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Richard Stark's Parker, Vol. 2: The Outfit Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 5, 2010
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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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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).
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Too bad we can't get film adaptations of this caliber. What say we let Cooke do animated films based on these?Published 20 months ago by Bradley C. West
Darwyn Cooke has proven that you can draw in a "cartoony" style and still do "grim and gritty" storiesPublished 23 months ago by Lazarus
Cooke understands the character and does the impossible; adds even more worth experiencing. Darwyn is a mad genius who makes it look effortless. It's a love /hate thing.Published on January 16, 2014 by Amazon Customer
Graphical, lyrical hard-boiled straightforward storytelling. But lots of fun and lots of twists. I just love the way darwyn Cooke draws and Richard Starke (aka -- I won't tell... Read morePublished on December 27, 2013 by Amazon Customer
As you can see from my other reviews I am a fan of the Parker novels and based on that I purchased this book. I had never heard of Darwyn Cook before I purchased this. Read morePublished on August 3, 2013 by LA Guy
Excellent, one sit read. Unlike The Hunter which was perfectly imbalanced for my taste - The Outfit is wordier. Read morePublished on June 9, 2013 by Dan
This is the second of Darwyn Cooke's comic book adaptations of Richard Stark's Parker novels with this one using material from the novels "The Outfit" and "The Man with the Getaway... Read morePublished on April 27, 2013 by Sam Quixote