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Roland Deschain has suffered a lot and lost a lot in the last two arcs of the "Dark Tower" graphic novels-- and unfortunately he doesn't have an easier time when he finally gets home.
Picking up after the end of the prior arc, Stephen King's "Dark Tower: Treachery" brings our hero and his embattled ka-tet back to Gilead and more trouble waiting for them. Between Jae Lee's gorgeously gritty, colourful artwork and King's almost Shakespearean tragedies, it's a moving piece of work that shows how Roland Deschain became the gunslinger anti-hero we know and love.
Alain and Bert are made official gunslingers, but are troubled by Roland's continuing obsession with the Grapefruit and the horrors it contains -- visions of the Crimson King, of a blood-coloured wasteland, and of his murdered father. In the meantime, their fathers set out to destroy Farson's gang, nearly costing one of the gunslingers his life; Cort's teenage niece embraces the life and practices of a gunslinger, even though she isn't allowed to technically become one.
Worst of all, Roland's disgraced mother Gabrielle (sent to repent in a nunnery) is seduced back into doing Marten's bidding, so he can destroy the "mighty beast that is the gunslingers." And after Roland almost shoots his best friends, he tries to do the right thing by handing the Grapefruit to his father -- but he already knows too much of the horrific danger approaching Gilead.
Most of "Dark Tower: Treachery" is the calm before the storm -- the forces of evil are approaching Gilead but most of the people there don't know yet. So while this is a slower-moving affair than "The Gunslinger Born" and "The Long Road Home," all the piece of an epic clash are clicking into place. And you can tell that this is not going to end well for the people around our tortured young hero.
As rewritten by Peter David, King's rich, old-time narrative translates well into comic form, almost as if he were conversing with the readers ("Now there are some who simply equate riddles with jokes..."). And his simple dialogue has a powerful sound, mingling Old West and medieval styles ("I have the rest of eternity to feel no pain. I'll endure what I must until then").
And since this is a King story, there are moments of sheer horror: the killing of Charles and his poor little baby, and Steven's ka-tet stopping a fatal wound with gunpowder. The inside of the Grapefruit is relatively tame, but the close-ups of the Crimson King are pretty nightmarish.
Jae Lee weaves a colourful, hazy painting around the entire story as well, with plenty of striking artwork (a naked, emaciated Roland hugging the glowing Grapefruit). He splits much of the narrative between where the good guys are (the dusty, rather run-down citadel of Gilead) and the bad guys' domain (blood-red skies, twisted trees, all-engulfing mist and the suitably reddish domain of the King). It's lovely work.
Roland really gets put through the grinder here -- not only is he haunted by his torture inside the Grapefruit and the loss of Susan Delgado, but he basically becomes a Grapefruit junkie. Alain and Bert get to shine as newly-minted gunslingers and steadfast friends, and Aileen adds a strong female presence to the cast. They need it, since the only other surviving woman is Gabrielle -- and it's hard to see how a strong guy like Roland could have such a pitifully weak mother.
"Dark Tower: Treachery" is the windup for a devastating blow, and its lack of a central plot is its only weakness. Glorious art, a scarred teenage hero and plenty of eerie bad guys make this a great adaptation.