Friday, June 5, 2009

Darwyn Cooke getting his crime on

This July IDW is publishing Darwyn Cooke's hardcover graphic novel The Hunter, an adaptation of Richard Stark's 1962 crime fiction novel of the same name. Scott Dunbier, special projects editor at IDW, last week was facebooking that "it is done" and I somehow weaseled a preview copy from him that arrived yesterday! Following is my spoiler free review / impressions / shout out for The Hunter:






Richard Stark, who wrote The Hunter novel, is the pseudonym of Donald Westlake, who was a very acclaimed crime fiction / mystery novelist (he died at the end of 2008). The Hunter is the first of the Parker (the central character of said novel) series of which two movie adaptations were made, 1967's Point Blank with Lee Marvin and 1999's Payback with Mel Gibson. I haven't seen either movie or read the original novel, but if I still had time to read "real" novels, The Hunter would definitely have been right up my alley.

Anyone who's already familiar with the artistic wonder that is Darwyn Cooke already will pick up anything he does. Cooke's first big comic book production was Batman Ego, a 2000 graphic novel which was an excellent year one Batman story. His next big project was the Catwoman Selina's Big Score graphic novel, but it was his silver age Justice League series The New Frontier (collected in two graphic novels) that put Darwyn Cooke on the map for most comic fans (Cooke was also heavily involved in the animated adaptation). Cooke went on to do some Spirit comics for DC, which was the perfect lead in title for The Hunter, the culmination of Cooke's obvious love of the crime fiction and noir genres.

Not having read The Hunter novel, I can't say how Cooke's adaptation compares, but from reading Scott Dunbier's introduction (which I'm not sure will be in the on sale version), Darwyn Cooke has nothing but the highest regard for Richard Stark's work (and conversed with him several times before his death) and now, upon finishing Cooke's The Hunter, I'm sure that anyone who likes crime fiction / noir, Cooke's art, and or the Stark / Westlake novels, will thoroughly eat this book up. Even if the story wasn't great (which it is as it is also written by Cooke who writes most of the books he draws), The Hunter is another dose of gorgeous eye candy that only Darwyn Cooke can deliver with a rich blue duotone color scheme perfectly suited to the noir sensibilities of The Hunter.

Parker (he just goes by the one name like Cher), the central character of The Hunter, is a tough as nails, no nonsense character, and to say he's not one of the good guys is an understatement. Parker is a very volatile character, which makes The Hunter a rapid fire reading experience. Reading The Hunter reminded me of Eugene Izzi (Booster, King Of The Hustlers, Invasions) crime fiction novels (back when I read crime fiction novels fairly regularly) that were populated with hard characters with their own codes. Anyone who has read Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' great crime comic Criminal, after reading The Hunter, will appreciate that Stark /Westlake was a huge inspiration (if I remember correctly, they've even stated this within the back pages of Criminal).

Darwyn Cooke's The Hunter will be debuting at the San Diego Comic Convention July, 22nd (where it's sure to be one of THE must have books) and at finer comic stores everywhere around the same time.

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