Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born

This comic born of some of the best talent at Marvel and the dark mythos of Stephen King’s Dark Tower is one of the most visually stunning series I’ve seen in a while. It’s obvious a lot of work goes into the art and the story is lifted directly from King’s novels, so we’re given an impressive and expansive world to explore.

King works as creative director on the series with help from his long-time research assistant Robin Furth, so it has been held to a higher standard than some of the more notorious movie adaptations of his works (think Langoliers or Cujo). The script was adapted by Peter David, who has been writing for print, television and comics for years now, including work on Incredible Hulk and Babylon 5.

Considering David has worked extensively on expanding the ideas of others, it’s no surprise that he captures perfectly the dark tone and oppressive mood of King’s Midworld – the primary setting for The Dark Tower.

The art is handled by Jae Lee, the youngest person (at 18) ever to work as an artist for a major comic company, and Richard Isanove, who has worked on nearly every Marvel title. Together they’ve created a beautiful world to flesh out David’s narrative.

The story is set in an inhospitable desert seemingly many years after the present since the detritus of “modern” society are frequently seen. But Lee and Isanove aren’t afraid to fill their pages with vibrant colors and powerful images that run the aesthetic gamut from the beautiful and grotesque to the sublime and picturesque. The colors work perfectly to establish the mood throughout the book. The ocher of sunset typically illuminates the evils of Midworld while yellows tend to indicate conflict, and violets, greens and blues are the colors of passions, both cold and hot.

As this version of King’s Dark Tower is presented chronologically (as opposed to the impressionistic chronology of the novels), the first story arc in the series is centered primarily on the events that occur in his fourth book – Wizard and Glass.

The youngest man ever to be made a Gunslinger, Roland Deschain is sent out to the sleepy desert town of Hambry with his ka-tet (a group bound by fate) to gather intelligence about the spreading influence of John Farson. Here, beyond the walls of his childhood for the first time, his life will change forever when he meets the love of his life, Susan Delgado.

As fans of King’s series well know, events will quickly escalate into tragedy since Susan is promised to the corrupt mayor of Hambry, who happens to be in league with the enemy of all Midworld, John Farson. When Roland discovers a secret cache of oil bound for Farson, he and his ka-tet resolve to keep him from getting it at any cost.

It is in conflicts such as these that Roland’s greatest strengths and weaknesses are revealed with poignancy by deft script writing and vivid, inspired panels. His strength is his righteous will, while his weakness – as it usually is in a tragedy – is his love for Susan Delgado.

The second story arc, The Long Road Home, is on issue #1 at the moment and follows Roland and his ka-tet as they make their way back to Gilead to give a warning to their people about he ambitions of John Farson. Fans of Stephen King will find little better introduction to the world of comics than this series, and I highly recommend it to everyone, King fan or not.