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Graphic novel brings King’s series to life

Michael Stroschein

I was one of the unfortunate ones, an unfulfilled and wayward soul lost in the Wastelands without fulfillment or resolution. Left with a cliffhanger of such magnitude that not just the fate of one world, but also that of the entire multiverse hung on the words and actions of a few imperfect characters. Misery loves company, or so the saying goes, but I was not comforted by the fact that many other readers were in the same straits of longing and despair.

In 1991, Stephen King published the third book in what many consider to be his magnum opus, “The Dark Tower.” This ’91 installment, “The Wastelands,” came four years after its predecessor and moved the story forward at such a pace that even skeptical readers were sucked into Mid-World in much the same way Roland had drawn Eddie and Susanna through in the previous novel. And there was the trap. Untold numbers of readers were caught up in the whirlwind of the quest for the Dark Tower, hooked on the heroin of words that flowed off each page, only to be left hanging for six long years.

The next book, “Wizard and Glass,” finally came in 1997 and released the long tension that had driven so many raw with anticipation. The moment passed and the story continued, but not in the way we might have expected.

After making their way through the crises, Roland sits down with his companions (ourselves, the readers, included) and tells a 567-page story within the story, of his first adventure as a Gunslinger, of Susan Delgado, of the Good Man Farson. And what a story it is! Filled with fear and bravery, love and hatred, gain and loss. The bulk of “Wizard and Glass” is devoted to this look at the past, and the greater story is enriched with the details of long ago.

“The Gunslinger Born” is a graphic-novel compilation of seven comic books that tell the story related to us by the Gunslinger himself in “Wizard and Glass.” From Gabrielle Deschain’s adultery to Roland’s first and only love, the story takes the reader visually through the oldest part of “The Dark Tower.” It brings familiar characters’ faces to life with an uncanny resemblance to those whom we have seen for so long in our mind’s eye.

The sumptuous illustrations of Jae Lee and Richard Isnove bring the story to life with a dark, gothic feel that is perfect for the tone of the series as a whole. Both illustrators have extensive backgrounds in comics, with South Korean-born Lee having won the Eisner Award for his work on Marvel’s “Inhumans,” and Richard Isnove’s impressive work with Marvel over the years.

The flawless story adaptation by Peter David and Robin Furth was overseen by Stephen King and relates the story with the same intensity and emotion conveyed by Roland when first we heard the tale. David’s career with Marvel has covered work on many of the most-famous comics of all time and extends to novels and scripts as well. Furth long has been considered the foremost expert on King’s writing and is the author of “The Dark Tower: A Concordance Vol. 1 & 2.”

Without a doubt, this latest addition to the epic Dark Tower series adds new dimension and texture that serve to enrich the story and feed that compelling need to see a little more of Roland and his Mid-World.

“The Man in black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed”…

– Michael Stroschein is co-owner/manager of Neighbors Bookstore.


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