Writer: Peter David
Artist: Piotr Kowalski
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Genre: Horror/ Adventure
Stephen King put his novels in the expert hands of Peter David for a reason. He has written everything from prose novels, to television, to film, and to video games. His work on the X-Factor series and his amazing 12-year run on The Incredible Hulk has cemented him in the Marvel Hall of Fame. He has also had memorable runs on Supergirl and Aquaman. Now he’s showing incredible versatility by translating this classic horror series into the comic medium.
Piotr Kowalski is a polish artist with a flair for drawing the weird, the supernatural, and the dark in a realistic yet spontaneous way. His work in Marvel Knights: Hulk earned him great acclaim in the American market. He has also illustrated for the sci-fi albums Darklight and the horror comic Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.
These artists lend their skills to translate King’s nightmarish fantasy world of mystical roses, monsters, and madmen. Between the two of them — and with King as the creative and executive director — they show why this has always been a stand-out series.
Violence: A child is run down by a car, bloody horror images of cannibalism are shown, some grisly Vietnam War scenes take place, and an urban tale where a murder occurs is related. This is a horror genre, but the violence is not glorified. It seems essential to tell the story.
Language: The name of God is profaned and taken in vain in a few panels. There are obscenities throughout like “B****H, S**T, God****, H**L, and D**N.”
Spiritual Content: “Ka” is a kind of fate and seems to be a powerful creative force. They mention the Holy Trinity as a way to describe how the Dark Tower operates.There are also references to demons.
Sexual Content: An unmarried couple spends the night in a haunted house and it shows a sex scene in one panel. No nudity.
Drug/Alcohol Abuse: This story shows how drug addiction happens. Cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and the recreational use of morphine are briefly described. There are scenes where drugs are snorted and smoked. The boys also smoke cigarettes at times.
Positive Content: Eddie tries to do the right thing at times, but evil, seducing forces make this difficult. The main villains are clearly evil, and there are consequences to actions.
Negative Content: There is ambiguity about good and evil among the brothers. They often lie to get out of situations. They can resort to illegal practices to find peace. The characters are complex and the writer gives examples where they can go either way.
When I heard that the Dark Tower Series: The Drawing of the Three was turned into a comic, I had to snatch it up and see how my favorite character, Eddie Dean, was portrayed in it. It was Stephen King novels and superhero comics that introduced me to the world of literature in the first place. The combination of the two could make storytelling magic if it was done well. I had not read the other series yet, but I still remember reading The Drawing of the Three at thirteen, and was hoping that Peter David would script this story true to the original novel.
Marvel was an odd choice for King to go to translate this book. However, the company allowed him to be his twisted self with very little censorship here.
The story takes us to the dark places of drug addiction in order to shape Eddie’s character. We see realistic characters making difficult choices, then dealing with the consequences of them. This further allows us to believe the supernatural things happening in Brooklyn, New York, in the turbulent 60’s and 70’s. It is bleak picture at times.
Between these pages, we are never in Oz. We are not safe. Nothing is bright and optimistic.
We see the darkness right away in both Mid-World and in Brooklyn. There is as much evil in the distant shores of the land beyond, as there is in the crime-ridden alleyways of New York. As we maneuver through both worlds, we do so knowing they are intimately entangled. A single red rose, a tower, and a gloomy mansion merge and become one entity.
David’s script seamlessly follows this philosophy. He has the task of telling a coming-of-age story about a young man raised by a hardworking single mother. But he also has to tell a supernatural horror fantasy about demons, black magic, and inter-dimensional portals. He is tasked to merge these elements together to find some shred of hope for us as readers.
How does he maneuver in these rough seas?
His anchor is in character-building. This is what this series is about. Eddie’s character happens in key stages. We follow him from his period as a toddler, to him tagging along in his big brother Henry’s gang, and into a tormented adulthood. Typical boyhood mischief flirts with weighty topics like Vietnam drafting, drug trafficking, and the occult. Both of the brothers’ fates seem to be tied up together. To make things more eerie, their lives are examined from a distance by a sinister figure called Balazar — who seems to know about the “hidden world.”
David uses literary tools like Balazar and Henry’s mischief to slowly change Eddie. The writer has a destination and that is to break the character. It is a slow burn process.
But there are consequences to every action in this story. By putting Eddie in league with ugly forces, our protagonist begins to get glimpses into another world. It is a hellish one, and appears like a series of hallucinations. But it is for a greater purpose. Ka (fate), is calling him out to explore his role in it.
Kowalski’s skilled artwork shows Eddie’s trials vividly. His realistic style lends this unsafe world credibility. A little girl can get killed on a sunny day as easily as a couple can be brutally murdered after-hours in a mansion. Seducing spirits and death stalk the brothers at an early age; they are never immune to its influence.
The artist shows this disquiet, this foreshadowing of things to come, in many ways. He takes simple everyday objects and magnifies them. He plays with angles, and teases his viewers with hand motions, girls’ dolls, toys, small quick panels, and subtle expressions as if he is switching camera angles. We are always left guessing.
Then, when he wants to show horror, introduce an important scene, or lead us somewhere we do not want to go, we get full pages of the images. Suddenly, like a grisly scene in a thriller, we can’t turn away. A speeding car is veering towards us. We are led through an elegant Italian restaurant as humanoids with glistening fangs dine under dim lighting. A soldier falls into a pit of barbwire and is tortured.
We get lost in the symbolic image of “innocence lost” portrayed by a stuffed doll, torn to shreds, suspended in the air after a heartbreaking tragedy. The art shows expressions of evil, fear, and despair with simple and effective lines.
He also gives some interesting perspectives that you don’t often get to see in some comics. There are long-shot panels that go from the very top to the very bottom of the page. This gives off the effect that we are close-up to the action. He also has a way of making the ugly oddly beautiful.
This is needed because Mid-World is an ugly world indeed. But it is through that ugliness where characters like Eddie find their meaning. The only hope we have as readers is within Eddie’s development. It is his epic struggle to break the prison of addictions and find a greater purpose through the nightmare. He has to discover his quest.
Eddie’s old home, family, and friends are dead-ends. Heroin is a dead-end. There is nothing but sorrow in Brooklyn, despite its storied past. This new world, the Gunslinger’s world, is where everything holds together. It is where the force of Ka calls people who “exist in many worlds.”
This story does not take a Christian view and it has all kinds of occult references. But it does hinge on the idea that we are all born with a greater purpose. The war is not fought on this plane of existence. In a sense we are all Eddie Deans, fighting against the flesh.
I relate to Eddie because I did not have my conversion in a church. God threw me down on my knees in a drug house. His power reached out to me in that “Eddie Dean” state, and showed me there is a different world than this one. A glorious one, but often more dangerous.
When most people think of Stephen King, they think of the insane clown in the sewer offering balloons to kids to lure them. That gruesome shark-like grin of a painted up Tim Curry comes to mind. Or they think of a car coming to life to kill people, or an evil dog, or a teenage girl with fire starting abilities, or an undead cat. But King also wrote The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption. He had some idea then of the power of the redeemed. It is a good reminder that like Eddie, we aren’t of this world. Trusting in its Hellish systems are a dead-end.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
1 Peter 2:11
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+ Realistic art style/spontaneous page building adds a magical-realism feel + Storytelling weaves poetry and prose + Excellent character building + Intense, epic scope
- Dialogue does not fit age-group at times - Some panels are cluttered - For a realistic style, some faces could be altered more
The Bottom Line
The character building of this book entices you to read the rest of the series. There was a good combination of horror, fantasy, and even heart. Fans who loved the "Dark Tower" novels, and who particularly enjoyed the "Drawing of the Three", will not be let down. It flows like a movie with just a few hitches and is perfect to read on a stormy night.