REVIEW: Richard Stark’s “The Hunter” adapted by Darwyn Cooke.

The Hunter cover by Darwyn Cooke
The Hunter cover by Darwyn Cooke

When this book was first announced at Comic Con International last summer I nearly flipped at this idea. When I got the book in my hands six weeks before the release I flipped again.

If you’re expecting the bright colors and sharp superhero designs that came along with Cooke’s “The New Frontier” and “The Spirit” than you’re going to be shocked because you’re not going to get it. This is so different from that.  It uses two colors (blue and white), has no dialogue for pages upon pages and is a tight 140-page hardcover with maybe three spread pages total.  This design sensibility is directly conducive to the story.

In “The Hunter”, we follow Parker, a gun for hire who has been double-crossed by his wife and partners.  Left for dead, Parker survives and stalks across the country in search of his share of a job and to kill the people who double-crossed him. The story is that simple and displays a cold 1962 New York City and its finite organized crime enterprises that Parker infiltrates with violence that would make Charlie Manson squirm.

The blue pages (similar to the design used by Fabio Moon in the Image Comics series “Casanova”) displays a cold feeling to the story, and the silent pages makes you focus on the tight panels used predominantly in the first section of the book.  By using these tight panel grid pages and no dialogue, Cooke is literally making you see 300 pages of narrative, without dialogue there to hold your hand,  packed into a 140 page hardcover graphic novel.

For those unfamiliar, Richard Stark was an alias of Donald Westlake considered to be one history’s very best mystery writers.  His most popular character, Parker, has been featured in films young and old, and now in graphic novel form.  The character has been personified by Mel Gibson in “Payback” and 1967’s “Point Blank” played by Lee Marvin.  However, this edition notes that the name of the character has never been allowed to be used in the film versions.  Westlake was nominated for an Academy Award for  his screenplay of “The Grifters”. In 1993, the Mystery Writers of America named Westlake a Grand Master, the highest honor of that society.  Westlake passed away in late 2008 to many feeling the loss of who was counted as one of the best, if not the best, mystery writer of a generation.

Darwyn Cooke’s stellar adaptation of this book hits stands today, and is worth every one of  your pennies. It can be found on Forbidden Planet

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