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‘Locke & Key: The Covers of Gabriel Rodriguez’ – Hardcover Review

Locke & Key: The Covers of Gabriel Rodriguez provides readers with a glimpse into the artist’s creative process. Images made famous by the series are presented in various states of completion or development (e.g., stark black-and-white sketches lead to full-color renderings). While all of the images have distinctive characteristics, there are certain subjects that repeat throughout. For example, Rodriguez’s consistent attention to hair — human or otherwise — and shadow is noteworthy. Often, these subjects are used to frame the action or, alternatively, they stand as a central focal point in the image. In either form, they function as a point of contrast for the rest of the scene: the blood; the curiosities; the gothic hues that cloud mysterious fountains; and so on.

The interplay between the organic and inorganic in these tableaus is amplified by the collection’s organization. We can see Rodriguez constructing these elaborate situations and get a sense over time of his deliberate efforts to mingle the matter-of-fact with the outrageous. Within these efforts, two basic patterns emerge: covers concerned with immediate action (e.g., Welcome to Lovecraft Issue #3 and Issue #5), as well as more surreal works that beg explanation (e.g., Head Games Issue #5 and Crown of Shadows Issue #6). It is also true that there are various landscape pieces and more typical pulp horror renderings in the collection, which are noteworthy as individual works, but which become caught up in the collections’ larger themes and overarching moods.

One of the more fascinating aspects of Locke & Key: The Covers is how the individual pieces work without conveying any real sense of story. While certain images like Keys to the Kingdom Issue #3 and #6 indicate that something significant has just occurred, and images likes Crown of Shadows Issue #4 and #5 indicate that something significant is about to occur, none of these images connote what might be described as a larger story; however, this is not a shortcoming of the document, precisely because the artist often succeeds in his efforts to indicate the significance of his subjects in the moment of their rendering. A bloody handprint on a calendar, a child battering at a window to be saved from encroaching monsters, a ghostly face emanating from a massive wooden doorway — these glimpses into the world are arresting in and of themselves.

If there is a criticism to be launched at these often very accomplished works, it would be that many of the images contain unrefined and somewhat bland faces. Rodriguez is clearly more accomplished at rendering the grotesque than the mundane, and this shows in his efforts to capture looks of horror or malevolence in his cast of human characters. Unlined faces with Disney-esque eyes in various states of turmoil persist throughout, and the viewer will often find that there are a range of other, far more interesting subjects in the scene to regard. This is only intended as a minor criticism, but it is nevertheless significant as the monsters and mayhem in these covers are essentially meaningless if they are not connected with real human emotion. Without this connection, the image can fail in its effort to convey a sense of actual threat; however, such missteps are few and far between in Locke & Key: The Covers, and fans of the series will surely delight in their purchase.




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