The Dark Tower: Treachery #1, #2
Creators: Peter David, Robin Furth, Jae Lee, Richard Isanove, Stephen King
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
Barring the cadences of Seamus Heaney, TS Eliot, and Dr Seuss, I believe this is the only opening line I have ever remembered from a book. I’m staring at most of my books now, and while I recall plots, characters, beauties, horrors, and, in some cases, entire excerpts, The Dark Tower remains the only story whose opening line I remember with absolute clarity.
Story is apt; novel or book aren’t adequate. The core books (The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, The Wastelands, Wizard and Glass, Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah, and The Dark Tower) are all one continuous tale; there are also at least three other King books with strong plot points connecting them to the story; lastly, there are over a dozen other King books connected in some way (from The Stand to From a Buick 8). Robin Furth has also written a concordance of the story. So that brings the count to twenty-odd titles about or related to Roland, the gunslinging hero, and his obsession with the fulcrum of reality, the Dark Tower.
Then Marvel got involved.
Treachery is the third installment in the quasi-chronological (time, like direction, life, skin, blood, and thought, is mutable) adaptation of The Dark Tower. The first book, The Gunslinger: Born, was the best-selling graphic novel of 2007. The second, The Long Road Home, has just been released will undoubtedly sell similar numbers. In short, they’re the stories King hints at throughout The Dark Tower – the stories of Roland as a young man in Gilead. Readers of the core books will recognize most elements in The Gunslinger: Born – they’re taken directly from The Gunslinger and Wizard and Glass. The Long Road Home and Treachery cover different territories. They’re largely from the minds of Robin Furth and Peter David (with approval from King). King gave us glimpses into Roland’s past – Maerlyn’s Grapefruit, Gilead, Mejis, Farson, Jericho Hill – but here they’re given life, texture, and words.
For the most part, this works very well. I’ve been gripped by the battles, physical and metaphysical landscapes, and the humour (yes, even in tragedies you can find a laugh). Its drawbacks are minimal, but they’re an unfortunate constant in expanding mythologies or fictional universes. Authors will introduce elements, usually characters, that are inexplicable in later stories. Case and point: in Treachery #2, we’re introduced to Aileen Ritter, niece to Cort, the gunslingers’ trainer (never mind that she was described in a sell-line at the end of Treachery #1 as his daughter). Certain latitudes are fine, but whole major characters are problematic, especially in complex, intertwined narratives like this one. I remain open-minded given the good writing and stunning artwork, but alienation is always possible.
The artwork deserves special attention. Jae Lee is a god amongst pencillers. He transfers all the elements of The Dark Tower to paper – Gothic sensibilities, spaghetti westerns, diseased post-apocalyptic landscapes, horrifying monsters, dream worlds, and robots. Coupled with Isanove’s brilliant digital colour work, these comics are worth owning for the art alone. I’ve claimed I could never look past bad writing, despite brilliant art, and while that’s generally true, I might (might) make an exception if these two were on the team. Thankfully David and Furth are both strong, capable, and decent writers who stay very true to the source material and captured it very well.
Treachery is tainted by inevitability, but the journey is a curious, entertaining, and beautiful one.