Saturday, March 8, 2014

I Reads You Review: RICHARD STARK’S PARKER: The Score (Book Three)


CARTOONIST: Darwyn Cooke
EDITOR: Scott Dunbier
ISBN: 978-1613772089; hardcover (July 24, 2012)
144pp, 2-Color, $24.99 U.S.

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score is a 2012 graphic novel written and drawn by cartoonist, Darwyn Cooke.  It is a comic book adaptation of the 1964 novel, The Score, by Richard Stark, a pseudonym of the late author Donald E. Westlake.

The Score, also published under the title, Killtown, is the fifth novel starring Parker, the master thief and ruthless criminal who is Westlake’s signature character.  Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score is Darwyn Cooke’s third graphic novel adaptation of the Parker novels, following The Hunter (2009) and The Outfit (2010).

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score opens in Jersey City on Monday, April 13, 1964.  Parker is there for a meeting with Paulus about an upcoming job, but the job isn’t Paulus’ idea.  This operation is the brainchild of Edgars, someone who is both an amateur and someone unknown to Parker.  Parker should refuse the job and walk out, but he doesn’t.

Edgar proposes a grand robbery; the target – an entire town.  According to Edgar, a cool quarter of a million dollars is there for the taking in the mining town of Copper Canyon, North Dakota.  It’s like science fiction, thinks Parker, a job with too many rules and set up by an amateur.  Still, he’s intrigued, and he assembles a team of 12 to knock over a town.  Parker, Edgars, Paulus, Grofield, Wycza, Wiss, Palm, Elkins, Chambers, Cho, Salsa, and “Pop” Phillips.  But it’s all going to blow up in their faces.

I have praised Darwyn Cooke’s Parker graphic novels so much that I think I’ve run out of words that I can use for more praise.  Speaking of praise, maybe I should get Biblical on this review.  Seriously folks, Parker: The Score is so f-word + ing good.

Like the two before it, Parker: The Score is a great crime comic, obviously.  I think what makes it a superior work of comics and storytelling is that for all its crime genre trappings, Parker: The Score balances classic elements of storytelling.  Over the years, I have learned that storytelling is about plot, setting, and characters – especially the last one.  Parker: The Score balances all three.  It flows like a lush jazz composition played by an orchestra not afraid of finding the brash rhythms and strident moments or even the dark mood in the last act.

Cooke makes the setting, Copper Canyon, also a character.  The town is a she, a siren that entices with the treasure she holds within her – ready to be plucked by any ambitious man or group of men that think it is worth the risk of crashing and burning.

Cooke takes some of the characters:  Parker, Edgar, and Grofield, to name a few, and makes them, specifically their actions and motivations, the plot.  They drive the story even more so than the primary plot, which is about the planning and execution of the robbery.

Which brings us to the setting:  it is the robbery itself.  Parker and company and Copper Canyon are brought to this thing that is also a place:  the act and planning of a robbery.  It is where characters and setting meet in order to do their thing.  Cooke presents the fundamentals and elements of the story in such a way that they function as they should.  They also break the boundaries and expand the story beyond their function.

Parker: The Score is such a beautifully drawn and designed book.  Cooke’s style, which resembles the work of cartoonists such as Alex Toth, Will Eisner, Steve Ditko, and John Romita, is always attractive.  It is the storytelling at the core of his art, however, that is important.  He uses the overall graphic design of the page and the design of the elements and contents of individual panels not just as compositional elements, but also as the storytelling.  Thus, this book of striking images is more than just pretty pictures.  It is that kind of storytelling that has been grabbing the human imagination for a long time, or so I’m told.  Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score: you need to score one.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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