REVIEW: RICHARD STARK’S PARKER: THE SCORE BY DARWYN COOKE

August 7, 2012 at 11:00 am By:

Important disclaimer: I am not an employee of IDW Publishing and I am not paid for my contributions to Heroesonline. So, bottom line: there is no bottom line, I do not get any money from extra copies of The Score that are sold thanks to a rave review. Here is another Bottom Line: If you are a fan of Crime Drama or Crime Fiction or Film Noir you must read Darwyn Cooke’s adaptations of Richard Stark’s Parker novels. The first two, The Hunter and The Outfit were outstanding, I didn’t think they could get any better, and boy oh boy, am I excited to tell you that I could not have been more wrong!

The Score tells the story of one single crime, a major heist. This is a complete, stand alone story. You just need to know two things: the main character Parker is financially independent and no longer has to steal for a living, but if he doesn’t perform a heist now and then, in his private life, his um, gun tends to jam up. And you need to know that Parker is not a likable guy at all. These are not crooks with hearts of gold and a twinkle in their eye ala Danny Ocean and his crew. As a reader, you should want to see Parker fail and go to jail and maybe die but the opposite occurs and you end up pulling for him to succeed. Why? Because of the remarkable turns of phrase of Richard Stark’s prose and the incredible artwork and storytelling of Darwyn Cooke.

In the wrong hands, Parker could have been one big shouldered angry cliche, but he is not. He is a fully fleshed out character and the world of the books revolve around him. The creators present the proposed heist (The Score) as if it was the technology team at a major bank organizing and scheduling a crucial software upgrade. Each of Parker’s criminal partners acts as a department head with Parker coordinating everything like a dedicated Project Manager.

And the set up, the actual heist and the aftermath creates a dazzling story from start to finish. Cooke takes full advantage of the comics medium. There are at least half a dozen moving parts that occur simultaneously. He builds the suspense with intense use of page layouts.  Unlike a movie, there is no music to build the tension. The anxiety is all done with atmosphere and page manipulation. You are doing yourself a major disservice if you don’t pick up this book.

Here is my final attempt to get inside your wallet: Take a moment and look at the cover of The Score. At first glance, it is the exact same ’60s design as the first two books in the series. But take a look at the picture. Focus on the denseness of the illustration; there is a lot going on–maybe too much? But it is under control because there is a center to the drawing and a center to the town and a center to The Score and it is Parker. Read this book! Then you are welcome to curse me out because you will immediately have to purchase The Hunter and The Outfit as well.

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