Monday, October 10, 2016

Richard Stark's Parker, Book 1: The Hunter

I am kicking myself for not reading this one sooner. Richard Stark's Parker books are among my favorites to read, and I have long admired Darwyn Cooke's comic works, especially New Frontier and his version of Catwoman. He had won multiple comics awards, including the Eisner, Harvey, and Joe Shuster Awards, but he died of cancer at the young age of 53. Now, maybe it was just an assemblage of big expectations, but I keep thinking I would just be disappointed by this book, because of all my admiration for the source material and the creator. But boy was I not disappointed at all. This book is fantastic, and I cannot wait to read the other three adaptations in the series.

The title character in this book, Parker, is not a nice guy. He is a thief who trusts no one, well almost no one. But that trust is mislaid, and his wife Lynn betrays and shoots him during a heist gone wrong. Years later, he escapes prison and goes out for revenge on those who wronged him. He is a violent but calculating man, and nothing could satisfy him except laying his hands on Mal, the man who led the scheme to double-cross him.

Now, the plot of this book would seem to be pretty apt stuff for a noir novel, but what really makes it work is how spare and direct the prose is. An expectation of losing that voice and tone was why I avoided this adaptation for as long as I did, but I am happy to report that the artwork does much of the heavy lifting in terms of conveying the narrative, with the net effect of a story that is still brutal and impactful.
Other parts of the book rely on some of the prose from the novel, but paired with the pictures they still pack quite a punch. This book is a masterful retelling of a great novel.

All of the reviews I have read have praised this adaptation. The reviewer at The Violent World of Parker fansite called it "a bravura performance." This article by Geoff Boucher sheds much light on Cooke's process of creating this book, calling it "a meticulously faithful adaptation." Douglas Wolk called it "a near-perfect match of artist and character."

The Hunter was published by IDW, and they have more info about it here. This book contains some sex, nudity, and violence so it is suggested for readers mature enough to handle those things.

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