16th Apr2021

‘Locke & Key / Sandman: Hell and Gone #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Joe Hill | Art by Gabriel Rodriguez | Published by IDW Publishing

When it comes to genre fiction royalty, you’d be hard pressed to do better than Joe Hill and Neil Gaiman, or their most famous creations Sandman and Locke & Key. Joe Hill is, of course, the son of Stephen King, and a fine horror/ mystery writer in his own right. It would take all day to list Neil Gaiman’s achievements, both in comics and outside of, but with these two creators you have creative gold. Artist Gabriel Rodriguez shouldn’t be overlooked either, as both co-creator of Locke & Key and a fine creator in his own right. This book, a ‘team up’ of sorts but more a crossover of mythologies, should be a slam dunk of a success. I’ve certainly been looking forward to it. It’s worth picking up the #0 preview issue if you can, before reading this, as it has a nice lead-in to this series as well as an index of all the magical keys sure to be mentioned. Not essential, but some extra seasoning on an already tasty dish.

I’m assuming that most people interested in this book are up to speed on Locke & Key and Sandman, but if not you just need to know that the Sandman follows Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams, and Locke & Key follows the inhabitants down the years of Keyhouse, where the Locke family look after a set of powerful magical keys. The starting point for this book is a tragedy. Fourteen year old Jack Locke, back in 1915, had tried to end the First World War by using the Anywhere Key, but ended up bringing the war to Keyhouse itself, with his mother Fiona killed. Jack killed himself too. This led the surviving Locke family members to continue on as best they could. Chamberlin Locke, the father, and his daughters Mary and Jean. Chamberlin is as haunted as you would expect, and with the help of the keys keeps calling Jack back from Hell to talk to him. Or what’s left of him. All very creepy and dysfunctional.

October 4th 1927, and we’re in Wych Cross, England. Mary Locke has travelled here to seek an audience with Roderick Burgess. Burgess, it is rumoured, has an entity imprisoned in his house, one that may allow Mary to bargain for her brother Jack’s soul. Burgess, in return, has heard of these keys that can unlock new perceptions, and wants one made for him. It seems that Chamberlin Locke had already refused such a price but Mary is desperate, and she gives Burgess the Matchstick Key, one capable of setting fire to anyone or anything instantly. Even a soul. Time to go to the basement and meet Shaper.

Shaper is, of course, Morpheus, imprisoned in a magically created prison. As much as Mary pleads and begs, he doesn’t respond, not through word or gesture. She, though, has a plan of sorts. Burgess has a son, Alex, who has some sort of magical mask which he wears to experience vivid dreams. She does a temporary swap. He gets the Anywhere Key to visit the Wild West, she gets to use the mask. This she does, and ‘wakes’ up to encounter everyone’s favourite House of Mystery duo, Cain and Abel. The House of Mystery of course is a sort of companion in weird architecture to Keyhouse. Encounters follow, as she travels through The Dreaming encountering all the places and characters we know and love. The best place to end up? The Library of Dream. The worst place? The Library of Dreams. Especially when you see who’s in it.

This was every bit as fulfilling as I hoped it would be. The merging of these two very distinct universes was seamless, as though they had always been two halves of a whole. Joe Hill, with input from ‘research assistant’ Neil Gaiman, has given us a story to both wow the fans with its service to them, and one that is just a damn good story. I genuinely didn’t want it to end, loved it. The art by Gabriel Rodriguez was of course superb. You couldn’t imagine a Locke & Key book without him, but you also know who’s door should get a knock when they need an artist for The Dreaming next. It reads and feels like a classic Vertigo book, a Sandman one at that, and I couldn’t pay it a higher compliment.

Mary Locke has, for better or worse, risked everything to save the soul of her brother. Should she have? Will The Dreaming be a place where her dreams are fulfilled, or where her nightmares take over. Can’t wait to find out.

Superb.

***** 5/5

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