‘Locke & Key/The Sandman: Hell & Gone’ #1 brings two much-loved comic book universes together in a crossover you never knew you wanted. Lifting a plot point going way, way back to ‘The Sandman’ #1, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez deliver a first issue that’s beautifully surreal and macabre and drags you in by the neck.
I will confess that I came into Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez’s Locke & Key through the TV show, but that would make me the perfect person to review Locke & Key/The Sandman: Hell & Gone #1, a comic book crossover involving two much-loved series heavy in history. I mean, how does one create a comic book that allows any reader onto the gourd floor when both Locke & Key and The Sandman Universe is so well established?
Well, judging by this first issue being put out by IDW, it’s not that difficult. Or rather it’s not that difficult when its Joe Hill writing said crossover. After a very concise summation of the Keyhouse presented on the back of the front cover we get straight into it with a macabre scene that sets the surreal yet menacing tone of the book from the very first page, as we witness the decrepit flesh worn hand of Jack Locke slowly emerge from the well in the Keyhouse of 1920s.
Thankfully both The Sandman and Locke & Key have a good deal of similarities in their narrative histories that allows for a crossover of this magnitude to be tackled on the grandiose, epic scale such a meet-up requires. Both deal with the past, present and the future and so Hill manages to incorporate a very specific event from The Sandman into this all-new story. The early trip made to Wyche Cross by Mary Locke in 1927 should immediately be recognisable to die-hard Sandman fans as the location from The Sandman #1 where Morpheus is captured by a cabal of like-minded gentlemen led by Roderick Burgess, the ‘Daemon King’. And if the location doesn’t immediately awaken your fanboy memories, then the mask worn by the house’s young master – Alex Burgess – most certainly will. And just like that, the visceral muscle tissue of both fantasy-horror series is connected expertly.
Two families – not just publishing companies apart, but continents apart too – coming together after Mary has heard tell of “something eternal and dangerous” Burgess has captured. Again, no guessing who or what that is if you’re a Sandman fan. And I dare say there will plenty of them who pick up this. All in the hope of finding some way of saving Jack Locke through supernatural intervention.
Rodríguez’s artwork is simply stunning. His mastery over perspective, architecture and character match to Hill’s own master of horror makes this comic a must-read and another example of the kind of comic you pass onto any friend keen to get into comics. His ability to add a real sense of space, texture and weight to each panel and page really comes across on the rating of this book and whether its the world of Locke & Key or that of The Sandman that he’s tackling, it’s incredible to behold.
I can only imagine Neil Gaiman was more than pleased in the end result of this first issue. The realism Rodríguez’s brings to his art style only makes this more creepier. Beauty is often contrasts sharply with ugliness, and as the issue progresses we get even more of the Sandman Universe encroaching on the real estate of Locke & Key. And, as is proper for any visit into the Dreaming, it’s all very surreal, and evocatively illustrated by Rodríguez. A mixture of Salvador Dali and Wes Craven with the artistic influence of Moebius guiding Rodriguez’s hand. That’s quite the mix! And it delivers a comic book you’ll no doubt want to read time and again. I’m already calling this one the crossover of the year! I can’t see any other crossover being this well put together and so livingly too.
Mary Locke makes for an exception hero and nothing seems to faze her. Although, with the revelation of the final page, it really should. But then, she doesn’t know what we do. Or at least fans of The Sandman comic. It makes for an exquisite and terrifying cliffhanger, that’s for sure.
Locke & Key/The Sandman: Hell & Gone #1 is available now from IDW Publishing