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Richard Stark's Parker, Vol. 2: The Outfit Hardcover – October 5, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Cooke garnered all sorts of acclaim (including the 2010 Eisner Award for Best Adaptation) for translating Donald Westlake’s ruthless antihero Parker (the Parker novels were written under Westlakes pseudonym Richard Stark) into comics form with The Hunter, and here he returns with an even stronger follow-up. The crime syndicate that professional heister Parker so royally pissed off (they pissed him off first, to be fair) in the last book finds him languishing in Miami Beach with a surgically transformed face. The syndicates attempted hit goes wrong, and Parker shifts back into his relentless vengeance gear (he never smiles, but you get the sense he’s happiest brawling and shooting his way through impossible odds) as he calls in a few favors from his underworld associates and goes after the head of the outfit. Cooke leans less heavily on large chunks of Stark’s prose here than in the first book and flexes some serious cartooning muscle, from the stylishly visualized early-60s milieu to the sweet timing of the wordless action sequences to a virtuosic series of mini-heists, each drawn in a different style that highlights Cooke’s considerable range, impeccable linework, and diligent grasp of graphic design. Even the deceptively simple coloring—just a few shades of blue that slash grim crags beneath Parker’s glaring eyes and swirl plumes of cigarette smoke in the dark—exudes pure noir silkiness. It’s a credit to both the source and Cooke’s considerable skill, but straight-up crime fare (comics or not) doesn’t get much more gratifying. --Ian Chipman

Review

Darwyn Cooke pulled off the perfect crime last year with The Hunter, his graphic-novel adaptation of the 1962 novel of the same name by the late, great Donald E. Westlake (an author who, just like his heist men, decided it was best to use an alias and wrote under the name Richard Stark). The Hunter earned Cooke an Eisner Award and a Harvey for best cartoonist, and, this week, the Nova Scotia artist becomes a true repeat offender as IDW Publishing delivers Cooke's second hardcover Westlake adaptation, The Outfit, which follows the bloodied path of Parker, a career criminal with a penitentiary stare and brass-knuckles heart. --Geoff Boucher --Hero Complex/Los Angeles Times

The Outfit marks the second entry into Darwyn Cooke's graphic novel adaptations of Richard (Donald Westlake) Stark's Parker novels. And much like Cooke's original adaptation of The Hunter, The Outfit stands as yet another incredible accomplishment that continues to prove why Cooke is one of the premiere graphic storytellers in the comics medium.


Darwyn Cooke is a man who fully understands how integral art is to the comic making process. Few artists have the skill required to pull off what Cooke manages to do in The Outfit. Cooke can, and does, go pages without a single word balloon, narration or thought bubble. Instead, Cooke's artistic skill in capturing the nuances of facial expression and body language do a lot of the storytelling heavy lifting.


Cooke even incorporates numerous ingenious page layouts to build character backgrounds without resorting to unnecessary exposition. The Outfit is a graphic novel that you can hand to someone not well verse in the medium and show them what makes storytelling through the use of images and words so unique and special.


But there are a select few instances where Cooke's art comes off as relatively hard to follow. Because of Cooke's stylistic choice to be minimalistic with background dressing and color--The Outfit once again utilizes the two-tone color scheme first introduced in The Hunter--the action sequences can be tough to comprehend. Luckily, The Outfit is not the type of story riddled with shootouts and fist fights. Rather, it's more about the character interaction, playing right into Cooke's strengths as a storyteller.


So far I've only touched on the art of The Outfit, but I really don't want to undersell Cooke's script work here. The dialogue and narration of The Outfit is just as sharp as it was in The Hunter. But the real standout sections, script-wise, come in Book Three (of 4), where Parker reaches out to his network of con buddies and gets them to pull various scores on some the Outfit's criminal organizations. Not only do each of these heists sport wildly different page layouts, but the actual dialogue and narration detailing how each was pulled off is a refreshing style change midway through the book.


Surprisingly, even the seven-page prose entry detailing the heist of Club Cockatoo felt oddly fitting within the confines of a graphic novel. Cooke even adds a classy extra layer to this prose piece by giving the byline to Richard Stark. Consider me shocked that the highlight chapter of The Outfit is the one without a trace of Parker in its pages.


But it is worth noting; The Outfit is not a standalone, jumping on point for the Parker Graphic Novel series. This book references characters and plot threads set up in The Hunter while simultaneously moving them forward. Without first reading The Hunter you will be lost and confused with The Outfit. Maybe that can be considered a misstep by Cooke; failing to reach as wide an audience as possible on the merits of this story alone. But I don t think that was ever considered or intended. Cooke is staying true to Richard Stark's delivery of the original novels, The Outfit making up one part in a series. Therefore, The Outfit lacks a concrete beginning and end, acting more as a stepping stone heading towards the inevitable conclusion.


It should be perfectly clear that Cooke has near limitless respect for Richard Stark's original source material and has crafted a loving graphic novel tribute to it here with The Outfit, much like he did with The Hunter. Darwyn Cooke's Parker adaptations might be the best work of his long, prosperous career. They prove that he is capable of not only creating amazing original work (See also: DC: The New Frontier), but can also distill the core essence of someone else's masterstroke and adapt it to a new medium without any loss in translation. --Erik Norris -- Crave Online
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: IDW Publishing (October 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1600107621
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600107627
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Donald Westlake writing as Richard Stark created one of the earliest villain heroes, Parker. Like Fantomas, Tony Soprano or Dexter Morgan, we know they are clearly one of the "bad guys", yet we follow them along their adventures and hope that they survive their predicaments.

Parker is a very efficient crook. He is an independent, working for himself. He specializes in robberies (armored cars, jewelry, rare coins, etc.). He will kill when threatened or betrayed. When he kills he is remorseless and cold blooded. He own next to nothing and people he knows are just that, people he knows. He does not crave owning things nor the friendship of others. There is no sentimentality. When a fellow crook offers to help him out on a caper out of friendship for having been helped by Parker in the past, Parker notes this - it troubles him because it is seen as sign of weakness.

In this work, Parker is on the run from the syndicate after an earlier run in. Rather than hide away he takes the fight to the syndicate and goes after the head boss.

Darwyn Cooke continues his adaptation of the Parker novels. His earlier turn on "The Hunter" was terrific. He shows how the graphic novel format can capture the dynamism of the action and subtle shifts in tone and expression. He sticks close to the original material making only a few small changes - he compresses the plot from "The Man with the Getaway Face" and makes a tweak at the end. Parker personally goes to the crime boss Karns rather than using the middleman Quill.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's Darwyn Cooke, how could you go wrong?
The cartooning style flows with the story that very few comic books can match. I would say the Parker series is even better than Cooke's previous works. Once you start reading one of these books it is very hard to stop. The aesthetic of the books is an event, the thicker stock paper, leather bound cover that is just the right size to read in the hand and slightly off base colour pay off in dividends. (I recommend getting the hardbacks for this series).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book continues Darwn Cookes translation of Richard Starks character "Parker". The Outfit continues where "The Hunter" left off and these stories are AWESOME!, Cookes illustrative style works PERFECTLY with the story period! I moved right through these as they flowed effortlessly. If you are a fan of Cooke (Justice League: the new frontier) you will LOVE these. These will stay in my book collection for years.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Classic noir in the rich tradition of Chandler and MacDonald. Stark was a prolific writer of noir novels, the Parker series being his most known creation. Here artist Darwyn Cooke brings this dark, but simple tale to life with his imaginative illustrations. The color palette is mostly blue, black and grey - to fit the theme, I suppose. The story is relatively easy to follow: Parker is seeking revenge on the Outfit for daring to take a hit out on him and goes on a robbing/killing spree that ends with him winning. I give it three stars (instead of four or five) because Cooke's ambitious noir rendering sometimes makes it hard to follow the action. Some of his panels are so drenched in dark blue and black that I had difficulty discerning who was crashing through the glass panes I to whom, or who was 'thwacking' whom on the forehead. Other than that this is a pretty solid addition to this series.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read all the Parker (and Grofeld) novels, which I recommend to anyone who likes crime novels or appreciates masterful plotting and characterization.

Cooke's adaptation of The Outfit gets 5 stars from me on his artwork and use of the comic form - there are many brilliant touches in his adaptation (I especially liked how he handled the many heists that set the Outfit back on its heels).

But his treatment of the Parker character disappoints. Stark/Westlake trod a very fine line in making a criminal his antihero. Parker doesn't kill unless he needs to, almost purely as a practical matter. (He has moral qualms once, in The Sour Lemon Score; he doesn't even recognize that it's his conscience talking, and he has cause a few books later to regret his mercy.) He's often described as a sociopath, but I don't think that's right, because Parker does acknowledge and follow many rules; they just don't have anything to do with the law. He treats the law much as a big CEO might, a practical obstacle that has to be gotten around to get the money he wants. (Parker as CEO would be a great satire.)

Cooke apparently feels the need to toughen Parker up. He kills characters he doesn't kill in the book, in cold blood for no advantage. The last scene with Karns (who maintains a professional and healthy respect for Parker in later books) is invented from whole cloth, to make Parker appear more of an S.O.B. than he is. I guess Cooke is free to reinvent Parker as he likes, but falling off the author's fine balance, he makes Parker a less interesting character IMHO.

And that's why this is not a 5-star review - very much worth reading for Parker fans, but if you're coming to Parker through Cooke, I hope you'll pick up the novels as well. They're masterpieces.
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