You can’t judge a book by its cover. Yet a picture is worth a thousand words. Indeed. The cover to Stephen King’s Dark Tower: Treachery says it all: a young woman, in profile, pelvis thrust forward in practiced, deceptive, invitation, a six gun in one hand and another on her hip. The woman in question is the niece of Cort of Gilead, and she…well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. She is but one unforgettable player among many.
Dark Tower: Treachery is the third volume of Marvel Comics’ adaptation of King’s epic tale of Roland Deschain of Gilead. Actually, adaptation is the wrong word. Robin Furth and Peter David are the tellers of the tale, Jae Lee and Richard Isanove the visual interpreters; what they do is not so much an adaptation of the story as a true “growing” of it, if you will, with King’s guidance and blessing. The hardbound collection Dark Tower: Treachery is a gathering of the third six-issue story arc of this masterful, enthralling effort, a tale of dark valor, casual violence, misguided passion, foul murder, and (of course) treachery dolloped in heavy measure into a place where, as in our world, the forces of good are outmatched by evil.
Dark Tower: Treachery begins with the return of Roland and his ka-tet, Alain and Bert, from their sojourn against the forces of the Crimson King, a quest that has earned them the right to have the title of “gunslinger” bestowed upon each and all of them. Roland, however, harbors a secret. He remains internally in thrall to Maerlyn’s Grapefruit, an orb he wrested away from the Crimson King; it is Roland, however, who remains in its grasp, haunted by unspeakable dreams; yet he is unable to surrender the Grapefruit to his father, Stephen Deschain, even as it devours Roland’s body and soul. When Roland, at the prompting of his ka-tet, ultimately turns the sphere over to his father, however, his act ironically sets a chain of events into action that foretell ill for the royal family in general and Gilead in particular. Meanwhile, Gabrielle, Roland’s mother, remains in the nunnery of Our Lady of the Rose, repenting her betrayal of Stephen even as she acquiesces to her involvement in a plot that is far worse than what she has done previously. Matters come to a head with the occurrence of the great banquet held to celebrate the coming of age of Roland, Alain, and Bert. Kingson, a sinister musician new to the court, seeks to wrest the riddling title from Cort, the formidable weapon master of Gilead whose mind, we soon learn, is the most dangerous weapon of all. Aileen, Cort’s niece, seeks Roland’s heart and guns of her own; her chances of obtaining either are equally unlikely. And Gabrielle, at the bidding of her diabolical lover, seeks to carry out the ultimate treachery against Stephen and all that is light.
The elements of Dark Tower: Treachery—the story, the words, and the art—come together exquisitely. There is irony and horror and mystery in every sentence and every line and every shade in every panel in every page. As with the first two volumes, Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born and Dark Tower: The Long Road Home, Dark Tower: Treachery transcends its own medium. It is something new, something different, a half-step beyond print or film into wondrous new territory. It is an encounter, an experience, you will not soon forget. Of particular interest to those who read King’s magnum opus, or, for that matter, to anyone who has ever thrilled to a story well told, Dark Tower: Treachery is a masterpiece. Highest possible recommendation.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 20, 2012