Dark Tower: The Gunslinger series is the second set of Dark Tower comics put out by Stephen King and Robin Furth. The entire arc is our main character Roland Deschain chasing after the Man in Black, and what happens when they finally meet. Book 1 is The Journey Begins. Roland tells part of his tale to a traveler named Brown. After the Battle of Jericho Hill, Roland finds Aileen not dead but dying, and honors her request to bury her in the tombs of their fathers back in Gilead. Roland makes friends with a billy-bumbler, which is kind of like a not-so-bright-but-talking raccoon. Not-Men eat a bunch of billy-bumblers but Roland’s Billy in particular keeps saving his life. Like, twice. In Kingstown Roland rescues a woman whose name is Susan who looks exactly like his first love Susan, so of course there is some getting it on that happens after he saves all the ladies who were kidnapped to be slaves. Reminded that anyone near him dies–his Billy dies saving him–Roland leaves this new Susan behind, maybe sparing her a terrible fate.
The Little Sisters of Eluria, Book 2 of this arc, is definitely one of the creepier concepts in these already-super-creepy comics, so don’t be surprised if this one sticks with you. Roland explores a ghost town only to be attacked by mutants, and wakes up in the care of the Little Sisters of Eluria, a nunhood that appears to be nurses, but you know from the start there’s something weird going on. There’s the one good nun-nurse, Sister Jenna, and the rest of them are super ick. Come to find out Roland is being regularly drugged to keep him docile and immobilized while insects crawl around inside his body healing him. EW. He’s also got a cross pendant he picked up from town that puts the nun-nurses off. (Hiss, hiss!) Watching it happen to one and then another of the male “patients,” Roland finds out that they’re being healed just to then be eaten. The nuns aren’t vampires, exactly, think more like spider zombie hybrids, because they keep their prey in webbing-ish stuff. When Roland gets loose from their grasp, with the help of the good one Sister Jenna, he sees that it was just a small tent, and most of what he saw on the inside was hallucinations. They get away from the baddies with the help of a stray dog that’s got a cross pattern in its fur–go figure–and Roland gives ladyface her first kiss, awww, then falls asleep. Good thing he doesn’t get it on with this one because when he wakes up she has turned into bugs. Yeah. Awesome.
The whole point of The Battle of Tull, Book 3, is that Roland kills THE ENTIRE TOWN. That’s like, forty people, which may not seem like a lot by modern standards, but he’s got six-shooters, y’all. He shows up and he can tell the Man in Black has been through (he’s pursing him this whole time, okay?) because the MiB has brought an old dude back to life. Old dude Nort now has some bit of the sight, and knows Roland to be a Gunslinger. Roland shacks up with Allie, the barkeep with a scar, and waits for all hell to break loose, which it soon does. The preacher lady Pittston sort of mass-hysteria’s everybody into trying to kill Roland, hence Roland killing the whole town. Allie speaks the word Nineteen to Nort, which is the secret password to insanity and all the knowledge of the afterlife, so of course she asks Roland to kill her because she’s bugnuts, and he does. Well. That was A LOT of killin’. This book also gives Roland some major deja vu because he thought he’d left Brown’s encampment but Brown acts like he’d never left or stopped telling his tales. So Roland just rolls with it, because what else is he going to do.
In The Way Station, Book 4, Roland finally meets Jake, who is this cool little kid from present-day our world (well, like, the ’70s, but close enough). So there’s a lot of funny jokes that Roland doesn’t get, and Jake has to learn all the ‘slinger speak. (Yar!) Basically Jake died in his world and showed up in Roland’s, brings Roland back from the brink of death, and then they decide to travel together up through the mountains. Roland gets to feel fatherly and get a glimpse of raising the son he never had, making Jake a rabbit pelt sweater for the colder weather and teachin’ him stuff. Then Roland has to put the kid to sleep so he can go get it on with a future-seeing succubus, who gives Roland nothing but jumbled riddles, but of course “Jake is gonna die” is the message we all come away with.
So Roland is finally narrowing in on the Man in Black here in Book 5–they even have a conversation where MiB makes it clear that yes, Jake is definitely going to die–and Jake makes the requisite Johnny Cash reference. Roland tries to imagine leaving off his life’s quest (reaching the Dark Tower, and, ostensibly, saving the world, I guess) in order to lead a regular life being Jake’s dad, but he just can’t do it. He abandons Jake to his own devices, and Jake follows behind just a little too late. Each of them gets lost in the train tunnels on his own before they meet back up, each of them then comforted that the other went seeking him. Mutants attack while Jake and Roland are driving a pushcart on the rails and Jake gets to be brave and Roland gets to kill shit. Then there’s a crazy, rickety ole bridge, and Jake starts out crossing it with Roland not far behind, and there’s a bunch of Jake-almost-dies moments, but then the Man in Black shows up and Jake sort of teeters and is only able to grasp the edge, so Roland has to make this split second decision whether to save Jake and lose the MiB forever or leave Jake to die and finally catch up with the MiB. Being completely obsessed with his scrap of life’s purpose, Roland lets Jake fall to his death. Yeah. I’m not even kidding. Then Roland and the MiB have a pow wow and some dream times and the MiB reads Roland’s tarot, which lines us up for the next arc, which is called The Drawing of The Three.
Last Shots, Book 6 in this arc, is really just three mini stories smushed together. The first one is Sheemie’s Tale, which I thought was by far the most interesting of the three. We get to find out more about the universe (multiverse?), the Tower, the power beams, End-World, and more. The middle story just seems like some extra Roland content that maybe got cut from somewhere else but was too good to just ditch altogether. The third story is Roland telling dying Aileen the story of Arthur Eld defeating Lord Perth, which is very David and Goliath esque (Arthur even fights with a sling). It’s interesting to see Arthur Eld, who I kind of always assumed was King Arthur, as just a scrawny kid from Topeka. But their world is all mixed up from ours, because he’s a shepherd with a sling and his town only has archers, but the enemies rolling toward them have tanks. So the tech levels are very confusing. Tune in next time for the next Dark Tower arc, and much more besides!
Here we go for reading challenge updates:
- PopSugar 2017 reading challenge Okay. Full disclosure, I’m stretching on several of these categories. The problem is, I have this compulsion to fit everything into the same rows and lines, and I can’t just have some of these titles fit categories and others not. It would be like setting up the checkers board with pieces missing. GLARING SPACES STARING INTO YOU FROM THE VOID. It just makes me panic a bit. So, here are the categories I picked, with indications of the ones that are stretching it. No. 7 a book that is a story within a story Dark Tower: The Gunslinger: The Journey Begins (Book 1). Fits the category just fine. No. 43 a book with a family member term in the title Dark Tower: The Gunslinger: The Little Sister of Eluria (Book 2). Fits the category perfectly, and I’ve had this one planned for a while. No. 1 a book recommended by a librarian Dark Tower: The Gunslinger: The Battle of Tull (Book 3). Okay. I could not for the life of me figure out a category for this book, and I’ve been saving No. 1 for something else, but I needed a category, so here’s how I justified it: my husband used to work at a library, and often gave Reader Advisories; he also told me to read this series. There ya go. No. 33 a book set in two different time periods Dark Tower: The Gunslinger: The Way Station (Book 4). This one is also perfect. We see Roland’s cowboy land and Jake’s modern world. No. 41 a book recommended by an author you love Dark Tower: The Gunslinger: The Man in Black (Book 5). This is really stretching it. I asked my friend Cody to ask his husband Remy (who is an author) if, in his opinion, Remy would recommend The Dark Tower novels and/or comics. Because Remy is a horror reader and writer, and Remy works nights and sleeps days. Cody reckoned that Remy would likely recommend them, if he had read them, of which fact he was unsure. And I have not received further clarification. EEEK I HAD TO DO IT OKAY! No. 19 a book about food Dark Tower: The Gunslinger: Last Shots (Book 6). This is really less of a stretch than usual for me. I’m truly never going to read a book about food in any traditional sense, I can’t ever see that happening, I don’t like cookbooks or anything. But food is a significant symbol in about 1/3 of this book: in Evil Ground Roland sets up camp where a hobo was, he eats a rabbit, the hobo’s ghost shows up and eats the ghost-marrow from the ghost-rabbit-bones, and Roland finds the corpse of the hobo the next morning which has been eaten by crows. I really think is the closest to “a book about food” that I’m going to get. So there you have it, all my sins laid bare.
- Book Dragon’s Lair Audiobook challenge Nope.
- Book Dragon’s Lair Pages Read challenge This 800 pgs (WOW!) brings me to 14,245 pgs. Good Gracious!
- Read It Again, Sam Nope.
- My Reader’s Block Mount To Be Read (TBR) and Rock My TBR challenge Nope. These are library books.
- Diverse Reads challenge (here and here). I’m gonna go with nope.
- The Book Date Full House challenge Nope.
- The Book Date Read the Books You Buy challenge Nope.
- The Worm Hole’s What’s In A Name challenge Nope.
- Anne Read Along Nope.
Hashtags for the challenges that had them:
Hope you’ve enjoyed my ridiculous summation of the Dark Tower: The Gunslinger saga.
Stay tuned, more to come.