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AICN Comics: Quint becomes an @sshole and reviews Stephen King and Marvel's DARK TOWER: THE GUNSLINGER BORN #1 (of 7)!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I'm currently sitting in my pretty crappy hotel in LA, coming off of seeing about 50 movies in 3 weeks at the Sundance and Santa Barbara Film Festivals. During this time, I was given an early look at Marvel's upcoming foray into Stephen King's DARK TOWER universe, called THE DARK TOWER: THE GUNSLINGER BORN. I was an avid Marvel reader as a kid, but I gave up comics in the mid-90s, right around the time when the ridiculous Ben Reilly/Spider-Man Clone Saga flooded the market with a dozen alternate covers and a convoluted and boring story. In recent years I've slowly come back to the art form and I have Robert Kirkman to thank for that. His WALKING DEAD series had me going back to the comic book store and I was doing that just as a glut of interesting things began happening in the comic book world. Brian Posehn did a crazy funny book called THE LAST CHRISTMAS for Image Comics, Walking Dead has been amazingly strong and Marvel has been kicking ass with their Civil War storyline. It's as big as the aforementioned shitty Clone Saga thing, but it seems more real, which means you can take it more seriously. Spider-Man unmasking himself is real and has had real implications, not just another fake-out. Unless The Watcher pops up at the end and nullifies everything or some shit. Although, I've been out of the loop for the last 3 weeks, so maybe I'm totally talking out of my ass here. I picked up the most recent Civil War issue in Santa Barbara, but I haven't read it yet. And now Marvel has THE DARK TOWER.

I reviewed the last 2 books early for the site and have been a fan of King's Dark Tower world since my pre-teen years when I first discovered the large paperbacks for the first three books in the school library. I quickly found myself wrapped up in Roland Deschain's world, a futuristic yet old world full of horrors, creatures and magic. Equal parts science fiction, horror, western, fantasy and mystery, King made a true original out of a dozen cliches. Think Sergio Leone meets Tolkien with King's own trademarked character work and fucked up sensibilities. If you're not a Dark Tower junkie, have no fears with this one. They've taylor made the first of the 7 issues to be an introduction to this world. The book does begin with the titular gunslinger, Roland, pursuing the Man In Black, just as in King's first book and focuses on Roland's childhood coming of age. He has a big, tough bastard of a trainer whom he has to challenge and defeat in battle to earn the right to wield guns. If Roland fails in his challenge, he is exiled, his family shamed and his birthright forever denied him. In this world Gunslingers are like Knights in Arthurian legend. Roland's father is the leader of the Knighthood, a direct descendant of the line of Eld, which began with Arthur. These are evil times and there are even more evil men working to destroy this order. One of these men manipulates Roland in to challenging Cort, his trainer, a full 2 years younger than the youngest has done so and been victorious. My understanding is that over the course of this mini-series we'll be getting the story of Young Roland's first tests, which were detailed in WIZARD AND GLASS, the 4th book in the series. There is a promise that we'll see events just hinted at in the books, such as the events leading up to the fate of Roland's childhood friends Cuthbert and Alain and the much hinted at battle of Jericho Hill, where Gilead fell and the world began to fall apart. The 7 part mini-series is overseen by King, with story help by his Dark Tower protege Robin Furth (author of the fantastic Dark Tower Concordances, illuminating examinations of every one of King's books) and Peter David. Jae Lee penciled and Richard Isanove colored. The book is a great companion piece to the novels. The artwork by Lee and Isanove is not what I had in my mind, but it's very interesting and not overly computerized like I've seen so many comics turn to recently. It has a water painting type quality in the colors, although Lee's artwork is sharp and focused. The gore in Roland's fight with Cort is much bloodier than I expected, so good on Marvel for getting that part right. Is this my ideal window into Roland's world? I prefer Michael Whelan's amazing work in first and last Dark Tower books and to me that is the look and feel of the Dark Tower world, but speaking as someone who was ready to call bullshit on this comic, someone who began reading it with an incredibly cynical and critical eye, I have to say that I'm greatly enjoying it so far. I'm a little disappointed that I have to see them cover material already in the books when there's so many grey areas that King and Furth could illuminate in this medium, but I also understand the need to have this series appeal to more than just the rabid Dark Tower fans. If you're a Dark Tower virgin you won't feel lost with Book 1 of 7. If you're a fan, you'll get to see a great artist like Jae Lee interpret Gilead, Cort and Roland's Father. Marvel's putting a lot of weight behind this release. They're doing midnight sales tonight at comic book stores across the US (Click here to find the list of stores staying up late) and King himself is appearing at the NY Comic Con to talk about it. I wish to God I was going. I'm such a Stephen King geek and a geek for Dark Tower in particular I'd love to hear him talk about this series and I'll be kicking myself for not being able to be there. I hope this book becomes popular so we can get King's authorized (or even better... authored) account, in comic book form, of the Fall of Gilead and other events hinted at, but not explored, in the 7 Dark Tower books. I've got a full next few days in LA, but I'll try to start catching up on my Sundance interviews and Santa Barbara reviews. Thanks for sticking with me on this rare entry into the realm of @ssholes! I leave you with this badass Joe Quesada variant cover!


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