Parker: The Hunter. Darwyn Cooke (Writer/Artist). Comic Books/Graphic Novels.
I have been salivating over this new Darwyn Cooke adaption of Richard Stark’s Parker for months, and finally, to “reward” myself for finishing my big novel revision, purchased it at Jim Hanley’s last week and then devoured it in one sitting – my preferred method – swallowing it whole – going back for second reads later.
It’s a beautiful book. I’m a huge fan of Cooke’s illustration/penciling work (see his many covers in my Top 100 list – including one in the Top 25), and this is no exception as it is picture perfect. Individual panels being matched in beauty by the overall pacing and muted color palette.
I have not read the original material, but I assume Cooke was fairly faithful, it certainly feels authentic. I think my main issue with the book, lies not in Cooke’s hands but in Stark’s hands (though I cannot be 100% sure without having read the original material) and that issue is primarily that I tend to have some drama with these kinds of noir/detective-y books. I love a good detective yarn, and who doesn’t love noir? But as a card carrying (and ranty) feminist, it’s easy for me to get my hackles up about the female portrayals in the traditional noir style. They’re always gorgeous femme fatales and bitches that would betray you for a nickle. And while I’m happy to read that character, I get a bit annoyed when that’s all there is. And in this particular story all we have are a betraying wife and a handful of hookers. Now I suppose it’s a given that Parker runs with a more criminal crowd, but it would be nice to see SLIGHTLY more variety there…and perhaps more importantly all the women here are portrayed pretty strongly as victims. So it’s even a step down from the ‘betraying femme fatale’ type, who though not exactly revolutionary, is at least a strong woman with a plan, whereas here we have more of the ‘worthless beautiful victim’ type. Boring. At least as drawn by Cooke they are stunningly beautiful images.
The story sets up well with the badass master thief Parker penniless and looking it, but thumbing his nose up at offers of a ride. Once in the city he fakes an i.d. (much easier back in the day) and makes off with someone’s entire bank account. Well on the road to being all fixed up – clean (ish) and in a suit, he hunts down his old flame, that has betrayed him – ‘natch. Parker does away with her in an extra special way and moves on, following the trail to the man that set him up, betrayed him, stole from him, and got him sent to prison.
My one complaint in the story (other than the female characters issue) is that everything comes REALLY easy to Parker. I mean, I love that he’s the ultimate badass, but there’s very little tension in that there’s just no doubt in your mind that he’s going to get his man and come out the other side smelling like roses. He is perfection…well when perfection comes as revenge and badassitude. And because of that, because there is no weak link in his armor – perhaps his one weak link is his presumably now dead feeling for his wife – but since he offs her first it leaves him free of any weakness – there’s not a lot of surprise in how it all works out.
If I hadn’t been spellbound by Cooke’s artwork, and drawn panel to panel by the beautiful pacing, I think I would have noticed that the actual story was leaving me pretty cold. it’s a masterful feat for Cooke, which makes me appreciate him all the more, but regardless of the skill involved, I didn’t think of the book once after putting it down, there just wasn’t enough story to stay with me.
Ultimately it made for a beautiful but uneventful read.
*on illustration alone I’d give it 4.5 stars easily, but for story, I’d give it a 3.0. I’m going to give Cooke’s illustration the upper hand and split the difference at 4.0