"Locke and Key: Omega" #5 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez picks up right after the cliffhanger of the last issue, with Tyler Locke shot in the stomach outside Keyhouse and most of the senior class trapped with Dodge in the Drowning Cave.
To my relief, Hill and Rodriguez don't leave readers hanging about Tyler. It's Mom to the rescue as Nina Locke heroically tries to save her son. This leads to an unlikely cameo and reunion scene with the dead Rendell Locke. Hill's dialogue is excellent for this touchy scene, and it's also a nice talking heads interlude between all of the action, but the underlying mechanics are weaker. Rendell shows up because he is there to utter the takeaway line that "keys turn both ways." This Big Clue is sure to point to a way to fight Dodge, but it's unclear why this information has to be relayed in a cryptic riddle (other than that it would be too easy to be given the solution straight-up). It's a moment where the needs of the plot drive the story more than logic.
The action alternates rapidly back and forth between the Keyhouse and the Drowning Cave. Hill relies on Rodriguez's detailed backgrounds to make the transitions obvious, which just goes to show that textboxes with situating lines like "Back at the Keyhouse…" are unnecessary if an artist can clue the reader in quickly enough. The pace of the story in "Locke and Key: Omega" #5 never dips below high tension because Hill and Rodriguez don't bother with verbal or visual clutter.
Cleverly, Hill to gives readers a magically happy moment the Keyhouse, only to follow it up with more stomach-churning bad news in the Drowning Cave. The contrast heightens the pathos. Similarly, it's a great, humanizing touch that Hill is able to drop in bits of humor amid the panic, like when Jordan freaks about "little people."
The character of Jordan gets particular attention in "Locke and Key: Omega" #5. Jordan is a variation an archetype, specifically the hot, messed-up Poor Little Rich Girl who becomes a self-destructive Bad Girl to rebel against the confines of her life. I usually hate this character when I encounter her in fiction. Typically, she is observed from the outside by a young male narrator, for whom she is a tragic symbol of unknowable, fragile beauty and lost innocence, who the hero will attempt to rescue and inevitably fail to do so. She seldom feels like a real girl or woman. Jordan fits solidly into this template, but luckily, both Hill and Tyler Locke treat her less like a fantasy and more like a person. For a tragic bad girl, Jordan is unusually self-aware, and Rodriguez's body language conveys just the right mix of blithe recklessness and ironic intelligence for her.
Jordan's function in "Locke and Key" thus far was to break Tyler Locke's heart. In "Locke and Key: Omega" #5, she gets the kind of redemption that "her kind" usually get, and yet, somehow her story rises above stale stereotype, even if her final fate is unknown.
The ending of "Locke and Key: Omega" #5 is heavily and openly foreshadowed, but none of that takes away from its emotional power. The full-page final panel is a great reminder of how silence can be louder than words. Rodriguez's framing, pacing and shading all contribute to a heart-stopping, breathlessly beautiful moment.
"Locke and Key: Omega" #5 is only two issues away from the end of Hill and Rodriguez's epic family horror drama, but it's never too late to get into something this good.