Monday, June 29, 2009

Review: Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter

Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter, by Darwyn Cooke, 2009, IDW Publishing, 144 pages, $24.99

Hot damn what a book! In what is rapidly becoming a banner year for comic books of the crime/noir/mystery persuasion (see, for instance, Britten and Brulightly, the finale of 100 Bullets, the ongoing amazingness of Scalped, Vertigo's new crime imprint, the upcoming Noir anthology and return of Brubaker and Phillips to Criminal, and hey -- even Marvel has gotten into the act with noir versions of its established super-hero properties), Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter is likely to be crowned as the champ. It's an artistic tour de force.

The story, based on a book by Richard Stark/Donald Westlake, is about a betrayed man exacting his revenge on his betrayers. Except for a flashback that shows us just how he was betrayed, the book takes place in New York City, in 1962. Parker is an independent criminal unaffiliated with organized crime, but his anger-fueled mission seemingly sweeps in just about every lowlife in the five boroughs. Pretty much everybody you meet in the pages of this story will end up getting theirs. Along the way the book throws in action, drama, and some nice black humor.

Part of the fun of the book is watching Parker go about his business. Parker is one bad dude. I'm not just talking about how he's tough, resourceful, and seemingly unstoppable. He's also a hardened criminal who isn't above theft, murder, and whatever else it takes to get what he wants. He's almost like a more stealthy and cunning Terminator. You still root for him, because the other bad guys have no redeeming qualities whatsoever, but he's certainly not your typical hero.

While Parker is captivating and the plot is a blast, the art is truly exceptional. Cooke's drawings are so fluid and the storytelling is so strong that you might zip through this book at a frenetic pace. I'd recommend forcing yourself to slow down (or go back through it once you're done), however, and really look at these images. There's such style and grace on display, and Cooke's line is so confident that it feels like he drew the entire thing without once picking up an eraser (rubber or digital). But it doesn't feel dashed off; it's more like he just knows the perfect place to put each mark and executes it with precision. And Cooke's done his research -- the backgrounds, hairstyles, clothing, furniture, all of it looks fabulous and just so 1962. It's just fantastic.

This is only the first of four planned comic books by Cooke about Parker, which means that there is a whole lot of awesomeness lined up. Get on board now.

(I would NOT want to be Stegman.)

DID YOU KNOW? The 1999 Mel Gibson movie Payback also was based on The Hunter. I always kinda dug it, but I got the feeling that nobody else did. I'm guessing I won't be the only one who likes Cooke's version, however.

READ MORE: Here's a twenty-one page preview. And here are three interviews with Cooke about the book:
BUY IT: From IDW here or from Amazon here: Parker: The Hunter

RELATED: Here's my review of Jonah Hex #33, with art by Cooke.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.


  1. You lucky bastard, getting a copy of this. I can't wait to read it.

    I do throw my support behind Payback as well; I need to see the director's cut, which I hear is even better. There's also Point Blank, starring Lee Marvin; that one is also really good.

  2. I am insanely jealous. This book hasn't gotten a single bad review I've seen thus far. Cannot wait.

  3. There's a Lee Marvin movie, from back in the day, too.