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Homage to Richard Stark (spoilerless, softcover review),
This review is from: Catwoman: Selina's Big Score (Paperback)
Richard Stark is arguably the most succesful author of crime-noir novels of all time, most famous for the Butcher's Moon: A Parker Novel series. His influence also extended into movies with screenplays (The Grifters) and adaptations (Payback - Straight Up - The Director's Cut [Blu-ray]). Thanks to Darwyn Cooke, he also managed to get into a comic book prior to his death in 2008.
Stark is indeed here, or at least the embodiment of him, in this first and foremost "Catwoman" (of Batman fame) graphic novel. I backed into this while trying to find more of Cooke's more recent work Parker: The Score. You won't find any caped super-heroes flying through the air in this, but the chief protagonist, Catwoman's alter-ego Selina Kyle, has a couple small costumed appearances. The other main character is a dark anti-hero who only goes by the name of "Stark", who serves as Selina's half-trusted partner in crime and former lover. Cooke may have dedicated the book "for Candis", but everything about this graphic novel screams as an homage to the real Richard Stark.
The storyline is a straight up generic crime noir tale (perhaps too generic), that contains fairly predictable twists and turns that have been part of the genre since its heyday. For that reason I would not characterize the plot as anything more than average, and as it concludes it suffers a little bit from trying to draw from dozens of previous noir efforts and rolling them all into one big shindig. This may be the "Big Score", but sometimes less is more.
It also is hurt (for me at least) by the mild super-hero intrusions into the story line. That may not be a valid criticism however, as this is supposed to be a Catwoman book. His 2008 work was also just a twinkle in his eye when "Big Score" was published in 2002, and Cooke also might have had a hard time getting the project greenlighted at that time as a straight-up noir. He was more likely just trying to prove that yes indeed, you can do a true crime noir "comic book", and he had to build this bridge first. From that standpoint the book is a resounding success, and set the stage for a lot of other subsequent material. It just wasn't individually what I was hoping for at the time.
The art here is of course excellent, and Cooke is a visual master who if anything suffers from being a victim of his own success. Even "average" Cooke is better than 99% of what else is out there, and is pefectly suited for these type of retro-a-go-go crime tales. This is in full color, and for those who like Cooke's visual atmospheric style of a hard luck tough as nails noir world you really can't get it anywhere else.
Despite being overly generic and its mild super-hero references, "Selina's Big Score" is elevated by this artwork and would probably still get a 4-star ranking if it were not for how it pales in comparison storyline wise to his current work. With that being said, I'm still very pleased I picked this up and I'm guessing that any Darwyn fan will be as well if they're willing to adjust their expectations a bit.
Visually stunning, and for addicted "Cooke-heads" desperately jonesing for their next fix, sometimes that can be more than enough. 96 pages, including an artist's gallery. 3 1/2 stars.