Archive for Parker

Holiday Gift Bag: Slayground

I still have plenty of gift recommendations to get through before Christmas. Today, let’s look at Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground, adapted and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke.


By now, I expect you know the general idea behind this series. Richard Stark was actually a mystery writer named Donald Westlake, and his series of hard-boiled crime novels about a heist artist named Parker has been quite popular for decades. Darwyn Cooke, who creates great retro-pulp comics like “DC: The New Frontier” and the “Spirit” revival from a few years ago, has done several graphic novel adaptations of the Parker novels. And this one is the latest one.

In “Slayground,” Parker’s latest heist has gone sour. He’s made his escape into Fun Island, an amusement park in Buffalo, New York, that’s been closed for the winter. Parker knows some cops saw him climb into the park — but they aren’t coming after him. He quickly deduces that the cops are crooked, and they and a bunch of mafia goons are planning on coming after him, stealing the loot, and killing him to cover up their own crimes.

But it’s a big park. And the longer they wait before they move in after him, the more time they give him to hide and to turn the rides and attractions into deathtraps under his control.

Verdict: Thumbs up. What’s not to love? It’s “Home Alone” with a sociopath in place of Macauley Culkin!

Seriously, I’m gonna go ahead and keep this fairly short. Y’all must know by now how much I love Cooke’s Parker graphic novels. The big difference between this and the previous three is that there’s a lot less heisting, a lot more action, and no gorgeous bombshells getting in Parker’s way.

What’s it got? It’s got fantastic art, a thrilling story, great characters, and the distinct brand of awesomeness we’ve come to expect from the Parker books.

You want more in-depth analysis? Read my previous reviews of the Parker comics. You want it short and simple? This will be a great gift for anyone who loves crime comics, cool, retro artwork, and noir storytelling. Go pick it up.

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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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The Hero Sandwich List of Favorite Comics for 2010

I don’t think I’ve ever tried to do a year-end retrospective list — it’s always too difficult for me to pick out a list of things I enjoyed the most out of 12 whole months. But what the heck, I’m gonna try it today.

This list is strictly listed in alphabetical order. I can’t claim it’s a list of the best comics — I haven’t read all the comics, after all — but it’s the list of the 15 comics that I enjoyed the most.

American Vampire

Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, and Stephen King came together to re-invent the vampire for the rough-and-tumble American West. Outstanding characters, close attention to setting, and rip-snorting horror make this a must-read for anyone who loves non-sparkly bloodsuckers.


The adventures of Stephanie Brown as the newest Batgirl are full of great humor, great action, great dialogue, and great characterizations. This is one of the best superhero comics around.

Batman and Robin

Grant Morrison’s triumphant run of Batman comics had its most epic stretch in these stories of Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne, as well as Alfred, Dr. Hurt, and the Joker. The scale of Morrison’s storytelling here was breathtaking.

Blackest Night

Possibly the most successful crossover storyarc in years, this grabbed readers’ imaginations and didn’t let go for months. Even better than its commercial successes were the overall excellence of the plotline. At its height, there was nothing as good as this story about zombies, power rings, and emotions.


I’m not a fan of the new series, but Garth Ennis’ original Crossed miniseries was the most harrowing, brutal, relentless, depressing, and terrifying horror comic to hit the stands in a long, long time.


This was, without a single doubt, the best comic series of the entire year. Nothing else came close. Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon deserve to win so many awards for this one. If you missed this series in the original run, you should definitely keep your eyes open in the next few months for the trade paperback.

Detective Comics starring Batwoman

Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III didn’t create the character, but they crafted her best stories. While Rucka brilliantly fleshed out her backstory, personality, and supporting cast, Williams took the stories and created some of the year’s most beautiful artwork and design.

Hellboy in Mexico

This story of, well, Hellboy in Mexico was my favorite, but I also loved all of the other collaborations between Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and fantasy artist Richard Corben. These two meshed together creatively in ways that very few creators are able to do, and all of us readers were the beneficiaries.

Joe the Barbarian

Grant Morrison’s fantasy story is both epic and mundane in scale, which is really quite a trick — Joe is in diabetic shock, and he’s hallucinating that his home and toys have turned into a fantasy kingdom. But what if he’s not really hallucinating?

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit

The second chapter of Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Donald Westlake’s crime fiction is a beautiful tribute to Cooke’s retro-cool art sensibilities and the pure fun of good pulp crime novels.

Power Girl

Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Amanda Conner created the best version of Power Girl ever for a year’s worth of funny, smart, sexy, exciting superhero stories. These creators loved this character, and you can tell that in every story they published about her. I still hope they’ll be able to come back to this title eventually.

Secret Six

Far and away DC’s best team book, Gail Simone has hooked us a bunch of people who are extremely likeable and also completely crazy and prone to trying to kill each other from moment to moment. This shouldn’t work as well as it does, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s colossal fun to read every single month.

Strange Science Fantasy

Scott Morse’s retro-pulp series packed a heck of a lot of audacious fun into six short issues. This was a treat visually, emotionally, intellectually — even on a tactile level, what with the heavy, rough paper it was printed on.

Thor and the Warriors Four

The Power Pack go to Asgard. I didn’t really expect much of it, to be honest, but readers were treated to godlike quantities of humor, excitement, whimsey, and awesomeness, thanks to writer Alex Zalben and artists Gurihiru, and to Colleen Coover’s excellent backup stories.

Tiny Titans

Probably the best all-ages comic out there right now. These comics are smart and funny and cute and just plain fun to read.

Aaaaand that’s what I got. There were plenty of other comics that just barely missed the cut, but these were nevertheless the ones that gave me the most joy when I was reading them.

So farewell, 2010. And hello, rapidly onrushing 2011. Hope you’re a better year for all of us, and I hope we can all look forward to plenty more great comics to come.

Now y’all be safe and have a good time tonight, but call a cab if you need it — I want to make sure all of y’all are here to read me in 2011.

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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.

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Here’s to Crime

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Man with the Getaway Face – A Prelude to “The Outfit”

My, my, my, looka here. Here’s how this goes. Darwyn Cooke wanted to adapt four of the “Parker” hardboiled crime novels by Donald Westlake (writing as Richard Stark). He was going to adapt the first four, but there were some of the later novels he wanted to work on more, so he eliminated two, including the second Parker novel, “The Man with the Getaway Face.” But it turned out, he kinda needed that second one, ’cause he needed to make sure readers knew that Parker had gotten plastic surgery to disguise his appearance. So instead of doing a full-length adaptation, he cut it down to just 24 pages, so he could use it as the introduction in his next graphic novel.

And because he’s so nice to us, he and IDW Publishing went and released that first chapter as a stand-alone comic.

And they made it oversized.

And they priced it as two dollars.


So what happens? Parker gets his new face to help him hide out from the Mob, but it’s taken out a bunch of his money, so he needs to heist some cash fast. He partners up with some old associates, Skim and Handy, and Skim’s new girlfriend Alma, a diner waitress who clued Skim in on an armored truck that’d be easy pickings for a job. But Parker doesn’t trust Alma — and for good reason. Will Parker be able to grab the dough and get away clean? Or is everyone looking at time in the pen?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a short, fast heist thriller, with artwork by the always-brilliant Darwyn Cooke. And it’s only two freakin’ dollars. The only downside? This thing is colossal, and I have no idea where I’m going to store it. Nevertheless, at two measly bucks, it’s more than a bargain. Pick it up, or you’re a stone fool.

iZombie #3

While Claire the vampire sets her sights on Spot’s friend Ashok, the monster hunters stalk her in return. Meanwhile, Spot, in full-blown were-terrier mode, meets with Gwen the zombie and Ellie the ghost to bring them some more evidence in Gwen’s ongoing murder investigation into who killed the last guy whose brain she snacked on. The investigation leads to a spooky old house, and Ellie, trusting in her ghostly status to keep her safe and undetected, goes in to have a look around. Things don’t turn out the way she was expecting. Is everyone about to get their supernatural secrets exposed?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A very fun story and really excellent art. Extra points for Laura Allred’s coloring — she’s going for an old-school comics look, with cool halftone effects. Yeah, Mike Allred’s art is great, but Laura Allred’s coloring is making this one look really unique.

Jonah Hex #57

A lot of our framework in this story comes from a couple of kids telling tall tales about Jonah Hex’s fabled exploits, like killing ten outlaws with a single bullet. They hear that Hex is going to be in a nearby town, so they sneak out late at night so they can see what he looks like. And they get more than they bargained for — namely, a bunch of old DC western heroes, like the Trigger Twins, Bat Lash, Scalphunter, Nighthawk, and Cinnamon. And of course, there’s a big gunfight. And some snoopy kids getting in trouble, but getting their own tall tale they can tell later…

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s one of the lighter Jonah Hex stories I’ve seen, but I really enjoyed it anyway. It’s cool to see all those old DC characters — and most of them aren’t just guest appearances for the sake of renewing the copyrights — several characters get some actual business and plotpoints of their own. It was a good, fun, and pretty over-the-top story — hope we get to see more of these from time to time.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Friday Night Fights: All Choked Up!

Well, okay, I’ve had most of the week off, but now I’m back and ready to really get my nose to the grindstone… and then go right back to the weekend. Huzzah!

So anyway, my week away from blogging sure didn’t mean I didn’t have to deal with all the usual workweek frustrations, and that means it’s definitely time to work some of those irritations away with a little gratuitous violence. In other words, it’s time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

This week’s fight comes from August 2009’s Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter, based on the novel by Richard Stark and adapted by Darwyn Cooke, as hard-boiled criminal Parker finally catches up to lowlife sleaze Mal Resnick.

That is not a smile that says “Hey, guys, let’s go get diet sodas and play Pictionary!”

And I couldn’t bring myself to break this next one up into individual panels, so here’s a whole page of Parker strangling Mal to death.

Holy cow, that’s great stuff. I’ve recommended y’all get this before, haven’t I? Well, seriously, y’all go pick this one up.

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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.

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