Adapted & Illustrated by Darwyn Cooke
My most anticipated comic book release of the year finally arrives and it doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. Regular readers of this blog may already be aware of my unabashed love for the work of Darwyn Cooke, and it’s far from empty hyperbole when I say that I think he’s one of the true geniuses of the medium. He may have arrived on the scene relatively late in his career, but his impact has been enormous and his influence will probably reverberate for many years to come. His reputation has been aided no end by his choice of projects, avoiding mainstream moneyspinners for work that is far more personal. It’s this ethos that’s lead him to Parker, the quintessential antihero created by the late Donald E Westlake (writing under the pseudonym Richard Stark), in The Hunter, the first in a series of adaptations of Westlake’s Parker novels.
You may not have read any of the original books, you may not have seen any of the movie versions (most notably Point Blank and Payback, both adaptations of The Hunter) but straight away you will recognize something familiar about Parker. Basically, he’s a bastard. A take-no-shit-from-anyone, ignore-everything-but-the-task-at-hand, stop-at-nothing bastard, at that. There’s something almost primal about him, as though all the ‘best’ traits of every badass character ever to waltz across the silver screen or through the pages of a cheap paperback novel have been captured and distilled into one person. He’s not always particularly likeable, but he’s a fascinatingly cool cat, and in The Hunter he has one thing on his mind: revenge.
Ripped off and left for dead after a big score, Parker’s back on his feet and wants to get his hands on not only his cut of the loot but also the neck of the man who double-crossed him. It’s a great, no-nonsense crime tale in any format, but Cooke adapts it in the truest sense, taking the essence of what makes it so compulsive and adding his own layers, not necessarily making it ‘better’, but differentiating it, making it distinctive and worthwhile. And Cooke really does make this a worthwhile venture - his visual sense is incredible for a start; unique and evocative, the artist’s retro-inspired style seems perfect for both the period and genre (the cool, black & white approach instantly creates a cinematic version of the ‘60s, so potent you can all but hear a jazz soundtrack playing in the background). He has such control over the composition of his panels and their positioning, and utilizes such strong, powerful imagery, that you barely notice the first twenty pages being dialogue free.
Cooke seems incapable of putting a foot wrong and with The Hunter he’s delivered another masterpiece. If you’re a fan of his artwork then this is an essential purchase. If you’re a fan of crime fiction then, again, this is an essential purchase. If you’re fan of both, this will more than likely rank as one of the very best things you feast your eyes of throughout the entirety of 2009. 10/10