A bit of back story is in order before we begin to look at Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: The Long Road Home. Marvel Comics in 2007 began a challenging sequential art adaptation of Stephen King’s Dark Tower novels. The story is not being presented in the order in which King wrote it, but rather relates the story chronologically, beginning with the origin of Roland the Gunslinger and moving, like Roland, ever forward. The epic tale is being told in story arcs consisting of several issues per story; the issues comprising the story arc are then being collected and printed in hardbound format. The first collection, The Gunslinger Born, was a retelling of the events first presented in Wizard and Glass, the fourth volume of the Dark Tower series. The Long Road Home, the bound collection of the second five-issue story arc, is something more, an audacious gamble that succeeds brilliantly in every way.
The Long Road Home begins immediately where The Gunslinger Born left off, with Roland and his friends Alain and Cuthbert --- known as a ka-tet --- facing the horrible murder of Roland’s first and only true love, Susan Delgado, at the subtle instigation of Farson, the “Good Man.” I was unaware, when I began reading, what The Long Road Home truly was. I didn’t recall many of the events depicted therein, but laid it to age and distance from my reading of the original work. What I discovered, however, is thatThe Long Road Home is the effort by authors Robin Furth and Peter David to fill in the spaces between the bricks of King’s original tale. As David states in his afterward, the project has King’s blessing, and the resultant story is written to please but one person: King himself. I cannot imagine him being anything but overjoyed at the result.
The Long Road Home describes the events that take place as Roland and his ka-tet attempt the return to Gilead, with the mysterious orb known as Maerlyn’s Grapefruit in tow. The way is fraught with terrible danger, behind and ahead, within and without. The ka-tet are pursued by the remnants of the Big Coffin Hunters, fired with a bloodthirsty rage that is fed by the enigmatic Clay Reynolds. The terrain around them is mountainous and unfriendly to all, whether on horseback and on foot. The creatures indigenous to the area are eaten from within by a hunger and bloodlust that is never satisfied. Worst of all, the numbers of the ka-tet are effectively diminished by one when Maerlyn’s Grapefruit steals Roland’s soul and consciousness. Alain and Cuthbert are thus forced to travel the increasingly hostile terrain while preserving Roland’s body and attempting to find some way to recapture his soul. Their only salvation may lie in Sheemie, an unfortunate soul of diminished physical and mental capacities who may be the unlikely key that rescues the ka-tet. Yet Sheemie is much more than he appears to be; guided by Farson and the mysterious Red King, Sheemie has unwittingly unleashed an evil and terrible force on the land, one that portends grave consequences with its ultimate manifestation.
The story here is all that it should be: exciting, breathtaking, heartbreaking, and terrifying. Furth and David have captured King’s language, his rhythm, his style, and made it, if not their own, a part of them. I must confess, however, that as entranced as I was by the narrative --- and entranced is not too strong a word --- I was even more enthralled by the cinematic vision of Jae Lee’s and Richard Isanove’s cinematic art. Each panel is worth lingering over --- one cannot help it. There is a vertigo-inducing scene, early on, that effectively flipped my stomach over, to the extent that I felt the room tilt. Lee’s pencils are exquisitely detailed in The Long Road Home, while Isanove’s inking and shading provide a dark, brooding atmosphere to each page, panel, and --- yes --- each word. It is concept brought as close to life, to reality, as one will find on the printed page.
One feels, from the first gentle crack of the binding of The Long Road Home, that this is the presentation, the interpretation, that these ideas and characters truly deserve. Just so. Satisfying and complete unto itself, The Long Road Home will leave you longing for more. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 7, 2008
Stephen King's the Dark Tower: The Long Road Home