on a note of defiance towards Dodge, which will lead into further Locke & Key tales in the fall, I just felt glad that the whole thing was over. It's a comic so nasty it almost makes you want to take a bubble bath and eat ice cream just to forget about it. As art, it is an incisive look at injustices perpetrated on the innocent and helpless, while those who could otherwise intervene stand as frozen onlookers. However, that sort of message is conveyed far more clearly in other comics, for instance, in something more realistic and accessible like Maus.
For me, Locke & Key is too magical, too impossible, and too bizarre to feel anything other than just plain “icky”.
Goes on sale July 1st