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Dark Tower: The Fall of Gilead

The Dark Tower, Volume 4: Fall of Gilead - Peter David, Stephen King, Richard Ianove, Robin Furth They changed the artist. Fail. This series is being written by Robin Furth, not Stephen King, which creates an understandable bit of confusion as to what is official Dark Tower canon and what is not (although King does give his approval to the series and I'm sure he's involved in the production somehow). Maybe, I just need to go back and reread the original novels, but I seem to remember Steven Deschain and his ka-tet dying differently than is being presented in the Fall of Gilead. That could just be me though.

This is, in some ways, entirely new territory for Dark Tower fans. The story being explored here is merely referenced in Wolves of the Calla, when Roland recounts his mother's fate, and cryptically mentions the Battle of Jericho Hill that claimed the lives of his friends Alain and Cuthbert. Here, we see what happens as events unfold in Gilead and learn a good deal about the most eventful and meaningful formative experiences in Roland's life: the death of his father, his ascension to dinh, and his failure to protect his father's city, the city of Arthur Eld, and his friends from John Farson and the Man in Black.

Let's face it though: Furth is not Stephen King, and though she tries to emulate him in box narration ("do ya kennit?" and such), she's just not him and hasn't found her own voice, to this series's detriment. The artwork in this volume leaves much to be desired, and it's fantastically gory (the death of Cort is gruesome to say the least). Perhaps the medium of the graphic novel doesn't do wonderful things for this type of story-telling. Furth does finally help to clarify a couple of things: 1. What happened to Gilead and to Roland's father exactly? and 2. John Farson is indeed distinct and separate from the Man in Black, a.k.a. Walter O'Dimm, a.k.a. Randall Flagg, a.k.a. Marten Broadcloak and not just another one of his alias's. Farson's role in the fall of Gilead and the fate of the Deschains is explained plausibly and with enough new material to keep Tower fans satisfied in the post-King era. He is a miscreant, a rabble-rouser and a revolutionary, an interesting character in his own right. In addition, the fleshing-out of Aileen, the only woman gunslinger continues, and her ties to Roland are further explored. To date, she is the only character outside of the Tower novels to be introduced by the comic writers. I'm on the fence about her still though.

Some interesting questions linger. As the ka-tet escape Gilead, the only survivors of a massacre as Farson's troops sack the city, when will we see the Battle of Jericho Hill? What role will Aileen play and how will they explain the fact that in years traveling together Roland does not mention her to his new crew? What role is Sheemie going to play before the end? And why doesn't Roland remember him? What becomes of Farson and Gilead once it is in his possession? Why doesn't he pursue Roland after Jericho Hill?

The series is good enough to keep me reading, but probably only because I consider the original a masterpiece of Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror/Adventure/Romance, whatever...as usual the Dark Tower defies classification.