Images © Estate of Donald E. Westlake and Darwyn Cooke.
This book is gathering rave reviews and making best-of-the-year lists, and with good reason. I’ve enjoyed Darwyn Cooke’s comics work for a long time, but with this series of adaptations of Parker crime novels, he’s found material that he loves, and it shows on every page. It’s the kind of perfect match of subject, style and creator that rarely happens these days, and while I’m not a fan of crime fiction usually, I love these (and this is the third in the series).
Parker is a criminal, but not just any criminal. He’s a master at running large and elaborate heists, and this is about as big as one could get. It’s so big, at first Parker doesn’t want the job. The target is a small mining town in the southwestern US. Not the bank in town, or even the mining company, the WHOLE town. A disgruntled insider has come with the idea, and plans for how it might work. Once he’s convinced, Parker puts together a large team of specialists and misfits of varying reliability, giving each specific tasks. Of course there’s a dame or two involved, muddying the plan a bit, and the insider has his own secret agenda. When things are set, the game is afoot, and we get to see it play out moment by moment. It’s a plot driven story of course, but with great characters as well.
Cooke presents the art in two colors, this time dark brown and orange, masterfully used in a 1950s world that reminds me of Alex Toth in his middle years, when his art had become more stylized. It reads beautifully and the second color work adds a great deal to every page. Less is more in this case. Through clever layouts like the one above, Darwyn gets in plenty of story without the words ever seeming to crowd the pictures. This is graphic storytelling at its best! If you haven’t tried one of the Parker adaptations, they all stand alone, so this one is a fine place to start. Give it a try, you won’t be sorry.