In the comic books adapted from Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series, Gilead has been crumbling away for a long time now... but it's still a wrench when it's gone. And in "Dark Tower: The Battle of Jericho Hill," we see what is left after it falls -- a wrenching bloody battle, a bleak rotted world, and the strength of a young man who loses everything.
Gilead is gone forever, Midworld is "dying," and the only remnants of it are Roland Deschain and his ragtag ka-tet. Roland's plan: to reach the legendary Dark Tower and use its power "to set things aright," by following the Beam. And nine years later, Roland and the ka-tet reunite on Gilead's ruins, and form a half-hidden rebellion bent on bringing down Farson.
But he is not the only danger to them -- slow mutants, crazy cults, bandits. Worst of all, one of Roland's men has been blackmailed into a treacherous pact with Walter O'Dim, and for the sake of his child he has turned against his own friends. And at long last, the battle comes to the ka-tet at Jericho Hill...
There's a line in the fourth chapter that sums up this entire comic book -- "Sometimes you think you see the light, and you think the dawn is coming... and so you don't realize that, in fact, the darkness is laughing at you because it knows it's closing it." At first it seems like the worst is behind Roland and Co., and there might even be a small sliver of hope.
But of course, anyone who knows what's ahead for Roland knows what will happen in this story. Using King's book as source material, Robin Furth produces four chapters of Robin-Hoodesque fighting and training in secret, and a fifth chapter that is the stuff of Shakespearean tragedy -- murky, blood-spattered battles in which Roland loses even more people that he loves. Yet nothing will break the gunslinger's spirit.
Along the way, we see some grotesque glimpses of the ruined Midworld (a religious sacrifice upon a gas pump), countered with some devastatingly beautiful moments, such as Roland's final moments with Bert ("Then blow that damnable horn"). Most of the gritty, realistic artwork is cloaked in shadows and silhouetted by red mist -- perhaps meant to show the Crimson King's power growing.
Problem? The first fifth of the graphic novel is a rather fragmented, talky part, mostly used for exposition rather than storytelling.
Just when it seems that things are getting better for Roland and his ka-tet, the events of "Dark Tower: The Battle of Jericho Hill" slowly grind them into the dust. A powerful, bittersweet piece of work.