Richard Stark’s Parker is one of American crime writing’s iconic characters. However you choose to assess the character, his stories are a lot of fun to read. It is always a challenge to adapt a popular character or story into another medium, especially when you adapt a book into, well, anything else. There is no easier way to make a lot of enemies than badly adapt a beloved (though that’s probably not the right term for Parker) story.
Darwyn Cooke adapted the first Parker novel The Hunter last year and absolutely nailed it. The style of art looks like an edgier version of Eisner’s The Spirit, or perhaps a more sophisticated version of Dick Tracy, using the expected style of past noir comics without relying or parodying them. The faded coloring makes you feel like you’re watching The Big Sleep, or some other classic noir without being completely in black and white. Perhaps the greatest success in the adaptation are the wordless panels that perfectly evoke Richard Stark’s blisteringly fast-paced prose. No matter what is happening in those frames, they vibrate with narrative energy.
Now Cooke’s Parker is back with The Outfit, an adaptation of the third novel by Richard Stark. Cooke decided to skip The Man with the Getaway Face, because he wanted to get to some of the other stories. If Cooke continues the series the way he started, we may one day talk about his Parker, with the other great crime comics series, like Ed Brubaker’s Criminal, Brian Azzarello’s 100 Bullets, and Frank Miller’s Sin City.