Parker: The Hunter
It’s an unusual project, but one uniquely suited to the talents involved. Darwyn Cooke (The New Frontier, The Spirit) is adapting Richard Stark’s Parker novels into comic form; The Hunter is the first of four planned graphic novels.
I haven’t read any of the original books myself, but since Cooke clearly has a great affinity for retro-styled works, and since crime/noir stories of this type work best with that kind of timeless feel, I expected an excellent match. This brief interview says that Donald Westlake (the writer’s real name) was involved, and Cooke aimed to use as much of his original dialogue as possible, while descriptive passages were replaced with images to use the comic format effectively.
Parker begins his time in New York forging a driver’s license and writing bad checks to buy nice watches he pawns for money. He wants revenge on those who double-crossed him on a robbery gone bad, and he’ll do anything to get it — including berating his ex-wife into suicide. He’s got to trace back a trail to the man behind it all. (Because it’s always a man. The women are just prizes or status markers or plot devices. And it’s not any man, either, only the strong, individual one who matters and who survives.)
There are two ways to read this book: fast, as the page-turning pulp it started as, or slow, savoring Cooke’s skill, his beautiful lines and the single-color cyan wash that provides such atmosphere. For me, it was a pleasant distraction when things got harsh. I could study the face of the blonde, well-done with shading and relatively few lines, ignoring that she’d just been slapped to the ground.
As with most genre fiction, there aren’t many surprises here. A hard-boiled man who wants payback on the wrong side of the law comes to town and gets it. No subtleties, no what ifs, just a single-minded mission. Normally, a straight genre tale where the only point is how many people Parker can kill before he gets what he thinks is coming to him wouldn’t be for me, but although I’m not the audience, I can see the appeal. And the art is beautiful. (A preview copy was provided by the publisher.)