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On the Road to the Dark Tower…

August 16th, 2010
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Back in 2007, Marvel Comics released the first of a series of comic books based on Stephen King’s The Dark Tower novels.  Called The Gunslinger Born, that first seven-issue mini-series chronicled the back-story of the Dark Tower novels: specifically, the youth of Roland Deschain, the titular gunslinger.  From what I have read, the events of the comic book series were pieced together from various hints and references throughout the Dark Tower novels, especially from information in the fourth novel, Wizard and Glass.

 

I had never read any of Mr. King’s Dark Tower novels, though lord knows I’d heard about them.  I knew many people who considered the series Stephen King’s magnum opus.  I also knew some who had loved the series but who felt let-down by the later books in the saga.

 

Despite my having not already been a Dark Tower devotee, I was intrigued enough by the idea behind the comic book series to purchase the early issues.  I was immediately hooked.  Jae Lee’s artwork (ably assisted by the digital coloring of Richard Isanove) was jaw-dropping, and the story was powerfully gripping.  I am a sucker for GREAT BIG epics (be they in movies, novels, comic books, etc.), and this story looked epic indeed.  Having never read any of the Dark Tower novels, I wasn’t sure where the work of Stephen King ended and where the work of plotter Robin Furth and scripter Peter David began, but I was instantly taken by the scope of the fully-realized fantasy world into which the reader was thrust.

 

After that first mini-series, The Gunslinger Born, ended, I immediately went out and purchased the first three Dark Tower novels.  I had relished my taste of some of the back-story of this world, and now I wanted to dig into the main course.

 

But the books sat unread on my bookshelf.  Hard to say why, exactly.  Mostly I guess the time never seemed quite right to start such a lengthy series of novels.  I didn’t want to begin until I could be reasonably sure that I’d have the time to make my way through the series without any lengthy interruptions, and that magic moment never quite arrived.

 

In the meanwhile, though, I continued to follow Marvel’s continuing Dark Tower comics.  Four more mini-series were published: The Long Road Home, Treachery, The Battle of Jericho Hill, and The Fall of Gilead.  I enjoyed them all, though I must confess that my enthusiasm had waned somewhat by the end.  The series was hurt by the choice of doing without artist Jae Lee for the penultimate miniseries.  That really broke the story’s momentum for me as a reader, and things didn’t pick up for me with the final miniseries.  I felt that The Fall of Gilead should have been epic, but somehow the events portrayed seemed small and anticlimactic to me.  The pacing felt weird.  I felt that the first three miniseries really took their time with their story-telling (which I enjoyed!), whereas in the last two series all of the big important events were rushed.  As a result, I lost my emotional connection somewhat to the events being portrayed.

 

Despite my disappointment with the end of that first cycle of comic books (and Marvel is continuing the Dark Tower story with future mini-series – the first of which, The Gunslinger, is being published now.  I haven’t yet decided if I’ll be picking that up or not…), every few months I would find myself eyeing those three Dark Tower novels on my bookshelf.  This summer (finally!) I took the plunge and began the series.  I am already on book three, and am enjoying the blazes out of the saga so far.

 

I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the books as I read them.  I have no idea how long this will take.  I’ve been on a fast pace so far, but I haven’t decided if I’m going to try to read all seven novels straight through, or if I’ll pause between some of the later books to read some other things.  Either way, I look forward to sharing my thoughts on the novels as I make my way through the series.  I’ll be back here soon with my comments on Book I: The Gunslinger.  See you then!

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