By Leroy Douresseaux
Dec 13, 2010 - 8:13
|Parker The Outfit cover image is courtesy of barnesandnoble.com.|
Parker is a fictional character created by Richard Stark, a pseudonym of author Donald E. Westlake. Beginning with The Hunter in 1962, Westlake wrote 24 novels starring Parker, a ruthless career criminal whose first name Westlake never revealed. Acclaimed cartoonist and comic book creator, Darwyn Cooke is adapting four Parker novels into graphic novels. IDW published the first, Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter in 2009.
Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit is an adaptation of the third Parker novel, The Outfit (1963), although the opening pages of the graphic novel is a partial adaptation of the second Parker novel, The Man with the Getaway Face (1963). Parker: The Outfit opens in Miami Beach, 1963. Parker is… chilling’ with a honey when someone tries to kill him. Some investigating, some fists, and a few shots to the dome later, Parker learns that the Outfit, the criminal organization that he angered in The Hunter, has put a price on his head. Now, Parker is coming for the Outfit’s East Coast chief and he isn’t coming alone.
Parker: The Hunter was a superb graphic novel. Cooke’s beautiful artwork emulated the animation design and space age graphic design styles of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Hunter was a pretty book, and Cooke created a gorgeous-looking world for Parker, filled with snazzy interiors and striking exteriors. Parker: The Outfit is not so pretty, because pretty just won’t do for such a brilliant, gritty story. Plus, the hardcover book binding, designed by Cooke, is meant to resemble a library bound book.
In The Outfit, Cooke still dresses his compositions in generous splashes of black and cobalt blue. It is like a bizarre marriage of Rembrandt’s chiaroscuro and Alex Toth’s black and white comic book art. This is the perfect look for Parker: The Outfit, which is one mean, little book. Parker: The Hunter was the cool, good-looking introduction to Parker. Parker: The Outfit is the smack in the face that bloodies your nose and is the real introduction to Parker – cold, methodical, ruthlessly efficient, and professional.
As much as I like crime comics like 100 Bullets and Criminal, I realize that they are just playing at being crime comics and noir. When it comes to crime fiction, Parker: The Outfit is the real deal. This story is Parker in all his murderous glory. Reading it is like holding a dangerous thing in your hand. In this story, business is a criminal enterprise and being hard is the most valuable skill. And brother, Parker is hard. Parker: The Outfit may be the greatest crime fiction ever done in a comic book. It is the book of the year and the bastard of the year – just the way crime comics should be.