To those not in the know, Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series began with one of the first stories he ever wrote, The Gunslinger, which would eventually be published in 1982 as a standalone tale in a post-apocalyptic world of a man in black who fled across the desert and the gunslinger who followed. But King had plans. Big plans. 33 years later, his magnum opus was completed with the release of the seventh and final book in the most epic undertaking of his extremely prolific career. His original notion was a The Lord of the Rings-inspired tale that would weave together genres of fiction and conglomerate them all into a single existing multiverse. I said "epic undertaking" already, right? Horror, science fiction, fantasy, and especially westerns served as jumping off points for the series' premise which then grew to include metafiction and eventually every possible work of fiction all existing simultaneously with our own world. You'd think the conclusion of the story would have been enough. But King is not only in the process of revising and rewriting the entire series to fix glaring errors that resulted from the long delays between books, but he has also teamed up with Marvel Comics to fill in the massive gaps in the origin of the series' protagonist, Roland Deschain, in style. The first arc in this prequel series, The Gunslinger Born, was little more then an abridged retelling of the tale told by Roland that takes up most of the fourth novel, Wizard and Glass, which set up the chain of events that would lead to the Fall of Gilead. It was excellent. The Long Road Home followed it up with a story that felt a bit uneventful and forced, but was visually as impressive as the first arc. Plus, there were mutant wolves. Awesome mutant wolves. With "Treachery" the event are now in full swing and writers Robin Furth and Peter David have really hit their groove and are back to doing the original series justice.
"Treachery" picks up with the young Roland and his band of friends (ka-tet) returning from an ill-fated mission that changed them all forever and set in motion the wheels that would eventually leave only a cold and broken-hearted Roland standing. With Roland being a mess and in the thrall of evil forces, much of the story revolves around the side characters which turns out to be a very good thing. Alain and Cuthbert receive their guns as payment for thier service, which causes a rift between them and their jealous compadres who have to face exile to earn that honor. Meanwhile the mentor of all of Gilead's gunslingers has a problem with a strong-willed niece who feels she is every bit the fighter as the men and dreams of being a gunslinger herself which is forbidden to women. Marten the sorceror, who is the ultimate Stephen King villain and has been in many books under many names (most famously Randall Flagg) concludes his complete seduction of Roland's mother, who is tapped while doing penance for her sins to commit the ultimate betrayal. Meanwhile, Roland's father, the leader of Gilead, and his company run into some serious trouble of their own. This is the most brutal entry into the series yet and features some seriously horrific imagery. Ever seen an unborn full-term child ripped from the mother's belly in a comic book? Damn. They are not messing around. This is definitely the strongest Dark Tower graphic novel to come out yet and is worth wading through the rehash of the first arc and the relative mediocrity of the second. Fans of sex and violence will be well-served and there is plenty for fantasy fanatics as well. With this set-up, the series conclusion "The Fall of Gilead" should be epic.
If you are unfamiliar with the Dark Tower series, you probably are not a legit Stephen King fan and I honestly can't tell you how much you'll get out of this comic series. The imagery is astounding at times and the story starts at the very beginning so I imagine so long as you begin with "The Gunslinger Born" you'll be fine, but there's no substitute for the original novels as far as groundwork for this comic goes. Mid World has it's own dialects, terminology, and culture that will make fans of the novels feel right at home, but the writers here were fairly accommodating in utilizing it in a way that is easy to catch onto so newcomers need not feel too intimidated. The big complaint with these collections is that they throw out the additional content found in the original comic issues. The stories and appendices are wonderful and do so much to flesh out the lore, culture, and history of Mid Land that I simply cannot believe that Marvel would leave these vital pieces of this series out. No way is any of these collection getting a perfect score like that. If you have not read the Dark Tower books, you really should. It's a remarkable series that sadly falters in the end, but is still an absolute necessity for King fans if for no other reason then it's sheer scope and ambition. Understanding those novels will certainly aid in your appreciation of this comic book series, but if you are like me and can't get a moment's peace to get into a full novel these days then give this series a try if your up for something different and cool that redefines classic western iconography and combines it with science fiction and fantasy.
4 1/2 stars, rounded down for skimping content.
"I do not aim with my hand.
He who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.
I aim with my Eye.
I do not shoot with my hand.
He who shoots with his handhas forgotten the face of his father.
I shoot with my Mind.
I do not kill with my gun.
He who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father.
I kill with my Heart"