Nov 9, 2010

[Comics] The Dark Tower: The Long Road Home

The Dark Tower: The Long Road HomeThe comic book medium is certainly unique among all others. Let's face it, as much as we give a lot of credit to books for requiring the use of one's imagination to carry the story along, a comic book is a nice balance between visual imagery presented to you and room to try and imagine what happens between the panels. And there's a heck of a lot action that takes place in those moments and that requires that slight little leap of creative faith.

The world of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series is unbelivably rich and remains unlike any other of his works that I've had the chance to read. Sure, it's a given that this was envisioned as a multi-book series while most of his other titles are standalone novels, but that's besides the point. He goes into so much detail in terms of how he created this completely different universe with chilling touches of our own world. And despite the expansive possibilities presented by a full seven book series, there's still a lot about the lands of Gilead and beyond that have yet to be written.

So I for one am glad that (1) these five comic book miniseries were authorized to being with and (2) thus far they've been made with a degree of skill and artistry more than worthy of the original books.

The Dark Tower: The Long Road Home is the second of five planned comic book miniseries set in the universe of Stephen King's The Dark Tower. It was written by Robin Furth and Peter David together with illustrations handled by Jae Lee and Richard Isanove. Unlike The Gunslinger Born, The Long Road home largely features original material not found in the books.

Crimson KingImage via WikipediaAfter the dark events at Hambry, Roland Deschain and his ka-tet of Alain Johns and Cuthbert Allgood have begun their journey back to Gilead with Maerlyn's Grapefruit, one of the seeing spheres used by Farson and his men to communicate across vast distances among other dark purposes. However after an argument between the friends, Roland accidentally shoots the grapefruit sphere and it turned into eyeball that ensnares Roland and drags him to End-World, an odd alternate reality ruled by the Crimson King.

Meanwhile, other plot lines continue on. Alain and Cuthbert bring the unconscious body of Roland with them as they escape their pursuers. Sheemie, the mentally impaired boy from Hambry, encounters a military complex known as the Dogan and there is given superhuman abilities of telepathy, teleportation and rapid healing by a robot conducting an experiment of sorts. And in the End-World, Roland faces Marten Broadcloak. The sorcerror then proceeds to torment Roland with visions of the future and the dark path of blood he'll walk as he ventures to the Dark Tower.

The series continues on with the amazing art of Jae Lee that continues to enrich the whole comic book experience. Every panel is a wonder to behold and they remain both beautiful and yet disturbing at the same time. The world of the Dark Tower was never meant to be a pretty, happy place after all. But despite this caveat, the way the panels are done are an excellent balance of the seemingly realistic and yet the clearly fantastical all at once.

The comics are not an easy read, that much I have to admit. It's a pretty dark story and it will in time document how Roland eventually gives up pretty much everything for the sake of the Dark Tower. This is a story of a tragic hero no matter how you look at it and thus you can't expect too many good moments for these characters. Thus it bears somewhat heavily on any reader and the best of luck to you in terms of keeping up. This is not a comic that is meant to be read in a single sitting as a TPB or whatever else you want to term the compilations. It's best digested in smaller pieces and thus your best bet is to rest a bit between issues.

Given this is a completely new addition to the story of Roland and the Dark Tower, I'm definitely liking the direction the writers are taking. It still feels well situated in the universe originally created by King and it does not feel too much like a spin-off or derivative of the core books. And that is no easy feat for any writer to accomplish - the ability to write new stories within someone else's creative universe while remaining consistent with the voice. Sure, comic books probably do this consistently over the years, but not always to the level of detail and intricacy of this book.

For any fan of the series, the Long Road Home is an excellent read for those wanting more of the younger years of the Gunslinger Roland Deschain. It gets 4 feral wolves out of a possible 5.

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