Tag Archives: Peter David

Review: Marvel Comics’ “Stephen King’s Dark Tower,” Arc I

Story & Creative Consultant: Stephen King
Plot & Research: Robin Furth
Script: Peter David
Pencils: Jae Lee (except for Fall Of Gilead)
Colors: Richard Isanove (handles full art duties on Fall Of Gilead and shares the art credit for Battle Of Jericho Hill)
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2007-2010

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” Thus began one of Stephen King’s most epic works, the seven eight-volume Dark Tower fantasy series that provides the glue that ties all of King’s works together. I was personally introduced to the franchise through Marvel Comics’ prequel series, which details the origins of Roland Deschain and what brought his world to the state we find it in when King begins his epic saga.

This review is for the first arc of the story, consisting of the first five miniseries as well as the one-shot The Sorcerer. I plan to read the second arc, but that will be a second review. I also plan to read the actual series, but that could take a while as it ties into so many other King novels I have yet to pick up….

The content for these comics (especially The Gunslinger Born) is culled from flashbacks and other material revealed throughout King’s masterworks. King himself serves as creative consultant and first line of approval on the series. The research and general direction is handled by Robin Furth, author of The Dark Tower: The Complete Concordance (I assume this means she’s an expert). The actual script is handled by Peter David, veteran of many of Marvel’s most enduring series. Pencils for the series are mostly handled by Jae Lee, while Richard Isanove handles the colors. Later in the series Lee is inexplicably absent for a set, with Isanove filling in almost seamlessly. When Lee returns, they share the art credit. I cannot rave enough about the beauty of the product of their collaboration throughout the series. The content and subject matter is unrelentingly dark, and yet there is great beauty to the books because of the artwork. It’s incredibly striking. I’ll seed some examples through here.

Roland and his kin inhabit a world not our own, though I understand that in the novels that come later Roland does a fair bit of jumping around Stephen King’s multiverse. These comics, however, are anchored firmly in Roland’s own All-World. The best way to describe All-World is to say that it is a land where there once existed a civilization much like ours, but they are long gone. It is implied that the “Old Ones” wiped themselves out with nuclear war, given the presence of mutated humans and livestock. After the destruction All-World was united by Arthur Eld, who ruled a mighty kingdom from his capital, Gilead in New Canaan. Roland and his father are descendants of Arthur Eld. Civilization has reorganized along feudal lines, and the technological level has plateaued at the “Old West” level, excepting the rare Old Ones’ artifact that someone manages to reclaim and get working again. In the Dark Tower mythos (and by extension, all of King’s body of work since most of it ties back to here), all of reality exists as various levels in the Dark Tower. From Roland’s world it is actually possible to enter the Dark Tower, a fact that makes it unique among all of reality. Roland and his friends are opposed by the Crimson King, John Farson, and the evil wizard Marten, who want to either destroy the Dark Tower and return the world to a state of chaos or control it and rule everything. As our story opens, the forces of these evil ones have been rolling across the world towards Gilead, opposed only by the Alliance led by Steven Deschain, Roland’s father. How long they can hold out against this ultimate evil remains to be seen…..

If you are interested, here are links to my reviews of the individual collections on Goodreads. Caution: reviews may contain spoilers for the previous volumes…..
Volume I: The Gunslinger Born (*****)
Volume II: The Long Road Home (***)
Volume III: Treachery (****)
Volume IV: Fall Of Gilead (*****)
Volume V: Battle Of Jericho Hill (****)

Content: This is not for kids. This is a series for adults and late teens, those old enough to appreciate the works of Stephen King.
Violence: There’s quite a bit of this. People die horrible and gruesome deaths frequently in these pages, and not just the bad guys. Young women, little children, strong men and weak, none of them are safe. This can be pretty gory at times, and is vividly rendered.
Language: Pretty PG. This is still Marvel, after all. Nothing you won’t hear on primetime TV.
Sex: Sexual matters are referenced and discussed fairly frankly, especially in the first volume when a young lady is sent to a witch to be checked to see if she is “still pure.” There is some implied sex–glossed over by a double-splash of the two characters kissing passionately while the narrator does his thing, and then dressing on the next page–but nothing explicit. No nudity.

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Mini-Reviews: Marvel 1602 Sequels

I reviewed the original miniseries on here several months ago (see that here). These are the sequel miniseries, which I reviewed separately on Goodreads but thought I would post here as well. The obvious lack of Neil Gaiman proves to be their undoing, unfortunately…..perhaps it is unfair—though perfectly natural—to compare these to his stellar foundation to the 1602 universe, but I can’t help it. Nevertheless, I found them worth the read.


Title: MARVEL 1602: THE NEW WORLD
Writer: Greg Pak
Illustrator: Greg Tocchini
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2006

The saga began by Neil Gaiman in his stellar book 1602 continues! Except that he’s no longer writing it….He did serve as “creative consultant” for this book though, so I can only assume that’s why it was just “meh” as opposed to being a total suckfest.

Okay, so when 1602 left off Steve Rogers was returned to the future along with Sir Nicholas Fury, the Witchbreed left on a quest of their own as did the Fantastick Four, David Banner was hit with all the gamma energy of the closing space/time rift, as was a spider that bit young Peter Parquah. The colony of Roanoke declared its independence from Britain, and that was that. Now King James wants to know why Banner isn’t back with Fury’s head, so he sends Captain Ross and Antonio Stark, Lord Iron to the New World to reclaim him. In other news, Norman Osborne is stirring up trouble with the natives for the colony in a bid to find the source of all the strangeness that has plagued the New World recently, hoping to exploit it to his own ends….

The resulting battle feels like it should be epic, but doesn’t quite make it. If you were left unsatisfied at the end of 1602, you probably would do well to read this and get a little more closure at least. But be forewarned, it has nowhere near the awesomeness of Gaiman’s original.


Title: MARVEL 1602: FANTASTICK FOUR
Writer: Peter David
Illustrator: Pascal Alixe
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2007

The phenomenal 1602 saga Neil Gaiman created continues! It just doesn’t have Neil Gaiman attached to it anymore. In any capacity. The result isn’t terrible, its just not terribly good…..

At the end of 1602 the Fantastick Four quietly exited stage right. Apparently King James was uncharacteristically (at least for this fictional version) merciful, allowing them to go their separate ways and go adventuring no more on pain of execution for being Witchbreed. When last seen, Otto “The Handsome” Von Doom had been horrifically scarred in the FF’s escape from his Latverian fortress. But now travellers’ tales begin to spread of a city beyond the edge of the world whose science is far advanced beyond the abilities of those in the outside world….Atlantis! When Doom kidnaps William Shakespeare to chronicle his quest and sets out for Atlantis with the intent of seizing this power himself, the King forces Reed Richards and his fantastick crew to follow on pain of death. But Atlantis will prove more than a match for any who would seize it by force, as even Doom has not counted on Prince Numenor….

Again, I wanted to like this a lot. Instead, I liked it a little. But then, perhaps it is unfair to compare it to Gaiman’s foundational work in this universe….although I would argue it’s perfectly natural. At any rate, this miniseries offers little closure and while there is one more focused on Peter Parquah, I don’t see their paths crossing. So for that, I would like to see at least one more to wrap up some of the plot threads left hanging here. If you enjoyed the original, this is worth your time. If you haven’t read the original, go do it NOW and then come back. But if you disliked the original miniseries, I doubt you’ll find much here to engage you.

Title: SPIDER-MAN: 1602
Writer: Jeff Parker,
Illustrator: Ramon Rosanas
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2010

And so we come to the end (at least for now) of the Marvel 1602 saga. And this time, I feel the product we are given at least comes close to matching Neil Gaiman’s excellent foundation for this world.

Despite the title of the book, it is actually several years after the events in 1602–I have the impression the year was 1608, but I can’t put my finger on why. This miniseries picks up the story threads laid down at the end of 1602: New World, with Peter Parquah still in the colony at Roanoke, now a young man and very much in love with the daughter of the governor, Virginia Dare. Norman Osborn has been on his best behavior since the events of 1602:NW and has managed to insinuate himself into the position of Harbor Master, but Peter and Virginia don’t believe he has reformed. When their suspicions are proved correct with tragic consequences, Peter is sent to escort Norman as a prisoner to England where he will answer for his crimes. Meanwhile, back in the Old World, Baron Octavius has imprisoned both Henri Le Pym and Henry McCoy, forcing them to work in his laboratory. They were able to save him from the plague, but the side effects of the treatment were…unexpected. Now he wants them to find a way to restore his humanity. Throw in the pirate King’s Pin and his sidekick Bull’s Eye, the result of Curtis Connors’ own experiments, the travelling Watsonnes’ entertainment troupe and you have this delightful close to the Marvel 1602 saga.

There are still a few loose ends hanging in the wind–mostly ones left by the previous Fantastick Four miniseries, which doesn’t get touched by this entry in the series–but on the whole this offered a good close. Nothing says they CAN’T follow this up, but I get the impression the series is not making them money or garnering critical acclaim anymore, so I kinda doubt it will happen.

Content-wise this is pretty PG across the board. A little language, nothing you won’t hear on primetime TV. An occasional innuendo or unclothed character obscured by shadows or foreground objects. Some violence, a little blood, but nothing too horrific. Pretty standard comic book fare, on the whole.

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