I remember reading The Gunslinger for the first time. It is one of those novels that left an impression on me. I read it again every few years. Part of this is that I think along with The Shining and The Stand, it is Stephen King’s best work and unlike those tomes a reread is not a monumental undertaking. The promise of those three books keeps me returning to his work. I’ve yet to read anything even half as good as those three books, but there is always hope. Unfortunately, for every Needful Things, he puts out four or five books of the caliber of The Dark Half or From a Buick Eight. I have yet to finish The Dark Tower. After reading The Gunslinger, I usually give The Drawing of the Three another go, excited that this time I will get more than a third through it before I stop. That has yet to happen.
I am only reviewing this book at the request of a friend. Saturday, I attempted to read the first volume of the comic series on a road trip. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Good conversation is hard to come by and a two hour ride with your daughter, her friend, the friend’s parents, and your minister can provide interesting diversions to plowing through a Stephen King adaptation. I finished it Sunday evening and decided I should catch up on some other books and let it stew before I picked up the next chapter. This was probably a good thing. If for no other reason it gave some separation between the two and also allowed the complexity of the story to seep in. There were parts of The Gunslinger Born that were confusing. Some of this had to do with the similarity between Lee’s designs for the various characters. Some of this had to do with the fact that it is one of those epic fantasies. I have always had a hard time wrapping my head around that stuff. Outside of Lord of the Rings, I have never really fully grasped a fantasy story; I guess it is a limitation on my imagination.
That confusion aside, it was a worthwhile endeavor. The muddiness of the story midway through makes complaints I heard about the book during its initial release understandable. However, as I said it is a complex story and by its end, it was worth the time. The Long Road Home literally picks up from the very last page. The Ka-Tet is on the run. Roland is crushed. In fact, other than a major event happening to Roland, the status quo does not change at all in this book. Much of it harkens back to the journey of the Hobbits and Gollum in Lord of the Rings. I guess Tolkien would be proud that his book would still be influential all these years later.
Really, I guess it is unfair to say that it borrows (but it does) as the epic journey is such a large theme in literature and there are some interesting aspects here. The turn of Sheemie following the villains was a big part of the end of the first series, but to see it in all its Tolkien grandeur here brings him down to Sméagol’s level. This is an interesting turn for the former servant and should lead to good character development. In fact, other then what happens to Roland, Sheemie has the most interesting plot development when he enters the Dogan. It is this fine plot twist with cliffhanger and only those two things that leaves me waiting for the next issue. They are the saving grace to an otherwise fairly decompressed and boring story.
Jae Lee is uniquely suited for this book. Fortunately, many of the similar characters from the first run are dead or not present in this comic. This makes it a little easier to follow as I can differentiate the characters. Whether or not this is true a month from now when issue two comes out, who knows. The art is fine here; the problem is the coloring saps every bit of emotion and life from the book. Really after 300+ pages it is all beginning to look the same. There was plenty of gore to divert my attention the first time around, but nothing here other than a ravine towards the end. Lee’s lack of backgrounds and Isanove’s relentless coloring of the same desert sky into the background is getting boring. The darkness may even be contributing to the muddiness that I feel creeps into every issue thus far. It is a visually arresting book, but after 8 issues, enough is enough, give me something other than style.
I have a feeling that this volume like the last will read better as a collected whole. This isn’t a bad thing, but one wonders why Marvel would not just bet the farm and release them as quarterly or annually Graphic Novels.