Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom: “Sparrow”

By Roger

Nominated for Best Single Issue (Or One-Shot), Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom: “Sparrow” focuses on young Bode Locke. The issue is written by Joe Hill. Art is handled by Gabriel Rodriguez, with colors by Jay Fotos.

The issue starts with a single page meant to help folks new to the series get caught up. Basically, the Lockes have lost their father. Their ranks have been infiltrated by someone who’ll stop at nothing to get the key to the Black Door. And there are other keys, and each has the power to save them.

In this issue, Bode discovers one such key frozen in the birdbath outside the mansion. Upon walking, or rather crawling through the door which the key unlocks, Bode is transformed into a sparrow (hence the issue’s title). The issue’s lesson, which is delivered to you with the strength of a hardcover novel upside the head, lies in Bode learning the importance of friendship.

But what if you don’t want to be a part of the dangleberry gang? What if you like being alone with your own weird thoughts?! I don’t have to fit in! I don’t have to be a part of the flock!
– Bode Locke

You see Bode at the start of the issue having problems relating to kids his age. He talks about how he prefers his life of solitude and non-conformity. Upon being transformed into a sparrow, he is whisked up into a flock. He learns that no single sparrow acts as leader, but rather that they all work and think as one unit; a feathered Borg, if you will.

Moments after Bode passes through the door, Zack, the “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, passes through after him. Naturally, he takes on the form of a feral wolf. After a gruesome display of power, wherein he and several dogs attack a deer, the pack moves on to Bode’s brother and sister who are walking nearby in the woods. Bode sees this, and together with his flock, swoops down and attacks the pack. They save the two, however in so doing, lose many of the flock.

Bode returns to the door, is transformed back to his human form, and goes running to the field where the battle took place. He finds all of the dead sparrows on the ground, tears coursing from his eyes. The last page of the issue shows him interacting with the kids his age, though this time, he makes new friends.

This issue is quite literally one cliché after another. It’s well written, within reason, however there is nothing original in the story. The issue is still interesting, and part of me can understand why it was nominated for Best Single Issue (or One-Shot), however I was not that impressed that I would give it my vote as best. In fact, I probably would not have nominated it.

As for Rodriguez’s art, it’s quite good. That said, I did not find it consistent, in terms of style. At times, it has a Calvin & Hobbes feel, while on the very next page, it is more realistic. This lack of consistency is especially noticeable when the flock of sparrows attack the feral pack. While some of the panels are drawn quite seriously, others have sparrows with green fighter pilot helmets. Facial expressions are also sometimes off, which off-sets the mood.

Between the issue’s blatant lesson, which would make an after school special seem subtle, and the on-again off-again art, I would have found this issue quite difficult to nominate for an Eisner. Apparently the judges disagree with me. That said, I hope they’ll agree that it sure as hell does not deserve to win.

Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom: “Sparrow”
Story: Joe Hill
Art: Gabriel Rodriguez, Jay Fotos

After a 25 year absence from comic books, Roger has returned, thanks in no small part to the iPad.


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  2. Jamie January 12, 2012, 6:51 pm

    While I agree with you on the cliche part. I just wanted to point out that the chances in art style are due to the changes in character perspective. When it’s the adult characters it’s realistic, and when it’s Bode it’s cartoony.

    • Roger January 13, 2012, 11:10 am

      Hi Jamie.

      I get that, however even then, I don’t feel it works.

      I’ve talked about this on various podcast episodes how tricky it is to employ two different styles for an issue, and though I get what the artists are trying to convey, far too often, I feel the effect is too jolting and serves no purpose other than to alienate me from the story.


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