Richard Stark was one of the many pen names of the staggeringly prolific author Donald E. Westlake and his best-known creation was the anti-hero Parker.
Parker is probably one of the most undervalued characters in crime literature and comic book artist/writer Darwyn Cooke is just the guy to bring this amazing character into the spotlight for a new audience.
Adapted and drawn by Cooke, Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground is a deliciously entertaining cat-and-mouse story about an armoured car heist gone wrong. After wrecking the getaway car, Parker flees into an abandoned amusement park pursued by mobsters and crooked cops. Parker sets up traps, lures his pursuers into dead-ends and demonstrates why he is an attention-grabbing character who keeps you riveted to his every move.
I converted to the Church of Cooke back in 2008 after reading his award-winning DC’s New Frontier, in which he situates DC’s pantheon of characters in to a classic, retro early 60s format. Cooke’s art is amazingly unique and perfectly suited to illustrating Stark’s world. Cooke manages to simultaneously capture the stylistic “rat-pack” appeal of the 60s crime scene and still manage to deliver the gritty brutality that breaking the law and living on the shady side of life entails.
This is the fourth Parker story that Cooke has presented graphically (fifth, if you include the short vignette The Seventh), and I’m certainly hoping it won’t be the last. Parker is a hard man – as hard as they come and he is a quick-witted, sharp and uncompromising figure who is unrelenting in his pursuit of … whatever he wants. You have to admire this type of character, one that is clear of purpose and stops at nothing to accomplish his goals. A straight-shooter like this is a refreshing palate cleanser in these days of overly-complicated characters and story twists. A simplistic, but fascinating character study with clarity of purpose, you can see why Cooke enjoys bringing this figure back from the golden days of Sinatra.
Cooke makes crime look good.
There are a number of reasons why you should pick this book up. First, it’s Darwyn Cooke. I had the good fortune to meet this guy a couple of years back, and even after a few minutes of jovial banter, I walked away with a signed book and the feeling that this was a man of style. His character comes out in his work.
Second, you want to read about Parker and enjoy Richard Stark’s (aka Donald Westlake) contribution to literature in an exciting new format. Finally, you want to enjoy a damn good read. In fact, if you want the full Cooke-Parker experience, I recommend that you pick up IDW’s Martini Edition of Cooke’s previous Parker stories.
In short, get this book. If you’re a comic reader, you’ll appreciate Cooke’s attention to detail, his staccato-like presentation of plot and action as well as his unique retro-art style. If you like crime fiction, then here’s a chance to see it delivered in a graphic novel format by a true aficionado of the genre.
If you’re anything like Parker and you know what you want, then you want Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground. [adsenseyu1]