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Richard Stark's Parker, Vol. 1: The Hunter Hardcover – July 28, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Cooke has transformed the first volume of the late Donald Westlake's long-running Parker series (written under the pseudonym Richard Stark), about an indomitable outlaw, into a smashing graphic novel, making its ferocious mood and retro aesthetics the stars of the show. Parker belongs to the bottom of the urban jungle's economic strata, but the top of its food chain—anyone who stands between him and his revenge is doomed, whether they're trying to resist him or just happen to be in the way. As the book begins, he's returning to New York City in the Kennedy era with murder in his eyes: double-crossed by his wife and partners, he's come back to kill whoever needs killing to get his money. Cooke has a real affinity for the tough-as-hammers tone of Westlake's story. His Parker doesn't seem to enjoy or dislike slaughter (or anything else); he's just doing what it takes to reach his goal, with a certain dispassionate savoir faire. And Cooke's delicious two-color artwork nails the look of the early '60s, from hairstyles and tiki bars to the illustrative technique that defined the era everywhere except for comics: angular caricatures that capture his characters' motion and expressions with a bare minimum of elegantly rugged lines. (July)
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"Parker's a very bad man, but it's hard to take your eyes off him." –Washington Post
"A tremendous feat of compression and interpretation. When Westlake wrote as Richard Stark, he wrote starkly, using minimal description and the tersest dialogue. Cooke, perhaps best known for his work on DC: The New Frontier and another remarkable adaptation, his reinvention of Will Eisner’s The Spirit, somehow pares down the story of The Hunter even more radically than the Stark novel." –Entertainment Weekly
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Parker is the protagonist - but he's certainly no hero. He does, though, have that inner code that noir protagonists have. He's a completely self-sufficient and supremely competently man. You do not want to cross this guy--as he is makes crystal clear in the course of the book. As Spenser said of Hawk: "He's not a good man, but he's good."
I haven't read many graphic novels, so I don't have much to compare this to. But the art fit the story very well. It helped set the mood and tone.
Readers first experience the grim and determined Parker as a veritable force of nature, a storm slowly gathering power as it moves towards landfall. In this particular instance, the storm is heading towards one Mal Resnick, who, proving there is no honor among thieves, has bushwacked Parker and the rest of his string after a heist, making off with the ninety thousand dollar score. Resnick, who used the money to pay off a debt he owed to the mob (here known as "the Outfit ") made only one mistake: he forgot to make sure everyone was dead. Surviving, juggernaut Parker sets his sights on Resnick, letting nothing, and no one, get in his way of regaining his share of the proceeds.
Although one would have to reread the source material to make absolutely sure, Cooke appears to have remained faithful to Stark/Westlake's novel, retaining the author's unique four segment structure (the first two segments told from Parker's point of view, the third from another cast member's point of view, the final segment returning to Parker's) and quoting huge chunks of text and dialogue verbatim. His style and layouts (recalling, at times, Will Eisner, Mike Ploog, Jack Kirby, Wally Wood (especially the way he renders women) and Alex Toth) suits the subject matter. Cooke also contributes some nice artistic flourishes which enhance the story; the inking and coloring are especially arresting. All in all, a wonderful job which will leave fans begging for more--fortunately, it's been reported that there are three additional adaptations in the works.
The tone is dark as Parker tracks down thug after thug who has wronged him. Cooke utilizes mostly whites, blues, an blacks for all of the art to help you feel the mindset of a man who is out to get his money back and will stop at nothing to do so. The cover is full color and completely stunning.
I was unfamiliar with Richard Stark prior to this book. After reading which movies that his books had spawned, I started to get an appreciation for the man realizing that I really like those movies, so I'm anxious to check out his prose versions somewhere down the line, though I've heard that Darwyn will adapt another Parker story to be released in mid-2010.
Though over 100 pages, this book is fast paced and action packed, spurred on by Cooke not using traditional frames within the book, leaving each panel open as a fluid transition into the next. I would have loved for it to take longer to read, but truth be told, I just couldn't put it down. Before I knew it, I was on the fourth chapter, nearing the climax and I forced myself to set it down for the night, though I finished it immediately the following morning. If you're a fan of Brubaker or Bendis's crime work, this ranks right up there with the best.
Darwyn Cooke is one of those special talents who can write (or in this case adapt) a comic and do all of the art for it. It's obvious that he put a lot of heart into this adaptation and greatly respects Richard Stark. Always a pleasure to read a book from someone who has so much love for sequential storytelling.