Richard Stark’s Parker: Volume 2 – The Outfit
As I’ve been doing more reviews over the past few years, I’ve found that there are some creators that I find it almost impossible to be objective about. I mean, how many times can you say the words BESTEVERYOHMYGODICANTBELIEVE HOWGOODTHISIS when discussing things like Tom Waits albums or Pixar movies? The comic book work of Darwyn Cooke has joined that lofty company in my opinion, and I’m at the point where I’m finding it almost impossible to tell you exactly how fucking good his new graphic novel is.
It’s really fucking good.
Here’s some backstory: The Outfit, (and Cooke’s previous graphic novel The Hunter) are based on two novels by legendary crime fiction writer Donald Westlake (writing under his Richard Stark pseudonym) starring Parker, his most famous literary creation. Parker is a bad-ass tough as nails bank robber.
In The Outfit, Parker is trying to move on with his life after his run in with the mob in The Hunter. But this being Parker, and Westlake being Westlake, that obviously doesn’t happen. The Outfit still wants it’s pound of flesh, and so Parker puts together a plan that will hopefully get them off his back once and for all.
Did I mention it’s really fucking good?
This is crime comics at their very best. Strike that. This is comics at their very best. This isn’t an adaptation so much as it is a recreation of a masterpiece. He rebuilds Westlake’s revenge tale from the ground up, using every single tool that the medium has to offer. This particular telling could have only happened in comics. Not the story itself, but the manner in which Cooke chooses to tell the story. Specifically, I’m referring to a series of robberies that happens in the last half of the book. Cooke treats each heist as if it it’s own separate graphic novel, and uses vastly different design techniques and artistic styles to clearly differentiate each story. It’s a stylistic device so simple that you’d think it would be used more often, but there are very few comic creators working today with the scope and sheer ballsiness that Cooke has. He’s so ballsy in fact, that he decided to actually change the script in places. And it’s a testament to his passion for his source material that I can honestly say that his changes actually improve the story, and fit Parker’s character perfectly.
What I’m hoping is that Cooke’s Parker graphic novels work as a gateway drug for people looking to expand their comic book horizons. If you’re a superhero comic fan that is losing interest in the latest antics of repressed sociopaths in tights, please try this. If you’re a fan of crime TV like Law & Order, but think of comics as being something for only kids, please try this. I know it sounds like I’m overselling. I’m not. No one else in the comic book field straddles the line between commercial accessibility and artistic originality like Darwyn Cooke does, and the ONLY negative thing I can say about this masterpiece is that I have to wait a whole year to read the next one.
Best fucking graphic novel of the entire fucking year.