By Darwyn Cooke (writer and artist) from a novel by Richard Stark

In 1962, author Donald Westlake (writing under the pen name Richard Stark) took the world of crime fiction by storm with the creation of his most enduring legacy, the ruthless antihero Parker.  A professional heistman and contemptible bastard, Parker’s nearly fifty-year crime spree has entertained fans through books and movies, and now for the first time his exploits are being translated into a series of four graphic novels by Darwyn Cooke and IDW.

Based on Westlake’s first book in the series (and produced in collaboration with Westlake, who unfortunately died before this graphic novel was released) Cooke’s translation of The Hunter is an amazingly faithful piece of storytelling; and Cooke’s retro-styled artwork has never seemed more appropriate than on a story like this.

In 1960s New York City, Parker storms across the Brooklyn Bridge like a vicious force of nature hellbent on destruction.  A consummate professional criminal, Parker has used his mind as well as his fists to build a reputation for himself as the guy who’ll get the job done no matter what.  Driven by blind, relentless determination, he crosses the country in pursuit of the almighty dollar, and has no problem lying, cheating, stealing, and killing to get what he wants.

The day Mal Resnick came into his life with the offer of a sweet score, a tiny voice in Parker’s head warned him against buying into things that sound too good to be true, but Parker disregarded it and took the job anyway.  The job was a success and Parker was $45,000 richer, but there was one thing he didn’t plan for.  Turns out Resnick owed a huge sum of money to the national crime syndicate he was desperate to rejoin.  So desperate, in fact, that he was willing to manipulate Parker’s wife into helping him kill Parker and take his cut of the money to repay Resnick’s debts.  They thought they had killed Parker.  They thought they had gotten away with his money.  They were wrong, and now Parker’s in town looking for payback.

Fan of stories like Ed Brubaker’s Criminal will strongly appreciate and identify with this book, which is understandable as Parker is one of crime fiction’s most notorious and beloved characters.  Cooke’s art perfectly captures the style of the times; every panel is saturated with a deadly, suave coolness that only the best in crime fiction can call their own.  This is a dense graphic novel, although sometimes to the detriment of the story as text, dialogue, and panels can sometimes fight for space on the page.  I thought that to be a minor complaint though, and one easily overshadowed by how exhilarating the story proved to be.

Delighting in Parker’s quest for revenge is the ultimate guilty pleasure.  You know full well that Parker is as much a villain as the gangsters he’s hunting down, and yet you can’t help but root for him to succeed because part of you would love to be just like him, taking command of your life in a way that only he can.  This is one graphic novel that needs to be on your bookshelf.  Not to be missed!

Grade: A

-Tony Rakittke