Gunslinger Born, The by Furth, Robin, et al, 2007

Gunslinger Born, The by Furth, Robin, et al - Book cover from Amazon.co.uk

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I have already written about Stephen King's early novel The Gunslinger, but the story has been translated into a graphic novel recently so I though it would be a good idea to write about that one too. For the last two years or so Marvel Comics has been publishing a monthly serialization of various parts of King's story, and they are supplementing it with their own tales as well. As of the time of this writing there have been two hard-bound books published, each one compiling about six months worth of comics. The first is a retelling of the prequel volume of the series, which is book number four I think, called Wizard and Glass. In serial form it's called A Gunslinger Born. The second volume was created from whole cloth by the Marvel team. It takes place immediately after the conclusion of A Gunslinger Born, and it is called The Long Road Home. The first book is far, far superior to the second.

A Gunslinger Born: For those of you who have read King's Gunslinger novels, there are a few major changes here. First off, Flagg has god-like powers. Flagg is a recurring character in King's novels. He usually is depicted as a humanoid demon who wants nothing more than to cause trouble and kill. Usually Flagg's power source becomes corrupted, and at the end of various stories he loses his supernatural powers and is defeated. In all of King's works Flagg has been the tool of a greater evil. In this book he is the big bad-guy; has the power to turn men into pigs with the wave of a hand, teleport with a thought, and mentally imprison whomever he wants. In short, he is a typical comic book villain who is unstoppable. Satan is also in this book, and he holds regular palaver with Flagg. Satan fears Roland and his "ka-tet," or group bound in fate, though he has not yet specifically why.

Wizard and Glass is a coming of age tale, and so is A Gunslinger Born. In it Roland earns his pistols in his home land of Gilead by defeating his teacher, Cort, in open combat. He was one of the youngest ever to become a Gunslinger, his world's version of a knight. At the time he passed his test his country was at war with a man named John Farsoon. Farsoon had agents all over Gilead, some very highly placed, so Roland's father sent him out on a quest in a distant land to keep him out of trouble.

The story takes place in an alternate reality that I have always though of in the same light as Roger Zelazny's Amberverse. That is, Roland occupies a central reality from which all others radiate out. Zelazny's was slightly different because all the outer universes were called "shadow," and were not really real. The other universes here are real enough, but they are influenced by what happens in Mid World. At the time Mid World is collapsing; reality is falling apart, as an edifice called The Dark Tower, which sets at the nexus of all other realities, has been invaded and corrupted by some unknown, evil force. Because of this evil creeps into other worlds, and works to break everything down.

In Mid World Farsoon has found a cache of old weapons from a much earlier time, including tanks and airplanes. He is seeking to make a deal with the citizens of the town that Roland was sent to. They have an abandoned complex there called Citgo which used to make fuel. Farsoon needs that fuel to make his weapons work, but the town is still aligned with Roland's father, the king of Mid World. When Roland arrives Farsoon's men, a gang of desperados called the Big Coffin Hunters, have almost reached a deal with the town where in exchange for the fuel at Citgo Farsoon will protect them from Gilead. Roland and his ka-tet pose as livestock agents from Gilead, and are totally clueless as to what is going on at first. It's not too long however before they learn the truth, and set out to stop Farsoon's men and wreck his plans.

Roland and his ka-tet, which includes his best childhood friends Cuthbert and Alain, admit two others during the caper. They are Susan Delgado, a woman Roland eventually fell in love with, and Shemie, a retarded bar-back from town. Roland and gang take on the Big Coffin Hunters and the rest of the town. In the end they destroy Citgo and stop the transfer of oil and fuel, but at great cost to Roland; the Big Coffin Hunters find Susan, rape her and murder her before Roland can return from a mission on the other side of town.

I am not the greatest graphic novel fan, but this book I found intriguing. The artwork was incredibly well done; Susan especially was drawn beautifully. The story that was told in this graphic novel is better than King's own version. King tended during the phase of his career that he wrote that book in to be very self indulgent. I can't say for sure what his editing process was like, but all of his books from that time read to me like nothing was added or taken away upon reread. The book is WAY too long too; King just could not stop writing it. The graphic novel was terse, concise and very true to the fantasy and SF themes that King wrote into the original.

The Long Road Home: This graphic novel picked up right after the previous one ended. Farsoon has been defeated and Roland is despondent over Susan's murder. Shemie has disappeared, and the original ka-tet is on its way back to Gilead. The ka-tet has in its possession a magic item called The Grapefruit; a pink crystal orb of seeing. It is very old and part of a set of 13 orbs that were made by an old magician named Maerlyn. All of them are animated by a malicious magic. They seemed to be partly sentient, but they were under the control of Flagg, Satan, and a few other evil doers from Mid World. Roland stares into the orb to try to find some answers to his problems, but instead the orb pulled his soul inside itself. Roland is confronted by the "Eater of Worlds," who supposedly is Satan's boss. Meanwhile Shemie stumbles upon a derelict android in the wreckage of Citgo that reanimates, captures Shemie, and downloads into his brain. The remnants of the Big Coffin Hunters are pursuing Alain and Cuthbert, who have to carry Roland's limp body. The Coffin Hunters almost catch up to the ka-tet, but Super-Shemie swoops in and saves the day. I was surprised I lasted until the last page of this one. It was excellently animated, but the story was junk. It was one deus ex machina after another that tried to one-up the last hardbound graphic novel by introducing a character more dangerous that Satan himself.

They should stick with making the King stories better, and stop trying to come up with their own crap.

Copyright 2009, Gregory Tidwell

Reviewed by GTT · Rating Rating of 2 star(s)

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