Locke & Key by writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez has been one of the most intriguing and original creator-owned comics to follow in the past decade. The comic centers on Keyhouse and the many keys inside, all of which function in different magical ways. It's part horror, part fantasy, and, now, with this new two-issue series, part war story. Locke & Key: …In Pale Battalions Go… #1 tells a story of these keys set in 1915, as the world is torn apart by World War I.
Locke & Key: …In Pale Battalions Go… #1 is a bit of a domestic caper. John, the oldest son of Chamberlain Locke, feels compelled by what he sees as his duty to join the way. He's young and American, though, which is one roadblock. Another is that he's attempting to join the Canadian forces and needs access to a certain one of his parents' magical keys to do so. His efforts and quelled early in this issue, and the rest of the story focuses on the boy's journey of trickery, magic, and manipulation in an effort to do what he believes is the right thing to do: use the keys to fight. Joe Hill impresses here not only by delivering another memorable Locke & Key story but by creating a comic in his well-known universe that feels entirely different in tone from the original series while still feeling consistent with it. This one is more of a quiet story of intrigue that ponders violence and duty rather than the page-turning and mind-bending horror of the original. However, it's an interesting read that shows Hill's versatility.
In Locke & Key: …In Pale Battalions Go… #1, Gabriel Rodriguez is flexing the diversity of his lineart the same way that Joe Hill does with his writing. He delivers a war comic with thin, purposefully warbly lines that gives the whole affair a tense, uncertain feel. The mixture of Rodriguez's stellar artwork and Jay Fotos light, cool color palette evokes another war comic involving Canada: We Stand on Guard. The character work by Rodriguez is great, as always, but his atmosphere is perhaps even more stunning than usual.
Locke & Key: …In Pale Battalions Go… #1 is a worthy addition to the series that genuinely adds to the saga of Locke & Key rather than spinning wheels. A cynic may wonder if Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez return to this series now that the TV show is out to cash in, but that would be, as the cynical point of view often is, wrong-headed. This issue proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Locke & Key has a deep well of stories waiting to be told.