Saturday, July 20, 2013

365 Comics... 200: Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter (2009)

Books have been adapted into comic books for generations, Classics Illustrated the most notable source of graphic adaptation from the past.  But unlike how Hollywood constantly adapts books to screen (often the same book multiple times over) comics adaptations of novels, except maybe children's classics, are far more rare and frequently even more reductive than film.  We are seeing a bit of a change in recent years, but even then it's largely books with built-in crossover appeal.. a Neil Gaiman or a Stephen King, a George RR Martin or a Philip K Dick, a Ray Bradbury or William S. Burroughs.  But we're seeing a bit of adventurousness (if only narrowly) with crime fiction getting the sequential art treatment, and Darwyn Cooke's adaptations of Richard Stark's Parker novel series are decidedly leading the way.

Next to Marvel's adaptations of L, Frank Baum's Oz books by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young, I don't think there's amother comic book adaptation of a book that's more widely praised or getting the same level of professional recognition (Cooke's latest, The Score, just won an Eisner @SDCC this weekend for best adaptation from another medium). 

I've had ample opportunity to read the first in the series --the Hunter-- oven the past few years, but rarely the desire.  A massive digital sale on the Parker series netted me the read for about $4 but even still it languished on my phone for a few months.  But once I started into it, I couldn't stop, even though I find Parker the character to border on intolerable and these kind of Long Ago crime stories are always challenging with their terrible gender politics (women aren't treated well nor represented well in Stark's criminal underworld)

Cooke's work here is efficient and smooth, playing curiously with space and shadow in green monochrome.  Either Cooke has a soft spot for the 1960's or he's got an exceptionally rich reference library for fashion, architecture and automobiles.  His text is equally stripped down, dialogue used when necessary, narration only occasionally acquired.

Though the material is cold-blooded, you can tell there is affection in this work, which is what lifts Cooke's Parker adaptation above the many Hollywood versions ("Point Blank", "Payback", "Parker")

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