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The gunslinger's journey
on 25 August 2011
Gilead is in ruins, and all the gunslingers but one are dead. "Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, Vol. 1 - The Journey Begins" launches Roland Deschain on his lifelong quest to find the Dark Tower and avenge his people. It's a haunting, bloodspattered story graced by solid artwork, and a lingering sense of tragedy.
Several years after the last round of comics, Roland stops at the home of a young hermit and his pet raven. Over dinner, Roland recounts what happened after Farson's men killed his people -- he carried the dying Aileen back to Gilead, and finds his onetime home haunted by treacherous ghosts, horrible memories... and oh yeah, grotesque Slow Mutants.
So he sets out on a quest to find John Farson, and ends up wandering into a nearby town with a faithful billy-bumbler. And since he's Roland Deschain, trouble finds him -- he's barely met the EXACT DOPPELGANGER of his dead girlfriend Susan than a bunch of Not-Men kidnap her to turn her into one of them.
The brilliance of "Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, Vol. 1 - The Journey Begins" is that it taps into one of the most primal, terrifying human fears -- that our family, friends and home will all be destroyed, leaving us alive but devastated. And though the entire story is told in flashback by a grizzled, hardened Roland, it doesn't lessen its soul-wrenching power.
And Robin Furth handles the story in a way that is tragic without being melodramatic -- it's splattered with blood, darkness and chaos, and there are some truly tragic scenes where Roland loses even more loved ones in his journey (NOOOOOO! BILLY-BUMBLER!). Roland's farewell speeches to those loved ones are gut-wrenchingly raw, yet very beautiful.
The only major flaw in the story is the introduction of Susan Delgado 2.0. It's handled nicely, with Roland being given a "second chance" if he abandons his quest, but it feels contrived.
And we see two different Rolands in this story. One is a grizzled, hardened survivor who has moved on, with all his wounds healed. And the other is a young boy who has just become a man, with raw emotional wounds and a fear of getting too close to other people. Aileen is given a powerful exit from the story, and... BILLY-BUMBLER! Such a sweet innocent unselfish creature.
"Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, Vol. 1 - The Journey Begins" is both an ending and a beginning. Gilead has ended, but the Gunslinger's quest has begun.