Parker Shoots, Parker Scores

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score

Wow, I had no idea this was coming out ’til I got to the store last week — a brand new Parker graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke. Set me back more than I was expecting, but it was worth every penny.

What do we have here? If you’re new, there was a mystery writer named Donald Westlake, and while writing under his pen-name of Richard Stark, he came up with this guy named Parker, a cold-hearted conscience-free bastard who specializes in heists. He doesn’t like to kill but he’ll do it if he has to — and he sure won’t feel bad about it afterwards. Darwyn Cooke got Westlake’s blessing not long before he died to turn some of the Parker novels into graphic novels, and this is the third in the set.

It’s 1964, and Parker is brought in during the planning stages of a job he has some serious doubts about. It’s being organized by an amateur named Edgars, he thinks the job may need 30 people to pull off, and he wants to rob an entire town — the small mining town of Copper Canyon, North Dakota. Though several of his more trusted associates are interested in it, Parker is inclined to nix the entire job — until he’s convinced that with the right planning, it could actually be possible.

The rest of the book focuses on Parker and his 12-man team of crooks as they make preparations for the heist, then follows them as they effortlessly and perfectly pull the job off. Wait, did I say effortless and perfect? Nope, something big goes wrong, and Parker has to salvage his team and the money so they can all make their escape.

Verdict: Oh, you know it’s a thumbs up.

Let’s talk art. Well, it’s got Darwyn Cooke doing the art, so you know it’s gonna look awesome. An interesting change for this book — instead of the black and blue ink of the previous two novels, this one is done with black ink and orange ink. Does a lot to make the book look hotter and more distant from the city. It does a lot to this story — so much more over-the-top than the previous ones — to make it pop off the page. It’s great art, but we knew that going in, didn’t we?

Writing-wise, there’s lots of good stuff here — good characterization for almost everyone, with several of the bandits getting their own sections of the story all to themselves as we get to learn more about them, why they rob, what they love doing. We get a nice long bit with Grofield, the charismatic, wise-cracking actor, and it’s great fun. We even see some of Parker we never knew about before, particularly the fact that, when dealing with hostages, he drops his cold persona and uses simple psychology to keep people calm and cooperative.

My one complaint was that, for all the planning that got done before the heist, no one ever stopped to consider who Edgars was and why he wanted the town robbed. He admitted at the beginning that it was personal, but once everyone started thinking about that quarter-million-dollar payoff, everyone forgot about that loose end. Of course, if they hadn’t, there wouldn’t have been much of a story, but I may have said too much now, right?

It’s a good book. No, it’s a fantastic book, one that you’re going to absolutely love reading. Go pick it up.

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