The Barony is under such a sustained attack from Farson’s cadres, that even the combined might of the Gunslingers crew may not be strong enough to withstand it. Meanwhile Roland Deschain is secretly released from gaol by someone who was considered unworthy to be a gunslinger but has since shown by completing several heroic actions that she has always had the full true measure of courage.

DARKTWRV4004COV_col.jpgStephen King has repeatedly described the ‘Dark Tower’ series of novels as his ‘magna opera’ and these works have been the accumulation and collation of all of his previous plot threads stretching back to his original best-seller. He thought so much of this series that he included a not too flattering portrait of himself in the final two books and even wrote two separate and distinct endings to the concluding story so that his legion of fans could have the choice of either a happy or sad finish to their long journey with the ka-tet. King told us that he was completely done with the character of Roland and there was no more to be said after the concluding book was published. That particular chapter of his literary life was over; so to speak.

But then apparently one day he changed his mind and decided that there was still some story left to tell.

So a few years ago he initiated a joint publishing effort with Marvel Comics to bring to life the early days of Roland and to describe in great detail how the era of the sons of ‘Arthur Eld’ came to be over. This journey was begun in the mini-series ‘Gunslinger Born’, continued in the ‘Long Road Home’ and  ‘Treachery’ and is currently two thirds of the way through the current series called  ‘Fall Of Gilead’. These prequel back-story inserts have proven to be as rich and compelling as the original source material that they are based on. The whole thing is creatively directed by Stephen King himself and that’s as it should be. The overall plotting is done by long-time research assistant to Mr King, Robin Furth, who is well placed to be handling that task because she is the co-writer of the ‘Dark Tower Concordance’ , which is the definitive source book on the Mid-World universe.

The actual issue story is in the estimably safe hands of Peter David, who knows his way around a good script and also how to creatively handle a large ensemble cast. In this issue he does some of his very best work and there are several places where the dialogue just leaps off the page, particularly in the ‘Butch and Sundance’ reminiscent final deathly charge scene of the massed Gunslingers near the end of the book. Its obvious that Mr David is having an extremely good time writing this book and that pleasure is infectious because this comic is a absolute joy to read. I don’t know if Peter has ever taught a comic book scripting class but an inspiring young writer could do a lot worse than dissect the mans technique in here and begin to start slowly working their way to this level of competency. I say slowly, because it takes time to reach this level of deftness.

However comics are not just words in a script. Those ideophones have to be competently brought to life by the artist or else the whole endeavour is just a complete waste of time. Thankfully Marvel took that responsibility seriously and appointed an illustrator to the series whose high standard of work matches the confidence that was shown in him. Richard Isanove comes from the same photo-realistic art schooling that has been popularised by Alex Ross but their individual styles do differ. Mr Isanove I think, likes to make bold statements in his work. From the first two pages of this issue which has a double page spread that was to me very reminiscent of Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ all the way to the bullet riddled teddy bear substituting as a metaphor for the death of a child, the art in here was totally captivating. There is not one panel that does not serve to move the tale along and his use of color is amazing. A nice touch in this title is where the reader gets to see the original line drawings which allows them to make a comparison with the finished page.

The plot in this issue revolves around the attack on the Camelot analogue by the combined forces of evil magic and mutated people. In previous stories we had seen the smug pride that the Gunslingers had in their abilities to overcome all obstacles. In more normal times that hubris would have been totally justified because they were a formidably deadly force but ever since the betrayal of Stephen Deschain by his wife, the rot has totally set in. The main Gunslinger does try to rally his forces but they are eventually lethally overwhelmed and the haven of civilisation that was Gilead comes tumbling violently down. Meanwhile Roland is released from prison by Aileen and by a process of deductive reasoning he manages to make sense of the various disparate events that have been occurring since his incarceration. He knows that the Knights of the Round Table are dead or dying , Camelot will shortly follow and the last heir in the ancestral line of Arthur Eld needs to find a way to escape or also die.

I am extremely glad that Mr King had a change of heart about continuing the tales of Roland. I really do like these prequel series a great deal and they add to the whole cumulative  ‘Dark Tower’ experience. The best compliment that I can give the production team is that the comics read like King and the characters in them sound like King. In years to come, after the whole thirty issue run of mini-series is complete, these publications will become an indispensable part of the canon and for anyone wanting to real the complete story the thought of not picking up these adaptations would just be totally ludicrous.

This eternally entertaining series and this issue in particular book gets four stars and a heartfelt Thankee-sai from me.


The Author

Marlowe Lewis

Marlowe Lewis

Marlowe Lewis is old. I mean really, really old. So old in fact, that the first ever sequential art that he ever saw was when his lifelong friend in their small clan began painting bison on the cave walls. This was a true turning point in his life. Firstly, he was immediately and irrevocably hooked on the visual arts, and secondly he discovered another use for dried bison dung.

Marlowe Lewis is British. This is not an apology.

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  1. August 31, 2009 at 2:00 pm — Reply

    Do you think Marvel’s content will change under the new Disney ownership? Or is that a silly question?

  2. George McBain
    September 2, 2009 at 11:25 am — Reply

    I have to catch up on the series. I have the first series in comic book form, but then stopped going to the store.

    Thankfully, Barnes and Nobles has the hardcover version of Gunslinger Reborn and The Long Road Home for $6 each right now.

    Thanks for the review on this great King/Marvel endeavor!

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