Thursday, 22 July 2010

Comics Review: 'Parker: The Man with the Getaway Face'

I read a lot of comics and graphic novels, but I know some of you don't. Maybe you'd like to. If so, Comics Review is something new I'm starting to help you navigate the world of stuff drawn on paper. If you're a seasoned comics reader then at best this'll be a recommendations spot. Over the next few weeks I'll be writing about some comics, trade paperbacks and hardcovers that you might like to try, as well as some cartoon compilation books that you may not be familiar with. It's all part of an effort to inject some more cartooniness into this 'cartoon blog'. I hope you like it. If there's a comic, cartoon strip or anything like that that you love and would like to recommend then do let me know. I'm always on the lookout for new things to read and possibly write about. Anyway, on with the show, starting with a SPOILER FREE review of...

'Parker: The Man with the Getaway Face'

Writer: Adapted by Darwyn Cooke from Richard Stark's work.

Artist: Darwyn Cooke

Publisher: IDW

Price: $2/£1:55

Pages: 24

In his introduction to Parker: MwtGF, Darwyn Cooke is very clear about what you're getting for your $2 - " oversized, underpriced bitch-slap...", and he's absolutely correct. If 'Parker: The Hunter' was the 'shotgun blast to the chest' then this is the pistol to the temple; quick, neat, and shocking.

MwtGF advertises itself as a prelude to the forthcoming Parker graphic novel 'The Outfit', and within the first three pages sets up and explains everything you'd need to know moving from The Hunter to The Outfit (the 'clue' is in this issue's title). After that the rest of the story is your simple heist plot as Parker raises himself some cash by robbing a bank truck with a couple of old associates. It's an unremarkable plot made remarkable by Cooke's artwork and visual layout. It's in the art that you'll really fall in love with this book. He has a big canvas to work with too - the book is an impressive 12 x 8. The paper is of a good heavy grade, giving it a real feeling of quality that you wouldn't expect for $2. Publishers IDW have been very generous in all aspects of this one-shot publication.

From the titles of the very first page to the final frame there's a filmic quality about MwtGF that's reminiscent of the 5os and 60s spy and crime movies. Every page, from Parker riding at the back of a tram car, to sitting in a diner reading a paper, has a 'straight from the screen' quality to it. It's something that really shines in those completely wordless sections. I'm yet to see an artist who communicates action so economically and clearly as Cooke does. Entire pages are conducted without a single speech bubble, each frame a perfect snapshot of events. Not one word of Richard Stark's dialogue is wasted, and when it is put to use it's as neat and uncompromising as a shot of bourbon. And it's all presented through a saffron yellow lens that perfectly suits the dry heat of the setting. We've moved on from the gun-metal green shading that permeated New York in The Hunter and it'll be interesting to see what colour dominates The Outfit. It's a bold style that suits this series thematically and aesthetically and one only Cooke could pull off so well.

The few characters that are in the book are well-rounded, although it's clear that its Parker who is the star of this show. He's still that hard-bitten man who commands fear and respect in equal measure and once again gets his chance to demonstrate why you don't ever want to cross him. If there's such a thing as honour among thieves Parker enforces it with a cold brutality that you can't help but admire.

My only complaint is that there isn't more of this. I was left wanting more. A lot more. But that means this little prelude has done its job. It gives its readers just a taste to get them hooked before the next big hit. The Outfit is out in just over two months and I'm afraid you have no choice but to wait for it.

Parker: The Man with the Getaway Face: 9/10