Holiday Gift Bag: Parker!

Well, what’ve we got here? Looks like it’s the biggest shopping day of the year, and you can look forward to fighting your way through a few thousand people at the malls and the discount stores, wearing the soles off your shoes walking through jam-packed parking lots, and hitting your fellow shoppers with purses and warhammers and car fenders and walruses and whatnot!

“Oh, help me!” I hear you cry. “Help me, Comic Book Blogger Guy! Help me find the perfect gift for family! Also, where did I park my car?”

Well, sounds to me like it’s time to kick off this year’s “Holiday Gift Bag” series — over the next few weeks, I’m going to offer you some ideas and recommendations for holiday gifts you can give the comics fan in your life. So if you’re tired of getting crushed and pushed around at the mall, head on over to your friendly neighborhood comic shop instead!

We’re going to start out with Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit, adapted and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke.

You may remember I’ve already reviewed the first volume of this series, “Parker: The Hunter,” and even reviewed the pre-release preview, “The Man with the Getaway Face.” Well, this is finally the second book in Cooke’s “Parker” series, and it’s heckuva good.

To sum things up, this is superstar artist Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of the “Parker” hardboiled crime novels by Donald Westlake (writing as Richard Stark). Our lead character is a guy named Parker, who is a criminal who specializes in pulling heists. He’s a mostly unsympathetic guy — cold, grim, unsmiling, merciless. He doesn’t like to kill people, but he’ll do it if he has to, and he won’t even feel bad about it.

After getting plastic surgery to disguise his appearance, Parker’s living the easy life, but a disgruntled associate has clued the Mob in on where to find him. After taking care of that loose end, Parker ain’t happy about it. He’s tired of the Mob breathing down his neck, and he wants to do two things — take out the syndicate leader who’s got it in for him, and hurt the Mob in their pocketbook so they’ll know to lay off him. So after telling a bunch of his heist-artist pals that they should start robbing some Mob-owned businesses, he sets his sights on Bronson, the head of the East Coast syndicate.

This book is just a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Ain’t nothing like the thrill of opening a book and finding that it’s all put together with black ink and blue ink on creamy off-white paper. You won’t have to hide this in your back office with all the ratty comic TPBs — this needs to go in the bookshelf at the front of the house, with all the fancy books you want to use to impress people.

If you love hard-boiled crime fiction, this was made for you. Parker’s a hard, mean customer, and I’d guesstimate there are eight different heists pulled off in just 150 pages. That’s a lot of crime, boyo. I also loved the great mix of characters — besides Parker, you’ve got charismatic jokester Grofeld, doomed weasel Skim, Monopoly-hating crime boss Bronson, cheery hooker-turned-motel-owner Madge, thrill-seeking Bett Harlow, and bunches more, some never named. This is good stuff all the way through.

If you’re familiar with Cooke’s art, you know you’re getting good stuff — a lot of influence from the more noir-based Warner Bros. animation, with his own unique twists on the formula. Lots and lots of period detail for the ’60s. Cooke loves the ’50s and ’60s, and he loves period details both small and large. You’ll come out of this feeling like you just read a comic created in the ’60s.

Possibly the coolest part of this book is the section where we learn about all the independent crooks who’ve started knocking over Mob operations — each heist is told in a different format. The first with a pure text tale seemingly ripped out of a sleazy true-crime magazine, another in a simple gag-cartoon style, another looking like it came straight out of an economics text book. It gives Cooke lots of opportunities to show off his artistic and cartooning chops, and it’s way entertaining for the reader besides.

“Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit” by Richard Stark and Darwyn Cooke. It’s just 25 bucks. Go pick it up.

Comments are closed.