© Donald E. Westlake estate and Darwyn Cooke.
One of hard-boiled crime fiction’s biggest names was Donald E. Westlake, who also wrote under many other names, including Richard Stark, the name on a series of novels about Parker, a tenacious thief. Writer/artist Darwyn Cooke has adopted one of those novels in this top-notch graphic story. The cover shown above is the San Diego edition, with a special dust jacket and tipped-in signed plate, but any edition is worth your time.
I’m not a big fan of the genre. I’ve only read a few. Crime and criminals don’t really appeal to me, I guess, though I do like detective stories. Westlake and Cooke go a long way to changing my mind, though. This story grabs you on the first page and never lets go, just like the main character never gives up on his quest for revenge against the fellow criminal who ruined his nefarious but comfortable life by double-crossing him on a job, stealing his girl, and trying his best to kill Parker. Instead, Parker ends up on a work farm where he gradually gathers information, then sets off across the U.S. on a trail of retribution against incredible odds, with organized crime against him as well as the law.
Cooke’s art has never been better. The entire book is done in black and blue washes, as shown above, no panel borders. Cooke’s flair for 50s style goes particularly well with this subject, and it has the advantage over his previous comics work that we don’t have a previous image of any of the characters, so they all seem fresh and original. Cooke’s style, a mix of animation and the kind of graphic design approach I associate with advertising comps, tells the story well, and with style. Even his lettering is stylish, perfect for the art.
If you liked Cooke’s work on THE NEW FRONTIER or THE SPIRIT for DC Comics, as I did, you should give this a try. If you’re a crime fic fan, I think you’ll also be delighted. Highly recommended.