REVIEW: Locke & Key: Clockworks #4

Locke & Key: Clockworks #4

Locke & Key: Clockworks #4

Written by Joe Hill
Art by Gabriel Rodriguez
Color by Jay Photos
Letters by Robbie Robbins

$3.99 / Color / 32 pages

IDW Publishing

It was the fall of 1987, and the Huxtables had journeyed to the mall. Clair’s prize squash sat on its dais in the upper concourse awaiting judgment. Apathetic to the celebration of nurtured produce, Theo and Vanessa clamored for the freedom to wander the shops and galleries alone. Cliff granted them pardon on the condition that they serve as chaperone to young Rudy. Beleaguered, the teens agreed and shuffled toward the escalator, their eight-year-old charge in tow.

The fragile covenant was broken when Vanessa spied Danny Brenner manning a small kiosk, duplicating keys for shoppers in need. Vanessa swooned. This baffled Theo. His sister had only previously mentioned the boy in passing, dismissing him as “ugly.” Vanessa conceded this, explaining that that was only because Danny had been dating Donna Gaffney at the time. Ensorceled by the key-maker, Vanessa approached the key-osk. She nor her brother noticed Rudy slip away, enveloped by the madding crowd.

Some months later in 1988, Rendell Locke and his classmates bewitched an audience during a production of The Tempest. Seduced by the glamour afforded them through the use of mystical keys and other artifacts, the clique is wary to abandon such enchantments as they approach adulthood. But there’s a problem. Long-dead Hans Riffel, last smithy to the Whispering Iron forge, had designed a failsafe against abuse of the keys by adults. Only children could access these item, and adults passing through the door of Keyhouse would forget the existence of such artifacts. Rendell and his ragtag group of Tempest Tamers had lived high on the boons of such magic–some like Kim and Mark seemingly dependent on it–so how were they to walk away from all that without a little bit of luster for the road? Rendell suggests creating new keys or talismans to award each of them a kind of glamour, an aura of charisma to charm all those they come into contact with. “It would make people want to…like us. That’s all.”

But as with the Huxtables, the makings of a new key could well blind these youths to the mischief of their youngest member. Unlike Rudy, Duncan Locke is very interested in how keys are made. His wanderings aren’t away, but toward the dangers of the Drowning Cave and the horrors that lie beneath the earth and sea. It’s that perfect blend of youthful mischief and the allure of the forbidden that serves as catalyst for destruction. By the end of this bloody episode, its doubtful Duncan or anyone else will happen upon their friend Kim Ogawa and find sanctuary in her father’s hibachi restaurant. (That’s what happened with Rudy)

In this latest installment of the “Clockworks” arc, Hill and Rodriguez continue to expound upon the complex mythology of Locke & Key. This flashback chapter is essentially a prequel to the main story, illuminating the life and times of Rendell Locke. It was Rendell’s murder that ushered Tyler, Kinsey, Bode and their mother to his ancestral home in Lovecraft, Massachusetts way back in issue #1. He’s long been a presence, but now we’re finally getting to know the boy from those old pictures. The boy who grew up to die so horribly. The boy who once called Dodge friend. Though the creative team is shedding light on the gears and cogs of this fascinating series, it’s never to the detriment of wonder. Call it demystification without harm to mystery. It’s the rare prequel that actually enhances the existing narrative, offering new insights readers should find wholly satisfying and totally compelling. Dodge remains an enigmatic character, but he’s no longer the one-dimensional Voldemort of this saga. There are other ambitions that led to evil weaseling its way into the mortal realm, and not all of them were handsome Luke “Dodge” Caravaggio’s.

Beyond the terrific additions to the series’ mythology, this issue also furthers the tale of these young friends introduced earlier in the arc. Not just Rendell and Dodge, but meek and girl-crazy Mark Cho, vibrant and sometimes callous Kim Topher, doomed Ellie Whedon, and Erin Voss, the girl secretly smitten with Rendell. I love these kids, warts and all. Maybes especially for the warts. If you’ve ever been in a drama club or really any co-ed group, you know these entanglements. You know these insecurities and hierarchies. To throw them into the Drowned Cave in an affect to tap that arcane leak for more magic reminds me so much of my favorite issue in the series, when Kinsey and her own friends dared to brave those same passages. The issue is filled with ironic touches, callbacks to past moments and visuals. It’s all foreshadowing to events we’ve already seen.

This issue is slightly weighted with exposition, but it’s all handled so deftly. By issue’s end, I felt like I knew much more about this strange tragedy of friends and family. But I was also left with so many tantalizing questions about the future of these wonderfully realized characters. As ever, Gabriel Rodriguez’s interiors are absolutely tremendous, each panel resplendent in detail. Perfect compositions. Clues. Easter eggs. And never at the loss of storytelling precision. No book looks so good and read so well with this kind of consistency.

Top left on the cover. “In 9 Issues, It’s All Over.” I want that number to be so much higher. To be indefinite. But I’m also ready to be swept away by Time and Tide.


Story: 5 / Art: 5 / Overall: 5

(Out of 5 Stars)


  1. I love this series and have been waiting for Hill and Rodriguez to reveal the history behind Rendell and his friends for what seems like forever, but this and the last issue have been let downs for me personally. I dont know, maybe i built it up too much in my head, or mabye i enjoyed the mystery and didnt really want all the answers revealed, which they seem to pretty much be doing. Also with Locke and Key i come to expect at least one page per issue which makes me gasp, which the last few issues havent provided. The ending of this issue was great though. Im probably just too impatient and just cant wait to get back to the cliffhanger in issue 2 of Clockworks. Im also looking forward to the bloodletting, which is sure to come soon, if we know anything about Dodge.

  2. Ah, can’t wait for this to be collected! Nice to see this talked about on this site because it is right up there with Scalped and Chew as one of the absolute best continuing series out there.

  3. Does anyone know when IDW releases this digitally? It always seems like there is a delay.

  4. This series is so good.
    I am constantly amazed by the things they do in this comic.
    After all the horror in this book this issue shows that the villian of the story is actually its greatest victim.

    • Ya the hero becomes the villain .. as larry david says.. pretty pretty pretty pretty good..
      Actually the best series of the last decade in my opinion.

  5. I just finished the fourth trade and I’m very eager for the fifth. I’m also suddenly in the mood to watch the Cosby show while listening to jazz and eating a pudding pop.

    Very fun review, Paul. Excellent work.