Parker–Darwin Cooke goes Hardcore in graphic novels   1 comment

Donald E. Westlake is one of the world’s great Mystery writers.  Actually, he doesn’t write mysteries, per se.  He usually writes Crime novels, although he’s versatile enough to write anything he wants, and it will be a good book that will hold  your attention from the first page to the last.  Having said all that, I admit that I’m not really a Westlake fan.  I know about him because I used to be a librarian, and during the best years of my library career I was a fiction librarian. It’s a fiction librarian’s job to know who the best writers are in every genre.  Since public libraries don’t have a special Crime fiction genre, all such material either goes in Mainstream or Mystery.  Westlake goes in Mystery. I have read a couple of Westlake’s Dortmunder novels which are more like comedy.  Dortmunder is an expert thief who always runs into funny complications.  He’s a nice guy most of the time.  Parker isn’t.

 Darwyn Cooke is a comics artist best known for his work on the D.C. special series: The New Frontier which examined the whole DC universe as if it were happening back in the fifties and early sixties.  Well, I was alive back then, and D.C. was the world’s best comics at the time with Dell a close second, but it was a completely different story from the one that Cooke tells.  Darwyn also had a rather weak run on Batman–his style simply wasn’t suitable for the Dark Knight. 

Parker: The Hunter is a revenge story–the story of a hard man in a hard world. Betrayed, shot, and left for dead, Parker goes after his foe Mal with a ruthlessness rarely seen in life or fiction. It’s a gripping story–terse, grim, full of action and sudden death.  Cooke is adept at moving the story along and painting a character portrait of Parker without any words. Parker isn’t a hero on a quest for revenge–he’s a cold-blooded bastard on a quest for revenge.  I’ve never seen a comics character this callous. Even the Joker isn’t this cold-blooded.

The Hunter was originally written by Richard Stark, which is the alias Westlake generally uses when he wants to tell stories that aren’t funny.  This wass is first Parker novel and apparently there is a series. I certainly hope Parker gets killed somehow in the last book. Here’s a look at the book cover for The Hunter.

Notice that the artist has chosen to do his cover for The Hunter in a monotone brown.  That is the kind of world that Parker inhabits–monotone.  Somehow Darwin Cooke came to the same conclusion, but he uses monotone blue for his story.  Here’s an example:

I feel sorry for the women in Parker’s world.  They all fall for his rugged good looks and tough guy behavior, and he treats them like dirt and leaves them dead more often than not.  On the other hand, Cooke draws some gorgeous women with some very soft-core nudity in the story.  People get naked not quite as often as people get dead in the Parker stories.

I found this graphic novel while just scanning for stuff in the library catalog, and decided to take a look at it, mostly because I saw Darwyn Cooke’s name and knew his reputation as an artist and storyteller.  This book is from a small publisher IDW Press in San Diego, and will never get major distribution.  It is certainly not for minors, and the old Comics Code would have shut it down in a second.  But, this is very strong work on Cooke’s part.  If  you can handle adult stories and art–not pornography but unsuitable for children, you might enjoy Parker also.  While I was reading it, I hated the character, and didn’t like the story, but I couldn’t stop or look away.  It was that compelling.

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Posted September 22, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

One response to “Parker–Darwin Cooke goes Hardcore in graphic novels

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  1. Cooke also did a run on The Spirit that was quite good.

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