“Locke & Key: The Golden Age“
Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
Color Artist: Jay Fotos
Letterers: Robbie Robbins and Shawn Lee
Sandman Consultant: Neil Gaiman
Reviewed by Steve J. Ray
April 26th will see the release of Locke & Key: The Golden Age, a hardcover collection that’s the perfect introduction to the characters, worlds, and mystical keys that the series is named for.
I can’t lie, but I’m fairly new to the wonder that is Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez, and Jay Fotos’ Locke & Key Universe. Last year’s incredible Sandman Universe crossover mini-series, “Hell & Gone”, made me a firm fan and now I’m hooked on the comics, TV show, and anything else I can get my sweaty little mitts on.
If you want in on this amazing series then I have some great news for you… this book is the perfect place to start.
This is a truly lovely volume. Locke & Key: The Golden Age includes two previously published short stories, “Small World” and “Open the Moon,” as well as the complete three-part miniseries “…In Pale Battalions Go…” as well as the complete two-part Sandman Universe crossover, “Hell & Gone.”
As a special treat exclusive to this hardcover collection, The Golden Age includes the previously unpublished “Face the Music” short story, created by Hill and Rodriguez as part of a vinyl record project that, sadly, never came to fruition. It’s a whimsical tale of the Locke family set in the early 1900s, and it introduces a brand-new key: the Orchestra Key.
As well as being a book that contains fabulous stories, the volume also collects over twenty covers, main and variant, from the tales and series contained within its pages.
I previously reviewed issues #0, #1, and #2 of “Hell & Gone” and loved them. I have to say, though, that this collected edition surpasses what came before, as it also collects what could be called Locke & Key‘s “Greatest Hits”; or at the very least the tales that best pave the road to the wonderful Sandman Universe Crossover that closes the book.
I’ve read both “Open The Moon” and “Hell & Gone” before, but the inclusion of “Small World” and “…In Pale Battalions Go…” makes this collection a legitimate novel. We get to see characters’ journeys, from childhood to adulthood and readers get a complete story that’s cohesive, clever, fun, scary, and hugely entertaining. I have to admit that I devoured this book, but this way of reading it probably doesn’t do it justice. What I would recommend is taking it chapter by chapter, and letting the situations, characters, and history in these pages sink in. Buy it the moment it comes out, and read a chapter per night… that’ll work.
I’m so glad that I’d already read part of this tale last year, but re-reading it with the added (beautiful and essential) material included in Locke & Key: The Golden Age has not only made the fire for wanting more Locke & Key burn brighter within me, it’s made my appreciation of the talents of Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez, and Jay Fotos even stronger.
The connections between the Sandman and L&K universes are far deeper than I thought and go back way further than I’d imagined. Scenes that intrigued me from “Hell& Gone” make so much more sense, now that I’ve read Locke & Key: The Golden Age. Watch out for letters received, and a red scarf early in the book; the pay-off’s a doozy!
Joe Hill’s writing is first-rate and, this is the highest compliment I can give, I feel it to be on Gaiman’s level. This volume will sit proudly as part of my Sandman library, while the single issues from last year will join my ever-growing Locke & Key collection.
These stories were my introduction to the art of Gabriel Rodriguez and Jay Fotos. I’m happy to say that I will now gladly pick up anything I see with these gentlemen’s names on it, in much the same way I already do with the work of Joe Hill and Neil Gaiman.
Letterers Robbie Robbins and Shawn Lee’s work is also flawless, as they’ve added a great many words, flawlessly, to stunningly rendered pages. Their styles are very different, but both men did a great job of making the dialogue flow, even with the tricky task of having German subtitles in a few chapters. The artistry comes in with how they’ve done all that without ruining the pacing of the tales, or obliterating the stellar artwork. Bravo.
I’m going to be spending a lot of money on Locke & Key books in the upcoming weeks and months. Of course, this is only a negative because I am but a humble, underpaid journalist. My life is still filled with artistic riches, and these volumes will only add to those.
On the plus side, my wife and offspring, who were already Sandman fans, loved these stories too and have now agreed to binge-watch the Locke & Key TV show with me.
Horror and fantasy fans – buy this book. Sandman fans – buy this book. Locke & Key fans – buy this book. To those who don’t read comics but crave adventure, thrills, magic, lore, fascinating characters, or anyone who’d like their own key (see what I did there?) to two glorious fictional universes and a TV show (soon to be two) that will change your opinions on just what comics can be… BUY THIS BOOK!
Images, Digital Preview Copy, and limited edition 2022 Online Exclusive version of the book, courtesy of IDW. Courtesy Hardcover Review copy courtesy of, and available to order from Penguin Random House. Locke & Key: The Golden Age can be pre-ordered now and will be available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, WH Smiths, Waterstones, plus comic and book shops everywhere, from April 26th: ISBN 978-1-68405-785-6