Comic Book Day this past weekend brought Number One Son Tommy and myself to our local comic book store and netted a few issues we enjoyed over lunch. I bought two Conan books that were not bad, but the only thing I could find I was very interested in was The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #2.
I am a big fan of the Stephen King Dark Tower books, and the comics were something I looked forward to with some trepidation. I wrote a brief review of the first issue last month, where I basically said the jury was still out. I was much more satisfied with this issue for a number of reasons. First and foremost, this issue did much more original storytelling than the first one did. That is what I wanted from the beginning… not an adaptaion of the King novels but something that would tell “between” stories and fill in the voids of the original epic. Let’s face it, a comic book cannot possibly tell the story better than the novels did, and my imagination does not need Jae Lee to tell me what characters and environments looked like. In fact, I have found in order to enjoy these comics I will have to check my imagination at the door, and not let what it insists this or that SHOULD look like fight or disagree with Lee’s vision of the same elements. I have to let Lee show me what his imagination sees, and agree to disagree as the case may be.
This issue shows a glimpse of Marten Broadcloak not in the books, and tells the brief story of his communication with the Crimson King and his departure from Gilead. I liked the reference to the prophecy of Roland and a look at the spider-king, who is not mentioned in the books until very late and never appears until the very end of the entire tale. The visit of the boys to a borderland town sets up a later event from the books, but was never mentioned or told itself. Not much of an addition, but I suppose they don’t want to add too much to the tale. Most of this story was told pretty completely in the book Wizards and Glass, and other than some “in the corners” type of additions there probably won’t be much in the way of new information to those familiar with the tale. Still, it bodes well for those parts of the story still untold.
The art is much the same as last issue, and I imagine will stay the same throughout. I would have liked to see a better vision of the environment of the lands… Rhea’s hut for example is supposed to be in the woods but is depicted here on some decrepit hill of tombstone like rocks. The minimalist backgrounds are going to get boring quickly. I do like Lee’s use of dramatic lighting and heavy shadow, but I wonder if we’ll ever get to see a well lit face, or one not cropped out or covered in said heavy shadow. Using the dramatic, deep shadow all the time diminishes it’s effect and dulls the senses to it.
Robin Furth‘s text at the end telling the story of the birth of the Dark Tower, the Prim, the rise and fall of the Great Old ones and of Arthur Eld was quite a surprising tale. This is no mere addendum or throw away mini-story. This is earth shattering information for any Dark Tower enthusiast, and is far more consequential than the comic that preceded it. It parallels, as we eventually discover much of Roland’s tale parallels, the Arthurian legend. Here we find out, for the first time, of the birth of the Crimson King, who his parents were and how he came to be conceived. The story of the making of the Bends o’the Rainbow glass spheres is also told, and other revelations that have great bearing on the tale as a whole.
As an afore mentioned fan of King’s saga, I can’t help but wonder if this can truly be considered part of the “official” continuity of the story. Yeah, I know… there goes the comic book nerd in me bellyaching about continuity and whether this or that is “official”. Still with a work as personal as King’s Dark Tower series, you have to wonder. I mean, does a Star Wars fan consider any of the hundreds of books out there with stories of Luke, Leia and Han part of the “real” Star Wars story, or are they just fanciful tales using the characters and looked upon as entertainment but extra-dimensional filler? King writes an open letter at the end of the book, but imparts little information except to fawn over the medium and possible future projects. He does call the writing a ‘team effort’ and that makes me feel a little better. I know he’s involved, but are these concepts his or Furth’s and Peter David‘s? Since King is (I would assume) approving all of it, I guess he’s okay with what’s happening. I’ll go with that for now.
Looks like the media is starting to pay attention to the comic series as well.
And the Dark Tower draws closer….
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