It’s time to continue Matt Reads Comics‘s October tradition: Re-reading the next volume of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke and Key! A series that, at this pace, will take us only six years to finish.
Where Vol. 1, Welcome to Lovecraft, established the series’s premise and ground rules, Vol. 2, Head Games, is more interested in teasing the series’s wider world and larger plot points to come. New keys and characters appear for a panel or page here and there, setting things up for Vol. 3 and beyond.
But that’s not to say Head Games lacks focus. From a superficial standpoint, this volume’s most intimately concerned with Bode’s discovery of the Head Key, an artifact that allows the user to unlock their own or someone else’s head and alter that person’s knowledge, memories, and personality. But the key is just a symbol of the volume’s wider concern, which is, how does what’s going on in our brain shape who we are, as well as the actions we take?
Mr. Ridgeway, Lovecraft High’s short-lived drama teacher, introduces this theme on the volume’s very first page, with some help from the Bard. And his death (a result of his own knowledge and actions) drives the plot of Head Games.
Confronted with yet another death, Kinsey and Tyler cope in different ways. Tyler attempts to reach out to his classmates, finding success with only the evil Zack/Lucas/Dodge (who is using the Lockes to his own ends). Tyler attempts to be a normal kid doing normal things, burying his grief down as far as he can.
Kinsey, however, decides she’s done feeling sad because people died. And she’s tired of feeling afraid.
So, using the power of the Head Key, she rips her ability to feel fear and grief out of her head.
Now, the Locke kids may know what the Head Key does, but they don’t know how it works. This is made clear when Bode, the first Locke to use the key, begins reciting a fettuccine alfredo recipe he stuffed in his head. He can recite the recipe, but he has no idea what most of the instructions mean.
In the same way, Kinsey’s choice to remove her ability to feel fear and sadness will likely carry significant unintended consequences. And in fact, it has at least one consequence before this volume’s end.
When Head Games isn’t concerned with the Locke children, it’s primarily concerned with the two characters who have met Dodge in his previous life: the Lockes’ Uncle Duncan and Lovecraft High gym coach Ellie Whedon. Both pay a high price for their knowledge of Dodge’s prior existence, and both’s memories let us in on past events that we (and the Locke kids) had previously not been privy to.
Overall, Head Games is a solid second volume. It changes more than one lead character’s status quo entirely and introduces us to keys that do something more psychologically interesting than turning people into ghosts or allowing them to teleport. With the Head Key, you can choose what you know and who you are. Or, if you’re Dodge, you can choose what OTHER PEOPLE know and who they are. That power’s infinitely more terrifying and malleable than the keys we’ve seen before. And now that Dodge is in possession of it, it’s hard to imagine he won’t get whatever it is he wants.
It’s that one last key piece of knowledge that Head Games doesn’t make us privy to: Who is Dodge really, and what does he want? To learn that, check back here next October, when I’ll take on Locke & Key: Vol. 3, Crown of Shadows.