Book of the Month

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter

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Avg Rating: 5.0
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 27.4%
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Size: pages
Price: 24.99

The joke around the iFanboy offices is that it is always 1966 around Darwyn Cooke. The joke would be more accurate, probably, if we said 1962, but it’s too late now. That joke has left the stable. The point is that writer/artist Darwyn Cooke seems like a man from a different time. A time when everyone smoked, men wore suits and fedoras, and a tumbler of bourbon was never far out of reach once the clock struck five.

So it comes as no surprise that Darwyn Cooke would be the perfect man to adapt  Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake)’s Parker novels into graphic novel form. It’s the perfect match of content and creator.

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter is, at its heart, a story of revenge. There was a heist. There was a girl. There was a betrayal. There was a lot of blood. And there was one man left for dead who is still very much alive. That man is Parker. And Parker is pissed.

The book opens with a 13 page sequence that is nearly totally silent. That sequence accomplishes so many things as it sets the tone for the entire book. The look, the feel, the art style, the time period, the atmosphere, the main character — everything is established in those first 13 pages. And it’s done with a single opening caption and only five words of dialogue. Everything else is conveyed by the pure and masterful storytelling in Darwyn Cooke’s art. I can’t think of another sequence of wordless pages that accomplishes so much with so little. You can almost hear the cars honking along the George Washington Bridge as Parker makes his way back to New York City. You can almost feel yourself on the bustling city streets. You can almost hear the sound of the subway screeching through the tunnels underneath Manhattan. That opening sequence absolutely drips with atmosphere. By the time you hit page 14 you know exactly what world you’re in and you get a really strong sense of what you’re in for, and I’ll be honest — that sense is a little unsettling.

Cooke’s art style is the thing that you notice right away in the opening sequence. Since DC: The New Frontier was published in 2003, Darwyn Cooke has taken up permanent residence on my list of the Top Five Comic Book Artists. Here in The Hunter he uses a slightly different art style than what we’re used to. It’s black and white with blue tones, with a harder and rougher edged line than we usually get from Cooke. But the rougher line used here is a stylistic choice that perfectly fits the tone of the story and, more specifically, Parker himself. In the part of the opening sequence that is told from Parker’s point of view, we get a really good look at his hands and I noticed right away that he was drawn with these large hands with big, gnarled knuckles. This wasn’t the clean lines and big, wide open panels that we got in New Frontier. This art is a darker Darwyn Cooke than we’re used to, and at times the art seems slashed onto the page rather than drawn. It’s as if the anger that Parker feels inside is manifesting itself in Cooke’s pen.

There are no real good guys in The Hunter, and if they do pop up, they only serve to get in the way of the bad guys who are trying to get at each other. Parker is the protagonist of the story, but he’s no hero. Sure, he might be a professional criminal  whose first priority is the score and not unnecessary violence (although he’s not totally without violence; people are certainly killed in the heist that is the engine for this entire tale). But once he sets out on his course of revenge, anyone and everyone who stands in his way is subject to serious and often fatal violence — usually brutally doled out via his big, gnarled bare hands. There are certain things about Parker that might be worthy of respect and possibly admiration, but you never for one second forget who he really is and what he is capable of.

So why read a book about a really bad man? Well, because the people he is after, more specifically, the one man he is really after — the one who masterminded his betrayal and stole his money — is much, much worse. Like Parker himself this man is a criminal and a killer.  But he is also weak, cowardly, selfish and arrogant. He is all the worst kind of characteristics you can find in a human being rolled into one. He turned on Parker because he wanted the entire score for himself, and possibly even more than that, he wanted Parker’s girl. Parker, on the other hand, doesn’t even want to recover everything for himself, he just wants his cut; he wants what is owed him. The rest can burn for all he cares.

The action in The Hunter moves along at a brisk pace as Parker returns to New York and sets about systematically hunting down everyone involved in wronging him, and working his way up the ladder to his main prey. This story is rife with noir-ish shadows, shapely, cigarette smoking dames, and tough, hard-boiled talk from tough, hard-boiled guys. It’s a world where it pays to be smart, but it pays even better to be smart and tough enough to break the face of anyone who gets in your way.

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter is a book that pushed all of my buttons. When the deal with IDW to produce a series of Darwyn Cooke adapted Parker graphic novels was announced at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con it was the one bit of news that really struck me, and really made me excited. I love crime fiction, I love crime comics, and I love Darwyn Cooke’s work. After I heard the initial announcement, this book couldn’t come out fast enough. And when it finally arrived I was ecstatic to find out that not only did it deliver on every level, it exceeded my expectations.

As much as I love Darwyn Cooke’s take on superheroes, this is the kind of stuff he was born to do. The next book is slated to come out at the beginning of 2010 and it cannot come soon enough for me. I would be perfectly happy if these were the kind of stories that Cooke worked on for the rest of his career.

Conor Kilpatrick
It’s just best not to owe Parker money.


  1. I still need to get this.

  2. I was so happy when I heard the news of this adaptation.  Richard Stark is one of my favorite writers and Darwyn Cooke is one of my favorite artist.  IMO, the book was a success. 

  3. This book was amazing.  BTW Conor the book mentions the next one is due out next Summer 2010.  It’s going to be to long of a wait.

  4. I just read this, it’s perfect.  After Cooke gets done with Parker, I want his Don Draper comic.

  5. This book was just 100% pure awesome. And even better it looks like Cooke will continue the saga with Stark’s second book The Man with the Getaway Face. The last page has a coming soon for 2010 and he’s all bandaged up on his face leading one to believe he’s gonna follow them in the correct order.

    I only had two negative comments about it. For some reason a lower case y just looks funny it almost looks like a backwards n so it took a page or two to get use to. and then since there was only 3 colors some of the word balloons were hard to read on certain colors.

    But all in all a great piece of work well worth the 20 buck you can find it at on Amazon.

    Buy It!!! 

  6. What are the chances these will end up collected in hardcovers before 2012? If they’re better than 50%, I may just wait.

  7. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    They are hardcovers. 

  8. @Paul – Yes, I meant collected.

  9. So much praise, and yet I have not seen a single copy at any bookstores.

    Does this really exist? Conspiracy I say!!!……or it could just be sold out. Whatever theory works.

  10. @TNC-I think there were shipping issues with this book.  So some stores didn’t get it a few weeks ago when it was originally supposed to come out.

    Sounds like fun.  I might put it on my next instocktrades order

  11. @drake Gotcha. Thanks for explaining 🙂

    I do want to read this, I am seeing a bit of change in Cooke’s style though. The faces are pure Darwyn Cooke, but overall it doesn’t look like a comic I’ve never seen him do before technically. Definitely need to read this.

  12. This book was fantastic.  I didn’t realize that this book was the inspiration for the Mel Gibson movie Payback.  Either way, this is one amazing comic.

  13. @jstump: We talked to Darwyn and he’s got an earlier release date in mind than next summer.

  14. The second I picked this up I knew it HAD to be the Book of the Month.  Darwyn Cooke was born to adapt these stories.  Can’t wait for the rest of the series – it’ll look mighty fine on the bookshelf.  Not only is it the basis for PAYBACK, but also the excellent Lee Marvin film POINT BLANK.  They have nice, shiny new editions of the first half dozen or so Parker novels available anywhere fine books are sold, for those comic fans that enjoy the occasional book ‘o’ prose every now and then.

  15. I’m looking forward to getting this.  I just started reading his collection of Bat-verse stories from 2007 and he talks about naming "Stark" in "Selina’s Big Score" after Richard Stark and that Stark was sort of modeled on Lee Marvin in "Point Blank," a film adaptation of Stark’s work; also, his description of his favorite comic issue (Detective #439) sounds a lot like the opening of this book (a silent issue where Batman delivers a beat down to some common thugs).  So, this would seem like a real passion project on his part.

  16. Nice review.

  17. Met him at San Diego, and talked for about ten minutes about point blank (the movie version) it was one of the best creater expieriences I’ve ever had.  Such beautiful art too.

  18. I love this book so much that I’m finding myself actively avoiding reading the last chapter because I don’t want it to end.

    Great review.

  19. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @Megnolia – Samsies.  

  20. Darwyn Cook is definitely my favorite artist after reading The New Frontier. 

  21. I’ve had my copy of Stark’s ‘The Hunter’ for a decade and have read it once.

    I’ve had Darwyn Cooke’s ‘The Hunter’ for two weeks and have read it half a dozen times.

    Can’t praise it more than that.

  22. Bought this last week. Perfection. Is there anything Darwyn Cooke has done that isn’t great?

  23. First Addams Family reference. Tagged and recorded.

  24. Everything I want from Book of the Month. This looks really excellent.

  25. This matches & exceeds my (high) expections and the hype surrounding its release. A true work of art that somehow manages to surpass the (high) quality of the original work by the great Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake, RIP). If you haven’t already done so, read the book, the graphic novel & then watch John Boorman’s superb film, "Point Blank". Great write up & this will probably be the book of the year as well.

  26. this was so awesome. i loved it. another of my coworkers loved it too and hes like 50

  27. This was terrific. Cooke is the perfect artist to bring Parker to the comic’s page. I read this immediately upon getting it home and I couldn’t put it down. Donald Westlake is my father’s favorite author, so i was already familiar with Parker and I was blown away by Cooke’s take on the book. Can’t wait for the next installment!

  28. Totally buying this. Great review man.

     Does anyone here think Darwin Cooke would do a great Madmen comic book? (from AMC)  

  29. Heads up: As of posting this, Amazon has pulled it.

     "Item Under Review

    While this item is available from other marketplace sellers on this page, it is not currently offered by because customers have told us there may be something wrong with our inventory of the item, the way we are shipping it, or the way it’s described here. (Thanks for the tip!)

    We’re working to fix the problem as quickly as possible."


  30. Yea just saw that. TFAW has it for sale though, and at a lower price than Amazon

  31. They just announced a second printing of this, so you should be able to find it soon.

  32. So good.  I’ve just loaned it to my mother, who loves crime fiction (and enjoyed the movie adaptations of The Hunter) but never explored comics.  If she digs it, then Criminal’s up next 🙂

  33. I just read this at Barnes and Noble today. All I can say is…..what an amazing book.

    Cooke’s art is a sight to behold and I love this story to no end. I can’t wait for the next book in 2010.

  34. @jstump: Credit where credit is due – When Darwyn said that he wanted to have the next book out for New York Comic-Con, I forgot that they moved it from the beginning of the year to the end.

  35. OK, I think it’s staring me in the face and I just can’t see it; but is there a link to the archives of all the previous "book of the month" selections?

  36. @stuclach-Thanks!!

  37. @drakedangerz – My pleasure.

  38. I just read the first 20 pages or so at Borders. HOLY CRAP! So good. Definite buy when I can afford it.