Locke & Key
Locke & Key/Sandman: Hell & Gone #1, variant cover by Justine Frany

Locke and Key/Sandman: Hell & Gone #1

Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodríguez
Color Artist: Jay Fotos
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Cover Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
Publishers: IDW/DC

Taken as a singular body of imaginative fiction, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman is essentially a treatise on story. It’s about the narratives we dream up to not only explain our world but to also imagine new ones. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez’s Locke and Key can also be taken as an exploration of story, but its main concern lies in how we imagine these stories. It’s not surprising, then, that these two series found enough common ground for a crossover, but that doesn’t mean it can’t conjure up a few unique surprises of its own.

Locke & Key/Sandman: Hell & Gone #1 takes readers back to the very first Sandman book for a look at how Morpheus will possibly start bleeding over into the Locke & Key universe. As such, this crossover comic functions under the assumption readers have at least read the first Sandman volume and also know how the world of Locke & Key operates—or have read Locke & Key: …In Pale Battalions Go.

Locke Key Sandman

The story centers on Mary Locke’s search for a way to rescue her brother’s soul from Hell after his unfortunate dealings in Keyhouse during the First World War. This search leads Mary to an encounter with Morpheus, and other known personalities from his realm, that opens a path that can either make her rescue attempt a success or guarantee her soul meets the same fate as her brother’s.

It’s too early to tell if the crossover will ultimately favor one series or the other, but issue #1 definitely puts Locke & Key in the lead. Mary’s encounter with the magical beings of Sandman’s domain feel quite exploratory and it’s all taken in from her perspective. In a way, it’s as if Hill and Rodríguez were given Gaiman’s toys to play with and they’ve decided to go ahead and do so while making sure their utmost admiration for them and their source material comes through in every page.

Rodríguez in particular has reached into his entire repertoire of artistic skills to bring the world of The Endless to life as an expression of pure imagination that carries the full weight of history and storytelling Sandman is known for. Hill’s script gives the art room to breath and allows it to carry a lot of the worldbuilding, and rightfully so.

While Locke & Key seems to be the leading voice thus far, the book is definitely more of a feast for fans of Gaiman’s creation. Locations, creatures, and the odd librarian or two make meaningful appearances that go beyond mere Easter egging. They color the world a particular way that immediately establishes Mary as a visitor in a place not her own, but also not entirely alien to her.

Locke Key Sandman

Both comic universes are known for their blend of fantasy and horror, with fantasy at the forefront in Sandman and horror behind the wheel in Locke & Key. That same feel carries over to the crossover, which isn’t out of place given the horror elements from both sides favor existential dread and impending doom rather than just sticking to the terrible things that hide in the shadows waiting to scare you. This approach to horror makes sure both series strike a balance story-wise while also deepening the darkness that creeps in through the comic’s pages.

The promise of magical keys mixing in with metaphorical dreams elevates Locke & Key/Sandman: Hell & Gone #1 into an entirely new category of crossover stories. There’s nothing out there on the stands quite like it other than the various volumes of comics belonging to the series involved in the crossover. The amount of imagination on display is staggering, commendable even. It’s nothing short of the stuff dreams are made of.

Co-published by IDW and DC Comics, Sandman/Locke & Key: Hell & Gone #1 is in stores now.