Friday, August 17, 2012

Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter

by Darwyn Cooke (adaptation and illustration), Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald Westlake, original novel), 140 pages

Betrayed by a partner and left for dead following a successful heist, career criminal Parker goes on the cold, methodical warpath to exact his revenge.

Ooh, this is fun--if dark, dry, noir-ish stories of morally less-than-upstanding anti-heroes who don't (generally) go out of their way to kill people but aren't too concerned if they do sound like fun to you.  Cooke was granted permission by the now-late Westlake to adapt in graphic novel form a handful of his classic gritty crime novels with the title character's name intact (the only time such permission was ever granted--all other adaptations have had to change "Parker" to something else).  I haven't read the original novels, but I'm enjoying the graphic versions for their atmosphere, tone, stony protagonist, unpredictable plots, and impressively period-appropriate artwork.  The first Parker novel takes place in 1962 New York and the three-tone visuals (all in heavy black ink, yellowish white space, and blue-grey washes) never let that just-out-of-the-50's feeling fade.  Parker's a square-jawed, thick-eyebrowed, broad-shouldered tower of a man and I would not want to mess with him.  Nor would I like to be anywhere in his general vicinity, as just being in the wrong place at the wrong time can get people around him killed--and he doesn't seem bothered by this in the least, except as it puts crimps in his carefully laid plans.  And yet I still root for him....

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