This entire series is great and Crown of Shadows is no exception. Beware! Spoilers and such beyond the cut.
In previous volumes Hill has focused on the secrecy inherent in the symbol of a lock and key. His characters had secrets locked away and other characters had the keys to release these dark secrets, both metaphorical keys and physical keys. In this volume Joe Hill focuses on the theme of responsibility. He shows us an alcoholic mother neglecting her children and Kinsey’s cave adventure that almost left her responsible for the death of her friends. We even see the soul of Sam who holds Zac responsible for his death and seeks retribution.
By focusing on responsibility, Joe Hill highlights another aspect of the lock and key symbol. To hold a key, whether it be the key to a door or to someone’s heart, is to have a responsibility for keeping it safe. The characters in this series have responsibilities to each other and to the house and it’s these responsibilities both define and drive the characters. This sort of brilliant writing is what takes Locke and Key beyond just entertaining. It asks the reader to think about what keys they hold and exactly how holding those keys shape their own lives.
Since this is a comic I really should talk (read: gush) about the art. Gabriel Rodriguez continues his clever and poignant use of space. Take, for example, the two panels where the mother is watching video of her dead husband. Rodriguez draws the panels so we can see reflection of the t.v. in her wine glass. Brilliant composition! It’s the most economic use of space (we can see both the stimulus and the character’s reaction at once), but also suggests that everything she does now is seen through an alcoholic haze. I also enjoyed the panels where Tyler used the giant key. Using the entire page for a single panel was a bold move that worked well. It drove home the point that this battle was HUGE and allowed the reader to see more detail than we usually get in the much smaller panels.
Can’t wait for the text trade!