Writer: Robin Furth (plot) Peter David (script)
Artists: Jae Lee, Richard Isanove
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: Eldred Jonas menaces Susan. Rhea releases her fruit and takes a nasty drink. Roland, Alain and Cuthbert sling their guns and tragedy strikes for heroes and villains alike.
Commentary: Let me start by saying I never read The Dark Tower series, any of it. Until this Marvel Limited series that is. I bought the first novel after reading the first issue of this series and finished it and then I bought the second novel. Thatís the first time a comic book ever spurred me to pick up a novel. High praise indeed. I read some of Kingís books in my younger days but never knew what The Dark Tower was about and didnít have enough interest to find out. Until The Gunslinger Born that is. The title itself drew up images in my mind of old spaghetti westerns, tough guy antics and stark surroundings populated by dastardly villains and helpless females. Thanks to Peter David and Jae Lee I got what I was envisioning and so much more.
The Dark Tower is a strange and wonderful amalgamation of Wild West Adventure meets Lord of the Rings coupled with elder world horror a la H.P. Lovecraft and a dash of Road Warrior for extra flavor. All of those appeal to my reading and watching sensibilities and Furth, David, Lee and Isanove delivered the goods in spades with this series. Jae Leeís art hasnít looked this good in ages. He didnít even impress me on his dismal Captain America run. No fault of his. The story was just crappy. Here Lee from the bloody cover to the dusty plains of the Gunslingerís world and the disturbing and crawling evil that is Jonas, Rhea and the Thinny draws us into this mythology and has us looking around in wonder at every panel on every page. This is due to no small amount on Richard Isanoveís inks and colors. This book gets my vote for most well embellished series of the year. The teamsí vision drips and gushes atmosphere whether itís the Old West feel or the Lovecraftian Horror elements.
Davidís narration and scripting is great. The man has a way with words, and I really believe he can write anything to good effect. His descriptions are poetic, epic and disturbing at any given time. Much like Kingís writing itself. ďLike the moon at the close of its cycle, Roland is gone.Ē Those are the final words of this chapter, and they speak volumes. Young Roland rising under his father and mentorís lights to heights of greatness as yet unknown and just as quickly being dragged down and submerged becoming a bitter, driven thing that kills though victorious. Itís difficult to review just the one issue when the whole effort has been homage and embellishment of whatís come before. All of my comments here would apply to any issue thus far but here are some highlights:
- The bloody handed Eldred Jonas cover. A literal and figurative gem.
- The brutal gunfight between Roland and his ka-tet set against hot and dusty backgrounds.
- The eerily disgusting encounter between Rhea and Cordelia .
- The brutal gunfight between Roland and Latigoís men set against a hot and dusty twilight.
- The otherworldly horror of the thinny starkly contrasted with the thinny being light but darkness and the victims being dark yet still lights of life snuffed out.
- Susanís beauty and innocence against a backdrop of vicious flame.
Final Word: Well worth the price of admission for anyone who loves Westerns, Fantasy and Horror with characters both compelling and cringe-worthy. The Dark Tower in comics form is a legend in the making on top of the legend thatís gone before.
Paul Brian McCoy:
Iíll go ahead and admit that I havenít read the Dark Tower books by Stephen King. Iíve bought the first couple of them, used, at least twice; and each time, theyíve sat on my shelf for years, until, in an urge to condense and consolidate my collection, they get tossed out Ė returned to resale shops for some other reader to chance upon. You see, the thing is, I donít really like Stephen Kingís writing. Oh sure, Salemís Lot, The Shining, The Dead Zone, and The Stand are all cool. But beyond that, I just really donít care for his work. So Jae Lee and Richard Isanove providing the art for an adaptation of any of those novels (especially Salemís Lot Ė I think I just drooled on myself Ė sorry Ďbout that) would get me much more interested and excited. As it is, I bought this series just for the art.
And boy was I not disappointed. Lee and Isanove work magic with every panel on every page. When itís supposed to beautiful, itís amazing. When itís meant to be tense, you can feel the anxiety creeping onto the page. When itís meant to horrify you, it can be downright disturbing (see the scene with the witch in this final issue for a good example of that). In fact, I so enjoyed this artwork that I wish there hadnít been word balloons for the dialogue. Iíd much rather had read them as caption-boxes set off to the side. If there is a weakness to the art, itís that thereís not enough of it.
But Iíll place the blame for this on the adapting done by Robin Furth, who is apparently trying to squeeze a lot of stuff into these 7 issues, but it seems like everything actually happens off panel Ė until this issue. He really only succeeds in killing all the momentum the first issue had, by seeming to stall for the next five. Peter Davidís scripting does as good a job as can be expected, telling a story in the voice of a faceless omniscient narrator, using the dialect of the characters. Itís a bit distracting at times, because, as I mentioned with the art, there seems to be a bit of jumping around, where the narration fills us in on what weíre missing off-panel. It has made reading this series a chore for me. And donít even get me started on the back-matter. I tried to read it in the beginning, but was so bored I gave it up. I donít even know what itís about, so that isnít factoring into my score at all. Just consider it a bonus if you want to read it, and skip it if you donít. If it wasnít for the beautiful artwork, I would have never taken this home. And now that itís over, I have to question whether or not I want to continue with the next installment. Iím leaning toward letting it go.
But to be fair, this issue was probably the best one since the first. Things actually happened. People got shot. A monster ate some bad guys. Something really bad happened to Susan (I donít think that needs a spoiler, since it was kind of obvious from the beginning that something bad was going to happen to her). And Roland is no more. Heís The Gunslinger now, I guess. It all happened pretty fast, after waiting around for six issues doing next to nothing. So not exactly a satisfying experience for the series as a whole, but this issue wasnít bad. The art kicks it up above average in my rating.
When all is said and done, this first mini-series from the mind of Stephen King will be lauded for many things. Frankly, I do not blame them at all. This book was drawn and painted to perfection. The dialogue was tightly scripted to fit a ton of story into a few pages every month. Even the back stories penned by Robin Furth show not only her chops as a writer, but the vast universe that Dark Tower fans know very well.
Donít worry, my ďbutĒ is coming. I wouldnít have rated this book thusly without one coming.
Marvel will most likely be able to count on hardcore King fans to keep this series alive as the stories keep being cranked out. Granted, there are probably a few new readers who will now go back and buy the entire King novels now that they know how everything started. The majority, however, arenít going to really feel drawn to a series that includes very little action and relies on its ďsaiĒ and ďkaĒ banter to carry the book.
This last book in the initial seven issue run was supposed to be the big showdown between the three youth Gunslingers and the Big Coffin Hunters. There was going to be bullets and blood covered in the pages of this issue, beautifully rendered by Richard Isanove. With the story dragging the past few issues, this book was going to redeem the entire series for me.
Instead, the charge and emotion I felt in the first issue is nothing more than a distant memory, and I would imagine other readers feel the same way I do.
Maybe I just didnít get into the Dark Tower world enough to understand everything that was going on. I didnít get why in the world the old witch needed to suck on Cordeliaís stomach. I didnít understand Susanís need in dying. Finally, I didnít understand why we couldnít just be treated to a great shooting match and leave the women and children at home.
I realize itís blasphemy to criticize the stellar art team and the job they did translating the characters in Kingís mind to drawings. I wouldnít be surprised if the writer wasnít specific in every sense of the word as to what everyone looked like. I just feel that the novels held quite a bit of action in them. That isnít what this writerís known for, but couldnít we be treated to a bit more than this?
Another shortcoming for this series is the main character. I have no idea what kind of man Roland grows into. For this series that shouldnít matter. Roland started out this series with equal parts gumption and nervous anticipation for what was to come. Maybe the man Roland becomes in the novels is dependant on him being a lost boy who fell for a pretty girl when he should have been focusing on the task at hand. I just know he wasnít what a main character needed to be. At times, Deschain merely blends into the crowd. Again, while he may become the famous gunslinger heís meant to be, I expected more from him as a lead in this series.
Finally, we have the shootout between the boys and Eldred Jonasí team. To call it crap would be childish, but surely we deserved more than Roland, Alain and Cuthbert gunning down grown men like cannon fodder. They just kept riding at them blindly, like lemmings headed for the edge of a cliff. Not one Big Coffin Hunter gets a shot off, even the leader Jonas. The double splash page of Eldred being taken out, beautiful as it is, was a disappointment.
Maybe there was more that occurred off panel. Surely, ONE of the bad guys got a shot off. I can understand them being scared. The way Roland rode up to them and proceeded to gut them like a pig was eerie in and of itself. Now that, my friends, is gumption. In that brief moment, Deschain is the man I wanted him to be all along.
Of course, he blends back in after he guns down Jonas. When he gets his hands on Maerlynís Grapefruit, he can only sit and watch as the woman carrying his child burns in effigy. I thought it would have been awesome to see the great Gunslinger standing atop a mount pounding his chest screaming, ďYou like that Farson?!? Come get some you pansy!Ē A hero broken by heartache isnít new nor wrong for that matter. Iím just thinking out loud at this point.
This limited series has been a great seller for Marvel, and I see a great hardcover complete with even more extras on the horizon for this title. If it sells some more Dark Tower novels for a writer I admire greatly, super. If I were to evaluate this series for what it could turn into, or base it on my love of the character in those books, I might not rate it so low. Instead, I am left thinking what could have been and uninterested in the next series to come out in February.
What did you think of this book?
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