After five years, this is it: “Locke and Key: Alpha #2” is the final issue of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s acclaimed horror saga. Since “Locke and Key: Omega” was the grand finale, “Locke and Key: Alpha” functions more as a coda or epilogue. Despite the tragedies in the previous arc and all the tears shed, it’s a happy ending to this epic horror story.
Although “Locke and Key: Alpha” has two funeral scenes, it isn’t a downer. If anything, Hill errs on the side of sentimentality. The funerals themselves are tearjerkers. Rodriguez’s facial expressions are excellent, with enough intensity to match the words being said, but without slipping into maudlin melodrama.
Every major character has moments, but in “Locke in Key: Alpha” #2, Tyler Locke holds the spotlight, and all the action follows his footsteps. Although all the Lockes except for Bode are dynamic characters, Ty’s arc was one of the most dramatic, and while Hill devoted almost equal time to Kinsey’s life in previous storylines, Ty is a more typical protagonist with his desire for expiation and his quest for individuality. Rodriguez dresses him older, making him look more like his dad by changing him out of his teenage “jock clothes” into glasses and a button-down shirt. Ty takes it upon himself put things in order, and the final reunion scene with his father completes his journey into manhood.
Kinsey and Nina get screen time as well, but significantly less than Tyler. It makes sense that Hill needs to focus on Ty more to give the action of the issue more shape, but Kinsey and Nina’s relationships and stories feel neglected by comparison. Similarly, fan-favorite character Rufus barely gets any dialogue, despite his large role in the events of “Locke and Key: Omega.”
For a horror story, “Locke and Key: Alpha” is unusual for its preference for compassion instead of justice in the final goodbye to the series villain, Dodge. What becomes of Ellen Voss is predictable, down to the question and answer that end the scene, but Rodriguez’s grasp of pacing pulls offs old moves with aplomb. Similarly, Jordan’s father also makes an appearance, and while the ending shot for the scene – a main character jumping on someone else’s ride and speeding along on a road with sunshine and sand – feels ripped off from a million teenage movies, Ty’s encounter with Mr. Gates has emotional force. The reader has heard all these lines before, but Hill and Rodriguez’s work is so skillful that they still have impact.
The unexpected physical resurrection of one of the main characters feels contrived, but it’s not exactly unwelcome. Hill’s pacing makes the event a surprise, and it seems churlish to complain. Still, the soap-opera miracle feels straight out of a weepy TV season finale or a musical like “La bohÃ¨me.” It strains belief, even if the reader may want only good things for these characters. “Locke and Key” has constructed a magic system that has expanded incrementally with the addition of keys, but the explanation for this event comes across as mumbo jumbo that doesn’t grow organically out of the pre-existing rules. It’s a deux ex machina to mend wrongs, and it’s significant enough that the scene ends up setting the tone and being the biggest takeaway plot point.
Like “Locke and Key: Alpha” #1, the price tag is $7.99, and even with all the photos and extra material in the back, this feels like price gouging. There is no way that long-time fans are going to pass on the ending, but the price tag raises expectations for better extras.
This isn’t to diminish that this is a fine ending for “Locke and Key,” but it is limited in scope, concentrating on closure and “making things right” over realism in order to put all the toys back in their proper places. It’s a little too neat, but it’s a satisfying issue to consume and finish, and it feels simultaneously good and bad to see such an excellent creator-owned series come to an intentional end.