Parker Can’t Lose

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter

I’m really, really late to the party at this point. This came out last year, and I delayed getting it because of the $25 price tag. I finally found it somewhere for an extra $10 off and snapped it up. My only regret is that I waited so long to get it — it’s absolutely worth 25 smackers.

If you’ve been living in a hole, this is a comic adaptation of the first of the “Parker” novels by Richard Stark (whose real name was Donald Westlake). All the art is by Darwyn Cooke, who’s best known to comics fans as the guy behind “DC: The New Frontier,” the “Spirit” revival, and lots of other cool, retro projects.

Parker is a criminal. He specializes in heists — he gets a team together, goes in to some place with a lot of money, steals it, then lives in swanky hotels on his ill-gotten cash for a few years ’til it’s time to restock the bank account. But he got double-crossed on the last job, most of his team got killed, his wife got threatened into betraying and shooting him, and he got jailed for vagrancy for several months. Once he makes his escape, he returns to New York as one big, ice-cold bucket of rage, ready to track down his wife and the crook who betrayed him. And he wants his money back, even if he has to take on the Mob to get it.

Parker is an incredibly unsympathetic character — he starts the book jumping subway turnstiles and stiffing waitresses and quickly moves up to forging a drivers license, committing check fraud, assault, encouraging someone to commit suicide, and desecrating a corpse. And he escalates things from there. He’s a rotten piece of work in every way, and I have no idea why he makes such a compelling character, unless we’re just hardwired to sympathize with hardboiled, rage-fueled crooks. Or it could be just that Westlake and Cooke are great storytellers. I’m leaning toward the latter, but we are a pretty psychotic species sometimes.

Let’s talk about art. I’m a fan of Darwyn Cooke — a big, big fan. His part-retro/part-animated-action style is colossally appealing, and he really knows how to tell a story right, how to frame a pose, how to amp up the drama and suspense. He’s got a great eye for period detail.

And here’s the thing I still can’t get over — I read the book, and I remembered it being in color. But it’s not — someone reminded me that it’s all done with black ink, blue ink, and off-white paper. But I still remembered it being in full color. How could I mistake blue ink and black ink for color? That’s how good Darwyn Cooke’s art is.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Late to the party, sure, but I gotta say it. If you ain’t got it, go get it. And there’s more on the way — Cooke’s putting out the second book in the series this summer. Smart money says it’ll be worth the 25 bucks, too.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Space Weather could wreak havoc on Earth technology. SPAAAAAACE WEATHERRRRRR!
  • Ragnell writes a long post about her pick for the only cool prince in Disney’s classic movies.


  1. VoodooBen Said,

    June 9, 2010 @ 9:46 am

    I’m late to the party myself – I only picked this up last night, largely because of your review (and I found a used copy at Hastings).

  2. scottslemmons Said,

    June 9, 2010 @ 9:57 am

    Man, someone sold a used copy to Hastings? That’s insane. I’ve got this installed in one of the high-prestige bookcases in the living room, right alongside non-comic books…

  3. Fergus Said,

    June 9, 2010 @ 3:09 pm

    Sounds great! I’d never heard of it.

    I thoroughly enjoyed your review, too. Am I alone in being *slightly* disappointed that it’s not about Peter Parker, though?

  4. scottslemmons Said,

    June 9, 2010 @ 3:14 pm

    Fergus, you may be thinking of the old Spider-Man storyarc “Kraven’s Last Hunt.” 😉

    But this was better…