The fifth “The Drawing of the Three” graphic novel releases this week and it’s all about the boy and the guilt Roland feels for letting him die. He’s also alive, but dead, as Roland and his compatriots attempt to ease his mind in Mid-World. The story progresses in the larger tale, but this is all about the boy.
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Juanan Ramirez and Cory Hamscher
Publisher: Marvel Comics
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
JAKE CHAMBERS RETURNS AS STEPHEN KING’S DARK FANTASY EPIC CONTINUES! Haunted by the specter of a boy he let fall to his death, ROLAND is tortured by despair. But the boy never existed, and Roland’s guilt is madness. Or is it? As timelines converge and reality shatters, JAKE CHAMBERS becomes the focus of Roland’s quest…and may be the key to the survival of the Ka-tet!
Why does this book matter?
This volume collects the five part The Sailor story arc and, obviously, is part of the larger story in The Drawing of the Three adaptation of the novel by the same name. Written by Peter David, this is a collection that feels like a story within the story due to the focus of saving the boy, but also progresses the journey of Roland for the bigger picture.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
I think he’s losing it!
Having read the original Dark Tower novels, I found this read to be a nice reminder of the journey Roland and his ka-tet went through in Mid-World. Peter David writes a dreamlike script here as the story dips into the real world and Mid-World, Roland isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind, and we take a closer look at the boy’s life. Outside of this, Eddie and Susannah are still learning how to shoot, but also how to navigate Mid-World. Their story progresses nicely in this volume as they encounter strange monstrous threats (a giant cyborg bear!) and finally find a road to the Dark Tower.
Much of the volume focuses on the boy and his inability to feel comfortable as he knows he’s dead in another life. Roland is afraid the boy is going through hell and I think David captures that hell well. Always feeling like you are dead, but not, David shows this madness-inducing feeling via captions from the boy. Roland’s unease and the boy’s constant anxiety and confusion helps connect them, which was a strong theme in the books.
Given the somewhat loopy plotting that at times seems more made up on the spot than well thought out, David does a good job capturing the weirdness of The Dark Tower. Seemingly random events may occur, but that suits this world where magic doors can sprout out of nowhere, robotic toys stand in their way, and a backstory of Roland’s journeys almost interweave.
Artists Juanan Ramirez and Cory Hamscher keep that weirdness, at least somewhat, in a realm of possibility. It’s incredibly tricky to take ideas vividly real when you read them in a novel and draw them on a page. Given how much mental anguish is involved in this tale I think they do a good job capturing the boy’s near psychotic break and the symbolic elements he sees in life. A key flashback midway through the book to fill Eddie and Susannah in on what Roland did to the boy is captured very well in only a few panels, which helps convey the heartbreak and guilt Roland feels.
It’s worth noting this TPB contains scripts at the end which help show the creative process. Over four pages we get a panel of the script running down the page, a rough and pre-colored page beside that, and then the final page opposite. It’s a cool way to show the process from script to final comic. You also get each cover by Jay Anacleto and Romulo Fajardo Jr. collected in one section as well as two pages breaking down two of these gorgeous corvers.
It’s like magic.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Unfortunately there’s a lot of repetitive neurosis in this book which ends up making some portions feel like recap rather than progression of story. The captions do well to capture the madness the boy goes through, but when you get the same “I’m dead but not dead” stuff over and over it can grow tiresome. It doesn’t help that Roland and his ka-tet end up doing a lot less in the second half of the book. Then, when it’s time to help the boy, they seem to rush to a spot that magically ends up on their path to save him.
The final showdown in this book falls a bit flat due to art that looks unfinished. As the heroes come together to save the boy the monster looks laughably simple, the visuals of the interdimensional door looks unconvincing and the actions of Susannah (who fights off a giant venom spitting bat) are hard to understand. It ends up being a high intensity rush made more chaotic than it should have been because of the art.
Is It Good?
This is a good trade paperback for those who read the novel and want to reminisce and be reminded of the story. New readers should dig this too, as Peter David writes in a way to convey the weirdness of the world well. That said, the book does drag and the art can sometimes lack the detail and visual chops to pull off some of the story’s ideas.