Issue four of The Way Station continues the comic adaptation of one of the standout chapters of Stephen King’s premier Dark Tower novel, The Gunslinger. The series gives us the first comic representation of Jake Chambers, one of the main members of the novel’s ka-tet—- the important group of lost souls who aid Roland the Gunslinger on his quest to reach the Dark Tower. The Way Station, scripted by industry veteran Peter David with art by Laurence Campbell and Richard Isanove, will please longtime Dark Tower fans and newcomers alike.
The very odd couple of Roland of Gilead and Jake of New York City reach the ends of the Mohaine Desert early on in the issue, arriving at a point of epic mountain vistas and the first sight of greenery Roland has seen “in months, perhaps years.” Laurence Campbell’s art captures the grandiose, romantic awe of the scenery, while still being sharp enough to give it an edge of danger and harshness. The Gunslinger looks part Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, part stoic knight from a time gone by, very much in line with Stephen King’s descriptions in the novel. Jake looks at once like a child but also something more, wearing mysterious looks behind those blue eyes and tussled blonde hair. Campbell does a workmanlike job of capturing the essence of the characters through good use of subtle facial expressions, layering appropriate levels of moodiness and emotion when it suits the story, and making the Gunslinger look like a badass when the situation calls for it.
Campbell’s art is assisted greatly here by the coloring and effects work of Richard Isonove. The color art in this book is nothing short of beautiful, bringing King’s strange vision of “a world that has moved on” to life. Mountain vistas are clear, sharp, and filled with the awe of nature. Roland’s fever dreams and nightmarish flashbacks are as red as Hell, fiery and terrible. When Roland fires his gun to take out some vampiric suckerbats, the blood is splattered across the panel in Jackson Pollock splotches and swirls. A lovely feature in the back of the book shows the page layout and development process— from script to pencils to final colored version. These pages give a crystal clear view of how much awesomeness Isanove is bringing to the table with his coloring. Color work is generally not a reason to pick up a book or not, but in the case of The Way Station, it just might be.
Robin Furth and Peter David do an excellent job of adapting the sprawling tale, and the completed package– 22 pages of story, ad free, with backup material galore– feels like a comic that is actually worth the $3.99 price tag. David’s script takes the best elements of the classic Stephen King dialogue and pairs those choice cuts with action that moves Furth’s plot along at the appropriate pace for a comic book. It would be easy for David and Furth to make the entire issue simply a static conversation between Roland and Jake, as the dialogue from The Gunslinger is that strong, however the pull off something great by giving readers the depth of the novel’s characterization matched with great comic art and sensibilities. The book reads like King wrote The Dark Tower as a comic, rather than Peter David trying to write a comic like Stephen King.
All in all, The Way Station continues Marvel’s suburb graphic adaption of Stephen King’s Dark Tower epic. Fans of the novels are sure to love this latest miniseries, as it touches upon some of the most iconic and beloved moments from the original source material, while at the same time feeling new and fresh thanks to the art team and adaptation writers. The comic version of The Dark Tower features some of the best production value to be found on the rack from any of the major publishers, and the lack of distracting ads gives the reader the sense that this story is something special, like making the jump from basic cable programing to HBO.