So, remember how crazy I went over the first volume of Joe Hill’s graphic novel Locke & Key?
It’s definitely a series that I want to continue reading, just as soon as the local library starts bringing in other volumes. Either that, or I might just break down and buy the set. I don’t know. Cheap Loba is cheap.
Regardless, I was impressed enough by Hill’s writing that I knew I wanted to experience it in its longer, less-illustrated form. When I returned Locke & Key, I checked to see if the library had any of his books in stock and…huzzah! Indeed, they did.
This is how I ended up reading Heart-Shaped Box…and falling even more in love with Joe Hill.
Okay, for full disclosure, I’m just going to come out and say what I alluded to in my review of Locke & Key: Joe Hill’s full name is Joseph Hillstrom King and he is the undeniable offspring of Stephen King. Why undeniable? Look:
Beyond the aesthetics (by the way, I’m not entirely convinced that Hill is King’s kid…I think King is slowly reincarnating himself and becoming Hill…mark my word, soon King will just disappear and all that will exist will be Hill), Hill definitely inherited his father’s ability to spin a nice, solid scary story. With his debut novel, he tells the tale of aging metal rocker (and oh-so-subtlely-named) Judas Coyne who, in his retirement, likes to work his way through young women on a state-by-state basis (he’s currently with Georgia, but Florida is about to really rile him up), name his dogs after fellow rock musicians (he owns two German shepherds named Bon and Angus), and collect all manner of creepiness. He owns an authentic snuff film, a witch’s confession, and now, thanks to a weird online auction, he owns the spirit of an old man, which comes attached to a suit that arrives packed in? A heart-shaped box.
There is, of course, more to the story behind this haunted suit as well as who is haunting it and how they are linked to Coyne. Hill wouldn’t be much of a horror writer if he couldn’t spin this bare-bones synopsis into something far deeper, far darker, and far creepier than what I’ve written here. Okay, it’s not a lot deeper. He’s not Tolstoy. He is, however, quite a capable storyteller, with a clean, captivating style reminiscent in all the best possible ways of his dad’s earlier works.
I hate to compare son to father, but really? If you’re going to be compared to someone, wouldn’t you want it to be someone like King? Hill manages to take two popular horror tropes—the “possessed artifact” and the “supernatural revenge” plots—and combine them into a well-paced and convincingly told tale of terror. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises along the way, but the ones that do come along are enough to continuously pull you further along on Coyne’s wild ride toward either redemption or perdition.
I’m not telling you which one he ultimately finds. Guess you’ll just have to read to find out…
Final Verdict: I don’t know if I want to add this one to my own collection. As much as I liked reading it, I don’t know if I would ever revisit it. I feel as though I’ve gotten all I can from it, for now at least. However, I will gladly recommend this to horror fans, especially those who love Stephen King.