"The Gunslinger Born" explored the origins and early struggles of young Roland Deschain, as well as the loss of his first true love, Susan Delgado.
And Stephen King's "Dark Tower: The Long Road Home" picks up right after that, showing us more devastating events that shaped Roland Deschain into the gunslinger anti-hero we know and love. While the first part is rather slow, it has plenty of horrific moments and the haunting quality of a "world that has moved on."
A devastated Roland takes down Susan's charred body, as Alain and Bert argue about whether they should be stopping. But suddenly Roland fires at Maerlyn's Grapefruit -- which suddenly turns into a tentacled eyeball that jumps on Roland's face, and enthralls his very soul before they can peel it off. His ka-tet is chased by a bunch of local thugs, the last Big Coffin Hunter, and a ghastly pack of mutated wolves.
Nearby, a mentally challenged boy named Sheemie was seen climbing into old war machines, only to encounter a strange robot that is somehow still "alive."And inside Maerlyn's Grapefruit, Roland is slowly being driven mad in his own memories -- right before being dragged to the hellish citadel of the Crimson King, who reveals a ghastly secret to the young boy from long ago, which will change him forever...
"The Dark Tower: Long Road Home" isn't quite as gripping as its predecessor, "The Gunslinger Born" -- partly because it's a briefer story, and partly because it's simpler. It's a tribute to Stephen King's original story -- and to the hauntingly vivid artwork -- that it's still such an intense rollercoaster ride.
After the heartbreaking first few pages, the plot speeds into a suitably confusing, desperate chase through a lonely wilderness, with plenty of gunshots and dying creatures. Things actually get rather gory as Roland's pals struggle over rickety bridges and across a red-tinged wilderness, since one of them almost gets his arm bitten off (and announces that he'd rather die than shoot left-handed forever. Hardcore, kid).
And since this is a world made by Stephen King, we have plenty of the eerie and the horrible -- Sheemie's confrontation with a baby-faced robot is just one example. King's rich, old-time narrative translates well into comic form, almost as if he were conversing with the readers ("But don't be laughing at Sheemie, I beg ya, because he's been through considerable trials").
And Jae Lee and Richard Isanove really bring this story to life -- they create a world split between bright bloody red mist and autumnal twilight, filled with shadowy faces, barren lands, and ghastly pursuers. And inside the Grapefruit, we get a full cornucopia of horrors, with Roland defiantly trying to keep his sanity and soul intact in a dusty, hazy landscape full of withered trees, tragic future selves, evil crows, lumpy castles, and the vaguely spidery King with his hellish magic and his suitably evil offers to Roland.
"The Gunslinger Born" introduced Roland as a boy, but "The Long Road Home" has undeniably made him a man. He has the guts and integrity to snarl not just at Marte but at the King himself. And after being in Roland's shadow for so long, Alain and Cuthbert also get to take center stage here -- we get to see just how strong and capable they are.
"Dark Tower: The Long Road Home" is not as tightly-written as its predecessor, but it's filled with a sense of overhanging horror and some solid action for the sidekicks. Definitely worth checking out.