Writers: Robin Furth, Peter David (script)
Artists: Jae Lee, Richard Isanove
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Dark Tower continues to plough ahead on a regular schedule with this third issue, showing off the benefits of releasing a book once the art is finished rather than risking delays by soliciting books which are still incomplete. The unfamiliar world of Stephen King's series of novels has been brought to the medium of comics in style by Peter David, Jae Lee and Richard Isanove, and I've quite enjoyed the first couple of instalments - even if I still don't quite feel like I've got a really strong handle on the world of Dark Tower or its full cast of characters yet. A handy recap page aides the uninitiated by summarising the fairly complex plot of the book succinctly before launching into this third chapter, but I definitely feel like this book will reward multiple readings and ultimately collection in a single volume, as it's easy to lose track of what's going on from issue to issue.
One problem with the book is that whilst this story might be interesting for those readers already familiar with the Dark Tower books, it just isn't moving fast enough or offering enough meat for a Dark Tower newcomer like me to really get into it. There are pleasing elements to the book; the romance between Roland and Susan Delgado is fairly interesting, and I enjoyed the subtleties of their interaction, and there are a lot of hints towards big events that are yet to come in the story (the preponderance of villains and the monster in Eyebolt Canyon promise a little more action next time around).
Peter David's writing is also solid, finding strong voices for his narrator and core characters, but the large, disparate cast and complicated backstory sometimes make it difficult to get a strong grip on things. Various story strands weave in and out of each other, but there's no real sense of urgency, and I can only hope that these early issues are laying groundwork for a satisfying finale, as we're almost at the midpoint of the series already, and I still don't feel a strong sense of the climactic conflict that the story seems to be building towards.
As has been said by many before me, Jae Lee and Richard Isanove are doing career-best work here, providing visuals which are perhaps the closest that comics have ever come to fine art. However, there's something very static about the finished artwork that makes the near-perfect individual images fail to flow convincingly from one panel to the next. It's possible that Isanove's amazing finishes have actually sapped something of the movement and dynamism that can be found in art which colours directly from the raw pencils or uses a looser inking style, and there's a sense that - despite each panel standing as a very sophisticated piece of comics art - it maybe isn't the best piece of overall comicbook storytelling that I've ever seen. Still, the book ultimately overcomes these flaws, with canny details giving visual insight into the book's characteristion and action sequences which are clear and well-choreographed (this issue features one of the finest Mexican standoffs I've ever seen in a comic, with the repetition of the panel composition adding a truly comedic sense of rhythm to the scene).
On its own, the story of this book would probably get an average score from me, but the extra material provided at the back adds just enough to the package to make the issue feel like something a bit special. In addition to a long text piece by Robin Furth (with illustrations by Lee and Isanove), the book contains pencil artwork from Lee and a transcript of a Q&A session which took place at a recent comics convention, featuring the book's creative team along with Stephen King and Marvel E-I-C Joe Quesada as speakers on the panel. It's an illuminating glimpse at some of the processes that went into creating the book which hints at the story's future direction and gives us an idea of how King views both his own magnum opus and the medium of comics. Even if you can find similar reports online, it's a more extensive report than I'd seen before, and these bonus materials go a long way to justify the high cover price and production values which have been applied to the Dark Tower series. Doubtless, the book will find a wider audience in the inevitable collected edition, but this is a comic which has been enjoyable enough on an issue-to-issue basis to keep me coming back each month, even if it hasn't yet blown me away.
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