Oct 26, 2010

[Comics] The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Reborn

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger RebornAs I've said many times before, I'm not good with horror. This is something mainly focused around movies and such but it does extend to some degree to other media.

Books are deadlier from a horror perspective, I feel. With movies it just goes on and on and all you can do is maybe close your eyes to try and avoid looking at the screen. With a book you need to make a conscious decision to continue and thus any nightmares triggered thereafter are entirely your fault. Plus it doesn't help that our imaginations are capable of creating images and scenes that are far scarier than anything a big name Hollywood studio can come up with regardless of budget.

And yet despite this, I have read a few Stephen King novels in my time. Beyond that, there's one series of his that I particularly love, maybe because it's more science fiction / fantasy in feel as opposed to horror. Not that this is all happy and sanitized or anything like that - the series has more than its fair share of disturbing moments.

So when I found out there was a comic book series based on the original books, well, I had mixed feelings. But my loyalty to Roland's ka-tet is strong enough to make me take the plunge.

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Reborn is a 7-issue limited series plotted by Robin Furth, scripted by Peter David and illustrated by Jae Lee and Richard Isanove. And thankfully, Stephen King was still involved in the project as Creative and Executive Director.

First edition book coverImage via WikipediaThe series takes place during the younger years of Roland Deschain, the proverbial gunslinger of the Dark Tower books and pretty much our dark protagonist. While some aspects of his life were also covered as flashbacks during the seven main books, that was just a glimpse of the declining society of Gilead. This comic book series, and the other lines after it, help expand on this part of the world.

The stories covered in this series mirror a lot of the pre-established flashback moments in the books. Thus this gives us a depiction of his trial of manhood against his mentor Cort, the dark designs of Marten Broadcloak and his first mission as the youngest gunslinger in history. This expands into Roland's adventures in Hambry together with his loyal friends and companions Cuthbert and Alain. The series arc ultimately ends in the same place where the flashback ended in the fourth book, Wizard and Glass.

I think what was most striking about the series was Jae Lee's highly distinct art style. It's a wonderful mix of computer styling and wonderfully conceived scenes and imagery. I have to admit that I've had little exposure to his work before this and thus taking the plunge with The Gunslinger Reborn was really quite the treat. Beyond the vague cover images I had dealt with in terms of the books, a visual representation of the Dark Tower universe was something stuck in my head and Jae Lee's concept for things really made things more vividly real for me.

The writing was pretty great too and it certainly kept the tone and feel of the original series. Sure, this comic largely followed things already covered in the book, thus it was more or less "safe". But they still expanded on the scenes quite well and my faith in the team's ability to see this project through to whatever end they have in mind is pretty solid.

I like the fact that they're going into a mini-series approach. There's no promise of never-ending adventures of Roland and his fellow gunslingers time and time again. There's a beginning and an end and they won't take things too far (at least I hope), thus assuring some greater degree of quality to the stories.

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Reborn is a great way to revisit the world of Roland Deschain with new eyes and I'm glad that it remains a worthy addition to the Dark Tower franchise. It gets 5 disturbing images in the "grapefruit" out of a possible 5.

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