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Comic Review: Richard Stark’s ‘Parker: The Hunter’
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Jack Bauerstein83   |  
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Richard’s Stark’s Parker: The Hunter
Adapted and Illustrated by Darwyn Cooke
Edited by Scott Dunbier
IDW Publishing
Release date: July 22, 2009

When artist/writer Darwyn Cooke finished his run on Will Eisner’s The Spirit, I am sure I was not the only one that was eagerly anticipating his next project. Would he continue to play in the DC playground or perhaps venture into Marvel territory? Or maybe he would just forgo the big two and just go the creator-owned route. When the news broke at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con on Cooke’s next project, few would have guessed it would be with IDW Publishing but even more were surprised when the project in question would be an adaptation of The Parker novels by Donald Westlake.

Donald Westlake (for those like myself who was not familiar with the author), was a critically acclaimed crime novelist back in the late 1950’s. Best known for the creation of the Parker character, Westlake had twenty-four of the twenty eight crime novels written under the Richard Stark pseudonym centered on the popular anti-hero. Even if you are not familiar with the character, you be hard pressed not to notice Westlake’s work in the mainstream media.

From Point Blank to Payback, the Parker novels have been adapted numerous times on film but never has the author allowed the Parker name to be used until now. Just before Westlake passed away in 2008, he gave Cooke permission to adapt the story and introduce the Parker character to the graphic novel world in a series of four graphic novels set to come out yearly.

The first novel, The Hunter is set in New York City, 1962. Betrayed by his partner Mal and his woman Lynn after a heist and left for dead, hard boiled criminal Parker hits the big apple with revenge on his mind. And wherever Parker goes, you can be sure the body count will rise in this Noir styled story.

Following Cooke’s past run on The Spirit and his Batman one shots, it is clear that all his previous works were heavily noir based and this book is no exception. It is vintage Darwyn Cooke art, with beautiful temptresses, silent panels, and men hiding in the shadows but with a little something extra. All the art in the book is drawn in blue pencil with a generous splash of black and white, giving the book a black and white movie feel with a blue twist. This new style combines all of what is great about Cooke’s art in the past but in a new evolved state.

While the art is gorgeous to look at, the story is just as engrossing. Any story about a man seeking revenge from the people who have done him wrong is always compelling and under Cooke’s adaptive hands, Parker’s story is hard to put down. Just the overall package, from art to storytelling fits the story perfectly. Not one silent panel or balloon placement is wasted in the presentation. The reader is immersed in the Parker-world and once Cooke sinks his teeth into you, he never lets go.

If there is one chink in the armor of this the novel, it is the Parker character himself. At the end of the day, Parker is the bad guy. Parker goes out of his way and kills people, both innocent and guilty and doesn’t feel a bit of remorse for any of it. He is not out there killing bad guys because he hates them or even because they screwed him over. He is doing it to get back the money that was taken from him. It is hard to root for a character that does this, even if one could relate to his feelings of betrayal.

There are some other issues with the novel but mostly on the cosmetic side. The novel is presented in a lovely hardcover but it is just too small for my taste. Cooke art is always amazing and I would love to have seen the book in a larger format to better showcase his art rather than the digest size form it is in now. Maybe if the books do well, IDW can collect all four books in an omnibus collection and make the trim size bigger.

The Hunter is a thrilling and enthralling adaptation by Cooke. It is certainly a worthy follow-up to his previous works and well worth the wait. With this novel, I can only imagine Cooke fans will be more aware of the Parker character and Cooke’s art will certainly turn a few of the Parker fans’ heads. It is a shame that another novel will not come out till 2010 but if the follow-up is as good as The Hunter, fans will not complain one bit.

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