Monday, October 6, 2014

A Review of Marvel's "The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three -- The Prisoner" #3 (aka Bryant Has Issues #55)

Hoo-boy...!

Marvel has really been pumping out the Dark Tower lately, haven't they?  This newest issue of The Drawing of the Three: The Prisoner marks the third to be released within the span of six weeks, which is excessive by comics-shipping standards.  Not that I'm complaining; not much, at least.  I'm pleased for there to be King-based comics in the marketplace.  So must Marvel be, hence the accelerated schedule.


 

Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for The Drawing of the Three: The Prisoner is waning rapidly.  I was very impressed by issue #1, but found that #2 presented me with some questions which cast the whole endeavor in doubt to some degree.

Issue #3 does nothing to alleviate those concerns; and in fact, it deepens them.

When last we visited with the Dean brothers, they were reeling from a massive explosion.  It has been caused by a bomb they had unwittingly dropped off on behalf of Jack Andolini, and my read on the bomb was that it was designed so as to kill Eddie.  After all, it was clear that the mob had been hired by agents of the Crimson King to kill Eddie, so as to prevent him from fulfilling his role in Roland's ka-tet.  I was a bit confused as to why they would permit literally years to elapse between assassination attempts on the younger of the Dean brothers.  Does that make any sense?


I vote "no" on that subject, and I was hopeful that future issues of the comic would clear things up for me.  And perhaps they still will, but it seems unlikely.  Issue #3 utterly fails to resolve the matter of the bomb and its detonation, instead jumping forward several years, to 1972.  Was the bomb an assassination attempt on Eddie?  If so, then its failure has once again resulted in a years-long respite from the forces that oppose him.  If not, then it begs another question: why, why, why would Balazar hire Eddie's brother and then simply ignore the fact that Walter wants Henry's brother dead?

If somebody can answer these questions, please do so.  Because it makes not the tiniest lick of sense to me, and indicates that Robin Furth, Peter David, and Marvel would have been better-served not trying to monkey about with Stephen King's storytelling.  Folks, King is one of the great masters of his era, and The Drawing of the Three is arguably one of his best novels.  You want to mess with that, you'd better have some damn fine moves in your repertoire.  So far, what I'm seeing from Furth and David is a great talent from creating plot holes where plot holes did not previously exist.  Well done.

Despite my snark and growing dissatisfaction, let's have a look at the issue, which is by no means without merit:


Note the symbols on the wall on the lefthand side of the top panel.  These indicate that Low Men have been present, which implies that Eddie is still being marked for death.  So, again: doesn't it seem as if somebody ought to be making a more concerted effort to actually kill him?  I would also note that Piotr Kowalski's art continues to be very good.  I especially like Eddie's body language in the third panel, and I appreciate the fact that Eddie's whittling has been introduced into its proper place in the timeline.

This is 1972.  A Fisftful of Dollars came out in 1964, but not until '67 in America.  Even assuming '64, is that old enough relative to '72 to call it a "classic"?  Comparatively, that'd be like a theatre in 2014 referring to Casino Royale, Pan's Labyrinth, or 300 as a "classic."  Seems a bit too recent to me; if you disagree, let me know.

Speaking as somebody who works at a movie theatre, I feel obliged to point out that we do not allow our box-office cashiers to wear curlers in their hair.  I'm less impressed by The Majestic by the moment.


This scene is followed by four pages of Eddie pretending to lose to Henry at basketball.  I'm not going to post those pages here, on account of how I wouldn't want anybody to be able to accuse me of giving the whole comic away for free.  I feel as if I'm within fair-use standards here, but despite that, posting each page seems like the wrong thing to do.

Suffice it to say that the basketball scene is very good, and helps me feel like I'm on solid ground by insisting that these comics would be better if they hewed closer to King.  The basketball stuff is very representative of the way King wrote the dynamic between Eddie and Henry, and so what you get for those four pages is good, well-considered character drama.

Soon thereafter:



The sudden appearance of the Ginelli's Pizza truck made me wonder if there was about to be another assassination attempt, but no:

Instead, it turns out that Henry has become one of Jack's customers.
 
If we consider this strictly in terms of the novel, it makes sense, and shows that Henry was in danger of becoming a burnout even before Vietnam.  However, the way the story has been told in these comics brings up far too many questions, such as: to what degree is this related to the assassination attempts?  To what degree is Henry's drug habit a result of whatever happened with the bomb that ended issue #2?  Is Jack (and, by implication, Balazar) aware that Henry is Eddie's brother?  These questions take what ought to be relatively simple and straightforward drama and turn it into confusion and disorder.  Which is what the Crimson King was trying to do with the Tower, and look how well that worked out for him...

Not long after, the Dean boys head off to see the fabled Dutch Hill mansion.  As with Eddie's whittling, this is an element brought forward from The Waste Lands.  I'm all for telling Eddie's story in a coherent, chronological fashion; I don't mind King mixing it all up in the novels, either, but telling it in more straightforward fashion offers its own satisfactions.
  
  


Kowalski's art generally has a lighter, more comic touch; but when he decides to turn a corner into creepiness, he does so well, and he does so without breaking away from his own style.  I really like his work.

Kowalski is especially good on this double-splash.  That final panel is nightmarish, as is the panel of the shadow looming over the oblivious young lovers.


As readers of the novels know, Eddie and Henry did not pass beyond the gate of Dutch Hill that day; nor do they do so here.  Furth does something quite strong immediately thereafter, though: she uses the trip to the mansion as occasion for a moment of understated tenderness between the two brothers.  Henry cautons his brother not to mention to their mother that they'd been to the mansion, to which Eddie replies, "I wouldn't tell my best friend we went there.  That place is way too creepy."

"Eddie, I'm gonna try not to make a habit of it . . . but for once, I agree with ya," replies Henry.

Furth follows this up a mere one panel later by Henry receiving his draft summons in the mail.  So Furth has gone from the semi-supernatural feel of the mansion to a leavening moment of brotherly affection, and then delivered the real gut-punch by taking us into Henry being removed from Eddie's life.

I'm harsh on these comics sometimes, but when Furth and David connect with the ball, they tend to score runs; and this sequence of events works extremely well.

I also admire the way they have allowed Kowalski to depict the year Henry is gone:


All too often, the Dark Tower comics have failed to take advantage of the medium.  Not so on this page, which is simple but wonderful.




That bottom panel is a heartbreaker.  It's only been a year, but Henry looks a decade older.  And you know that this is merely the beginning of Henry's decline, not the end of it.  If Kowalski proves to be up to the task of showing us a fully drugged-out Henry Dean, and a drugged-out adult Eddie Dean to go along with him, then there should be some great stuff in the next couple of issues of this series.

We next see a flashback from Henry's perspective telling us how he came to be injured and discharged.  And that leads to this:
  




Shouldn't he be asking for Andolini moreso than Balazar?  I'm not sure I believe that Henry would have met Balazar, unless there's been more to his story than we've been told; and if we've not been told it, why haven't we been told it?

I'm less bothered by that than I am by some of the other things I've bitched about this post; but it does bother me.

Here's something that doesn't: a preview of the cover art for the next issue.




That art by Julian Totino Tedesco is as good as any Drawing of the Three art I've seen in any edition of the books, and is better than the majority of it.  The comics are worth existing if for no other reason than bringing this art into the world.

While we're here chatting about comics, let's briefly consider the most recent issue (#5) of Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque's American Vampire: Second Cycle.
 
 
  
 
You will note that the name "Rafael Albuquerque" is nowhere to be found on the cover to this issue, which means, yes, there is a fill-in artist.  Matias Bergara, to be specific; and he does a fine job, and has a moderately Albuquerquian style, so all is well.  And Albuquerque drew the creepy cover, so there's that.
 
This is a very strong issue, albeit an atypical one.  The entire thing is a flashback to 1954, involving a VMS agent who is on a mission to find a legendary mining site spoken of in a journal.  The journal belonged to a miner who, along with a friend, was hired by a company to dig a big old hole in the middle of the desert.  Not so much to take things out of the ground (which is odd, since he's pretty sure he saw silver at one point during the dig), but to put something into it.  Specifically, something that appears to be growing in the foreman's wife, making her belly huge and swollen; and her screams don't sound much like normal childbirth pangs.
 
The issue cuts back and forth between the VMS agent searching for the site and pages from the journal.  Like this:
 
 
You've got to love Scott Snyder getting H.P. Lovecraft involved in these proceedings.



 
 
I enjoy American Vampire, and will likely continue to do so until it's all over with; but I have to confess that there is something about it that fails to stick in my brain.  I got the sense reading this issue that there were things I should probably have recognized from previous issues; but I could not for the life of me remember the specifics.
 
This is not an uncommon problem for me when it comes to reading comics an issue at a time, though.  I mean no slight toward Scott Snyder; it's my shitty memory at fault here.  However, it does at times make for reading that seems a bit more disjointed than it probably should.
 
Despite that, I enjoyed this issue quite a lot.  It had been nearly three months since #4 came out; I hope there won't be a similarly lengthy wait for #6!

2 comments:

  1. I really like those pages from the book in American Vampire.

    Still circling that series, me, but one of these days, one of these days...

    I'm still trying to figure out if this is some kind of reboot-after-the-events-of-Dark-Tower-7 or not. Even if it is, the logic problems you cite need to be addressed in a better fashion.

    I quite like that changing-of-the-seasons page, though.

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    1. My fear is that the writers of the DT comics decided they wanted to make the comics a sort of roundabout sequel, but failed to actually wrestle with the implications of how to do so. Unless they've got some sort of magnificent reveal in store, I just don't see how this stuff can make sense.

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