The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #1–7 by Peter David, Robin Furth, Jae Lee and Richard Isanove
The appeal of this comic book is supposed to be Stephen King – the first adaptation of his work into comics, I believe – but the real attraction is the art of Jae Lee. It is the real reason to read this comic book – it’s a thing of beauty. Exquisitely rendered (with fantastic colouring by Isanove, which really elevates the art even more) and great storytelling that captures the world King has created: some sort of future Earth where war has ravaged the landscape decades earlier, mixing a Western style with an apocalyptic civilisation vibe. Panels and pages are works of art, looking like paintings that happen to tell a story.
David (and Furth) recreates the distinctive narrative voice of the tale (which take a little getting used to when you start reading) and the particular patois King has chosen to be the language of this world, which can be quite lyrical on occasion. The story has inevitable tragedy to it, if you like that sort of thing. These seven issues tell the origins of Roland Deschain, the gunslinger of the title, as he reflects on how he came to be where he is. It tells of how he took his coming-of-age test at a young age, how he was sent with his ‘ka-tet’ (group of friends bound by destiny) to another town on a mission to discover the allegiance of the people there, only for it all to turn dangerous when a group of assassins turns up (the ‘Big Coffin Hunters’) to kill Roland. Also in the seven issues: Roland has a relationship with a young woman, the big evil (the Crimson King) is shown, Marten Broadcloak is treacherous, the Great Old Ones’ weapons have been stolen, and there is a showdown in the Shaved Mountains. I haven’t read the novels, but I’m sure this means something to people who are knowledgeable of this world, because this is all background material to fill in details for the fans.
I don’t know if the story would be the same without the wonderfully evocative art of Lee. It is dreamlike, perfectly designed, artfully composed, full of shadows and silhouettes, dynamic in the action scenes, creepy in the pages with the evil doers; Lee can even draw really good horses and dogs, something which a lot of artists find hard to do (and he needs to draw horses a lot for this book). The artwork is stark elemental beauty, and I could post pages of the preview art (I think four is enough to give you a taste). But I won’t; I’ll just recommend that you search out this collection so that you can enjoy it for yourself.