Home > Marvel Comics > The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #1

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #1

February 8, 2007
Review by: Adam Chapman & Blake M. Petit
Quick Rating:
Very Good; Satisfying
Rating:
Parental Advisory

Before the Man in Black fled across the desert, Roland of Gilead had to pass his first test.

Creative Director: Stephen King
Plotting & Consultation: Robin Furth
Script: Peter David
Art: Jae Lee & Richard Isanove
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: John Barber
Cover Art: Jae Lee & Richard Isanove
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Adam: Going into this review, I must confess to not knowing anything about the Dark Tower series, nor the main character. Hadn’t known what it would be about, and thus entering the series with a blank slate. I can’t compare this to the style of the novels featuring the characters, but as a comic book, this is an exquisite read.

Blake: I come from the opposite end of the spectrum. I’m a longtime fan of Stephen King, and more so, a longtime fan of the Dark Tower cycle, so I had the expectations of a fan coming into this. Among King’s more fanatical readers, Roland of Gilead is a favorite character, and his story considered King’s magnum opus, so it was important to see that it was done justice. While I didn’t think this first issue was perfect, I must say as a fan that justice was done.

Adam: The narrative, penned by Peter David, is crisp and easy to understand, with a heavy amount of style which serves this book well. It’s also aided by the excellent artwork of Jae Lee, with a ton of credit also given to Richard Isanove for his spectacular colouring of the issue. You can tell when a cover or the interior of an issue is coloured by Isanove, he’s just that good and distinctive, and it really helps elevate the artwork rendered here by Lee. It reminded me of the colour cues used in Origin, another project coloured by Isanove.

Blake: I couldn’t agree more about the artwork. While Jae Lee’s line art is strong and does a fine job of telling the story, I can’t imagine this book being half as effective without the amazing job Richard Isanove does with his digital paintbrush. You often hear how comic coloring has evolved over the past ten years, and this is a perfect example. I can’t imagine this book being told with artwork inferior to this, and just a few years ago, art of this level may not have been possible. I think it’s highly telling that Marvel chose to credit both Lee and Isanove under “art” rather than separating their credits between pencils, inks and colors, as is tradition. The colorist makes this book as much as anyone.

Adam: What really grabbed me about this issue was the atmosphere of the first few pages, and how epic the story seemed to present itself as. Presented as an origin story, which it is, made it more enjoyable for myself as a reader because all the characters were well introduced as they were important, and I didn’t feel out of the loop in any case (although I’m not sure which characters are in the actual novels).

Blake: I’ll field that one, Adam – all of these characters appear in the novels, specifically the novel Wizard and Glass. This story is culled from that fourth book in the series, but it is an extended flashback sequence to Roland’s origin, as you said, and thus takes place prior to the opening of the first novel. We do get a glimpse of the first book, however, in the first four pages of the comic, right down to the most memorable line of prose Stephen King has ever written: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”) I think choosing this “origin” for Roland’s entry into comics rather than attempting to adapt the series as-written was a good idea. It makes this story a nice entry point for new readers, and opens up a lot of doors to tell “untold” tales of Roland, which I believe is the goal for future Dark Tower series.

Adam: The scripting by David does an excellent job at making each character very distinctive and memorable based on speech patterns alone, and also makes the narration itself into its own intriguing character. The plotting by Robin Furth should be noted for its great use of pacing, which isn’t easy in the transition to a comic book format, which is an intriguing animal to say the least. Another interesting aspect of the issue is that it didn’t just feel like a set-up issue, which is standard for many comic book events or mini-series, but really did feel like a complete story in and of itself, looking at a particular moment and incident, yet still leading directly into the next installment with a cliffhanger. In the age of decompressed storylines, this is actually saying something, and credit need be given to both Furth and David for plotting and scripting this effectively.

Blake: Speaking, again, as a King fan, I think he deserves much credit for this as well, as the collaborators are building on his foundation. David has done a fine job of learning how to use the speech patterns and diction of Mid-World, and Furth’s work restructuring the prose story to fit in a comic book format reflects both her own knowledge of the material and how well King’s writing translates to a comic book setting. (Not surprising for a writer who credits EC horror titles like Tales From the Crypt among his influences.)

As far as the scripting itself goes, I didn’t like it quite as much as you did. Not to say it wasn’t impressive, but I did find myself wondering if there was quite enough background information for new readers to understand exactly what was happening with Roland, what his relationship to Cort was, why he challenged him and so forth. Based on your reaction, though, I’d say my fears were unfounded.

Adam: The art by Jae Lee is pitch-perfect. The colours by Isanove elevate his artwork in all the right ways, making it lighter and more textured than some previous colourists have been able to do with Lee’s artwork. Its still very distinctive and very noticeably Lee artwork, yet with no dimensions to the art that the colours allow. Fans of Lee’s artwork, or at least those knowledgeable about it, will know what I’m talking about here. Its solid work, and works very well in a storytelling capacity. Its also fairly experimental in some cases, which shows that Lee is making a conscious effort to adapt his style and his art to the manner in which the plot and script are written. The scene which introduces the various characters is indicative of this experimentation, as is the intriguing panel layout in the scene with Roland and Cort confronting each other, a total of twelve panels, one on top of the other.

Not only is the writing and art great, but the entire package is well put together, with a map at the back, a short story on the geography of the land, and a brief preview of the next issue, excellently laid out.

Blake: Again, Adam, I concur. The extras help give this book a little something more. New readers will be able to grasp more of the richness of King’s Mid-World, and longtime fans will be appreciative of how important elements from later in the series are being dosed out to the comic fans.

Adam: Marvel has managed to do something very special with this issue, putting excellent talent on it, and treating it the right way and going all out with all the trimmings.

I don’t know about fans of the established characters and stories, but speaking as a first time reader, this issue succeeded on every single level that matters. The issue had a slightly higher than normal price tag, but it was worth every single penny, and I’m glad that I picked this issue up.

Blake: That price tag is my only real beef with this comic. Granted, we’re looking at a book with a cardstock cover, no ads and a lot of extras, but it’s still four bucks for a comic book. And for a project with such immense potential for a crossover audience – i.e., grabbing King readers and getting them to read their first comic book – I can’t help but think it would have been more beneficial to give the book a lower price point for those fans who either never read a comic before or haven’t picked one up since they only cost a quarter. Still, this is one of those projects where Marvel has their eye on the collected edition, and I suppose it won’t matter as much then. As far as content goes, speaking as someone who has followed Roland along the path of the Beam since he was (in an irony only fans will comprehend) 19 years old, this comic definitely delivers.

Adam’s Rating:
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Art:

Overall:

Blake’s Rating:
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