Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Brief Review: "The Dark Tower: Sorcerer"

Here's a review I wrote for Loaded Couch Potatoes of the one-shot The Dark Tower: Sorcerer on April 20, 2009.

The sharp-eyed observer will notice that the Dark Tower line has a slightly different creative team this issue, with Robin Furth graduating from plotting/consulting duties to plotting/script duties and Richard Isanove moving from co-artist to solo artist.  Scripter Peter David will be returning for the next arc in the series, The Fall of Gilead, but co-artist Jae Lee has apparently left the series.

There are changes behind the scenes, but the sharp-eyed observer might not notice: it’s a fairly seamless transition.  The only place I actually noticed a difference is in the design of a trio of characters (Cuthbert, Alain, and Aileen), and their appearance is so brief that I can’t be sure how I feel about the differences between Isanove’s rendering of them as opposed to Lee’s.  All in all, Isanove’s art is rock solid; no surprise, there.

Furth’s script, if anything, is superior to Peter David’s scripting work; this is a good sign for the upcoming Del Rey adaptation of The Talisman, which she is scripting.

This particular issue serves as a bit of a bridge between Treachery and the The Fall of Gilead, and focuses on Marten, showing a bit of his backstory, as well as the details of his involvement behind the scenes during the course of the stories told in the previous issues of the series.  It is a satisfying, chilling issue that stands as one of the best so far.

In a major addition to Dark Tower lore, we learn that Marten has a personal relationship with Maerlyn’s Grapefruit, which apparently has a personality and is in some ways literally the child of Maerlyn.  Marten is also Maerlyn’s child, so this makes him and the seeing spheres siblings of a kind.  Well, the Grapefruit’s personality/essence (it’s called a “jinni”) exists — or, at least, is experienced by Marten — as a fertile-looking, pink-skinned, Medusa-haired spectre; the jinni is Marten’s sister, lover, confidant, and co-conspirator.

In the process of working her wiles on Steven Deschain, the jinni learns of Marten’s relationship with Gabrielle.  Intensely jealous, she seduces Roland in his sleep, and casts upon him the spell which will cause him to mistake his mother for Rhea and kill her.  This strikes me as a very satisfying addition to Roland’s story; it absolves him somewhat of a bit of his matricidal guilt, but not in any way he could ever be conscious of.

In the behind-the-scenes segment which serves as this issue’s appendix, Furth talks a bit about how she collaborates with Stephen King on the comics, mentioning that some of the details (such as those focusing on Marten’s childhood) come directly from King.  Others, such as the notion of the jinni, come from Furth, but are approved (enthusiastically, in this case) by King.

In any case, it has long since become very clear that Robin Furth is not only a major creative force in the overall Dark Tower mythos, but is developing into a substantial fantasy author in her own right.  At this point, I have every intention of following her career; I suspect doing so will reward me.

Furth probably also gets credit for the sequence in which Marten kills Arra, the very pregnant wife of one of the Gunslingers.  The manner in which he kills her is brutal and disturbing; even more disturbing, her blood gets all over an apple, which Marten picks up and takes a bite out of and then places in the dead woman’s mouth.  This prompts Stephen King-calibre chills.

Speaking of that Gunslinger with the doomed wife, his name is Charles Champignon.  Champignon also appeared in the previous arc, Treachery, but I didn’t notice something then that I noticed this time: his name is awfully similar to another King-related name, Charles Campion.  Campion was the fellow from the military base who initially spread the superflu in The Stand.  It seems unlikely that Furth would have been unaware of this connection, and in The Sorcerer we learn that James Farson’s infiltration of Gilead came about due to Champignon’s attempts to save his wife’s life.  In a sense, he can be said to have been responsible for the initial infection of Gilead that will ultimately lead to its downfall.  This is a nice parallel to The Stand; after all, Campion, too, was just trying to save his family.

A connection like that is totally unnecessary for the enjoyment of this issue, but it certainly doesn’t hurt, and it’s a great example of how fun the Kingverse can be to play around in.

Also released recently was The Dark Tower: Guide to Gilead, another encyclopedia-like issue consisting of information about the larger Dark Tower world.  This one focuses on the various towns and villages of Gilead, and also on certain key characters and groups of people.  As with the rest of these type issues, it makes for somewhat dry reading, but is fun for the devoted fan.  It was written by Anthony Flamini, who also worked on Gunslinger’s Guidebook and End-World Almanac.

It might also prove to be a valuable reference tool.  I suspect that certain elements in the Guide to Gilead are going to feature into The Fall of Gilead.

I am greatly enjoying Marvel’s Dark Tower series, and I hope they end up committing to a long-term series which adapts (and expands) the entire series.  There don’t currently appear to be plans for that type of adaptation.  Either way, the Dark Tower universe is far richer now than it was before they became involved in it.  I look forward to seeing how it all wraps up.

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