Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter
written by Darwyn Cooke
Let’s get this out of the way up front: The Hunter, an adaptation of one of Richard Stark’s (aka Donald Westlake) Parker novels, expertly executed by Darwyn Cooke, is one of the best arguments for comics as a legitimate medium. Published this past July by IDW, The Hunter perfectly captures the mood and spirit of the crime thriller, as well as the time period in which it’s set. Even if you’ve never read the original novel on which it’s based, this is an amazing work and is definitely worth your time.
One of the interesting things about Parker, our protagonist, is that he’s a thoroughly unlikeable guy, but you can’t help but root for him throughout. That’s how the character was initially described to me by Westlake’s son, with whom I happen to work, before I started reading. And he’s absolutely right: Parker’s very first appearance has him telling a kind motorist who offers him a ride to “go to Hell,” and he doesn’t get much nicer from there. But the main reason we stick around is simple: Parker’s out for revenge. I won’t tell you too much, as discovering the reasons why he’s hunting are half the joy of the story, but suffice it to say, he’s striking against those who’ve done him wrong…very wrong. How could we not follow this story to the end?
But no matter how good your revenge tale is, the execution of its telling is what is crucial to making a work stand out. Fortunately, Darwyn Cooke is more than up to the task. Since his work often evokes a retro, ’60s vibe, the fact that his rendering of the characters, settings, and layouts are perfect for this story is a given. But what truly makes this adaptation exceptional is the minimalist feel that Cooke applies to the work. Many of the pages fly by with no dialogue, narration, or significant text of any kind, particularly in the beginning of the book, but at absolutely no detriment to the understanding of the action or plot. The silence of these sequences actually adds to the feel of the book, allowing the impact of Parker’s actions alone to really hit you as you read. The book is also colored with only blue, and the varying shades it can occupy, giving it even more of a noirish feel and showcasing Cooke’s storytelling abilities.
The worst part about this book is simply that it ends. Once I was finished, I instantly wanted more—and I’m lucky, since I can pick up Stark’s original novel or even check out some of the other many Parker stories that have been written throughout the years. Even better, the book’s introduction reveals that there are three more Parker adaptations in the works by Cooke.
Of course, even without the forthcoming sequels in the series, with The Hunter Cooke firmly cements himself as one of the greats of the comics medium. Do yourself a favor: Buy this book. What are you waiting for?