Monday, June 21, 2010

Richard Stark’s Parker – the Hunter – adapted by Darwyn Cooke – A Review

Richard’s Stark’s Parker – the Hunter

Publisher IDW

Adapted and Illustrated by Darwyn Cooke

134 Pages of Story and Art

Price $25

Some books are so damn good it is impossible for me to convey exactly how much I truly enjoyed the work. I love the noir type of comics and I now look for graphic novels that understand the form is a marriage of words and pictures. To truly be a graphic novel the understanding of what needs to be conveyed via words and what the art can tell without words needs to be understood. Darwyn Cooke is creator at the height of his prowess and this adaptation hits all the spots dead on and without a doubt is the best read I have had this year.

I know this book has been out for some time and I have heard nothing but great things about it, but the crush of what I have been getting weekly has caused me to put aside way too many of the graphic novels and trades that I have. The recent cutback of my list has freed up some time and my general malaise with the bulk of the super hero material has driven me to pull more and more material off my bookshelves and finally read them.

Parker “The Hunter” is an adaptation of Richard Stark’s book of the same name. I have not read the source material but if it is half as good as the adaptation I need to be reading all of Richard (a pseudonym of Donald Westlake) Stark’s books.

The story is set in 1962 and Parker is a thief. His plan for his life has been to do a job and live off the proceeds and do another job when the funds run low. He has never been caught and there is no record anywhere on him. In addition he robs armored cars, banks and other such entities to reduce any sort of personal vendetta that might be held against him. He usually would work with three or four other guys in the business who also knew what they were doing. He is smart, calculating and we find out when he needs to be, ruthless.

The book starts out with us following Parker as he is entering New York City. Within 20 plus pages we see him establish a new identity, steal someone’s bank account, buy some new clothes, have a steak dinner and then show up a beautiful woman’s house and slap her to the ground. I think there are maybe three word balloons for that entire sequence. It is so effective in drawing you into the story that by that time he shows up at the dame’s apartment you don’t want to put the book down. At this point you have no idea of who is Parker or anything about his background.

I’m not going to go into a detailed plot summary, because I want you to read the book and enjoy it as it unfolds. What I will say is Parker is tough, uncompromising, merciless, cold blooded and yet is almost someone that you can admire in that he has his own code and no one is going to f**k with him. The tale of why is after some people is one that makes sense and you can certainly identify with him for wanting to make these people pay.

The entire book is done in black and white and one shade of blue. With just those few colors Cooke sets the mood perfectly. He is also a master story teller and each page flows from one to the next. He knows how to pace the story and when to add the text and when to stay away from the text and let the pictures tell the story. If they make a movie out of this book Darwyn has already done the entire story for them and they should follow this as their storyboards and bible for how to pace the film. I finally decided that if Vince Vaughn is willing to step away from his comedic work, this would be a great part for him to play.

This was far better than Criminal, which is a very good piece of work and is just as strong as Scalped, albeit in a different format. I guess what I’m saying is this is one Class “A” graphic novel and it delivers the action, the drama and the feeling of what a true noir book should deliver. This is a masterpiece of graphic fiction and a true testament to the skill of Darwyn Cooke and the strength of the source material from Richard Stark.

This goes down as one of the best graphic novels ever done. I can’t wait for the next one.

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