the bestest artist in comics :: the bestest issue of the bestest comic, drawn the bestest
Yesterday I mentioned a model of review — specifically comics review — that I learned from former Psycomic Editor-in-Chief (and all-around oft-quoted reviewer of yesteryear) Randy Lander. Randy taught a younger me that harsh / negative reviews didn’t really do much for our community or the industry, and that the best thing we could do with our online influence was to spread the love. Again, Five With Flores is supposed to be where you learn to love what YT loves.
I get a lot of pats on the head and thank-yous about recommending Young Justice; but most everybody who follows my podcast has basic cable and Cartoon Network, and given the feedback I got from this all-time favorite blog post there are more than a few Five With Flores readers that fondly remember the super heroic animation of our collective youths. So trying out a cartoon isn’t much of a stretch.
This is more special to me:
Grand Prix Champion Matt Sperling — not a comics reader at all coming in — went out and tried Locke & Key (which as you can read from the post title is the best comic book currently published) on my Twitter recommendation, and liked it. Yay!
Now I’m recommending it to you.
Lockey & Key isn’t your typical four-color superhero comic. It is quite simply a work of fictional genius; supernatural horror that almost could not be told in any other genre. It is a kind of haunted house story with a unique angle on superpowers and magic; I don’t want to give too much away in case you like the sample and go back and read it from the beginning (pretty sure more than a few of you will). Every issue of Locke & Key has been written and drawn by the same two collaborators — Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez — and perhaps the greatest thing about this journey has been watching how they two have progressed and grown.
I was really impressed by Joe Hill and when I got finished reading the first several Locke & Key adventures I went and looked him up. It turns out his dad is Stephen King (yes that Stephen King). Hill was born Joseph Hillstrom King, but operates as “Joe Hill” so as to succeed as a writer on his own efforts rather than courting comparison (or unfair advantage) due to his famous papa. All the more admiration, am I right? Hill just won the 2011 Eisner award for Best Writer (the Eisners being “the Oscars” of comics).
Rodriguez is a different story. Locke & Key is a relatively small story published by IDW, which I assume most of you have never heard of as it isn’t either Marvel or DC (i.e. Disney or WB); Rodriguez was a relative unknown when he sat down to draw the first volume. To be honest I didn’t particularly like his art at the onset… I am just not into that cartoon-y style, even well done, and especially on a deadly serious supernatural horror adventure like Locke & Key.
But the real triumph of this book is that over the first four volumes, Rodriguez makes some kind of light speed leap, and transforms himself from a guy lucky enough to be on the “best story in comics” ride to simply the best visual storyteller in comics. By Volume IV he more than equals Hill’s contribution, which is stunning considering how good Hill is.
There are a lot of good artists out there, but by Volume IV, #1, Gabriel Rodriguez is a lone comic book conductor atop a lofty mountain juggling half a dozen different, disparate, tools… and kicking ass with every one.
Seeing as I actually paid for it, I was kind of stunned that YOU CAN READ VOLUME IV / #1 FOR FREE on Comixology (Comixology is the official site for digital publication used by pretty much everyone; I have switched from trade paperbacks to buying like 80% of my comics on the iPad at this point).
So you can see for yourself.
Here are two preview pages, 1 and 2 actually:
See how on one page Rodriguez apes a near-perfect Calvin & Hobbes Bill Watterson, then shifts to a kind of more precise Arthur Adams? He uses the two aesthetics to signal two different POVs throughout the issue (which itself is a heartbreaker) to give an already-effective script the push, not from “good” to “great” but from “great” to “best”. Back when I reviewed-reviewed comics ten years ago, I once gave Carlos Pacheco an “issue of the year” nod for Fantastic Four for half the storytelling chops; this is just typical Locke & Key at Gabriel’s current level.
Go read Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom Vol. 4 #1 for free; then do me a solid and tell me how much you liked it, like Matt did 🙂
There is literally nothing I would rather read in any medium right now. Hope you like anywhere near as much as I do. As this ish is free, I figure thousands of you will at least try!
Or, if you want to go the old school route (like Matt did):