Jan 18, 2011

[Comics] The Dark Tower: Treachery

The Dark Tower: TreacheryWhen does a prequel become an integral part to the original story? How can one define the criteria that make a prequel amazing or a horrendous flop? I don't have the answer for these questions on hand, but I do have some opinions.

It's like what I say about art - I may not know what's good, but I do know what I like. It's not a perfect fit of the statement when it comes to prequels, but then who's to say it can't work, yes?

I think a key to the success of this project is the fact that (1) the original author was still generally involved in the project and (2) the writers clearly demonstrated a fair amount of respect and appreciation for the source material. Now these aren't hard and fast criteria that can be set and applied to all adaptations of this nature.

But in this case, it definitely seems to be in effect.

The Dark Tower: TreacheryImage via WikipediaThe Dark Tower: Treachery is the third prequel comic book miniseries released by Marvel Comics. They're based on the Dark Tower series created by Stephen King. The comics themselves are written by Robin Furth and Peter David with art by Jae Lee and Richard Isanove.

When we last left the young ka-tet of Roland Deschain and his friends Alain Johns and Cuthbert Allgood, they had just arrived back at Gilead after their long journey home from Hambry. Roland has become increasingly obsessed with Maerlyn's Grapefruit, and artifact that they had acquired from Rhea of the Cöos. Roland chose not to reveal the fact that they had the sphere to his father, Steven. Through the sphere he gains mixed visions of the future along with visitations from the Crimson King.

Meanwhile, many other things are taking place. Steven and his fellow gunslingers try to thwart another plot by John Farson. In Gilead, Cort's niece Aileen Ritter espouses her desires to become a gunslinger even though Cort wants her betrothed to Roland. And Roland's wife Gabriel is finally coming home from the nunnery in Debaria that she had been sent to in order to atone for her sins. But she comes home with grim orders from Marten Broadcloak, orders that she is very likely to execute.

Now the stories covered in these new comic books are beyond what was previously defined in the seven books of the original Dark Tower series. Initially I was as scared as everyone else about the quality of these title and what havoc they may bring upon our understanding of the original books, but thankfully things have not gone down that path. Instead, we've had a very fulfilling expansion of the universe of this story in many fulfilling ways. This is one of the rare times that I'm glad that they decided to further explore the many stories in the history of this series and somewhat shed more light on how things came to be by the time the original books started.

To say this series is dark is definitely becoming more and more of an extreme understatement. To be fair, the original books had a similar tone, but were able to balance things with the "modern" members of Roland's ka-tet. But in the old world of Gilead when gunslingers still walked the world, things weren't as happy. You'd think that even the riddling contests would be more or less fun but in the end even that was a venue for trickery and cunning. This is not a series that one should venture lightly into unless you happen to like disturbing imagery and almost entirely hopeless people without a true future at the clearing beyond the end of the path.

As much as I felt bad that Roland was pretty much out of action for most of this arc because of his obsession with the seeing sphere, it does help provide a lot more back story as to how Roland became the grizzly, bitter gunslinger that he becomes in the future. Given we, as readers of the books, know that he will become the last of his kind in the end, the series definitely lays out the groundwork for how that tragedy comes about. Beyond that, we're also seeing the many trials that shaped Roland Deschain into the man that he had become in the future - seemingly heartless and unable to show affection for his fellow man at the risk of being hurt further.

I'm not sure how I feel about the introduction of Aileen Ritter as another character of interest. She seems to be tailor-made to make the story somewhat more approachable to the female set since the setting has always been overly male given how it is essentially a dark horror western or something. Making her related to Cort did help explain some her tomboy-ishness in terms of her personality and nature, but that's as far as I'm going to go. To see how the effects of her betrothal to Roland pan out in the future books will definitely be an item of interest.

The Dark Tower: Treachery is another great addition to the Dark Tower universe as brought to life by the amazing art of Jae Lee. It gets 4 disturbing images of Rhea of the Cöos out of a possible 5. Copies of all six issues compiled in one book are available online and in major comic book retailers pretty much everywhere.



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