The Hunter


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The Hunter


  • Words: Donald Westlake and Darwyn Cooke
  • Art: Darwyn Cooke
  • Publisher: IDW Publishing
  • Price: $24.99
  • Release Date: Jul 18, 2009

Hard-boiled and uncompromising. These words describe not only Parker, the protagonist of this graphic novel, but also, Darwyn Cooke, its adaptor and illustrator. A successful career in the cartoons lead to an award winning comic gig writing the greatest heroes ever. None of this was quite enough for Mr. Cooke.

At every step of his professional life, Cooke has pushed himself to do more, to be better. Now, he takes that attitude to crime fiction. However, it’s not enough for him to create a new world. No, for Mr. Cooke, nothing less than the best is acceptable. So, he tackles one of the most revered characters in all of Noir. Not satisfied with merely adapting the work of Mr. Stark, because let’s be honest, others have done that - he got Westlake’s permission to call the hunter by name - this is something that not even Lee Marvin or Mel Gibson got to do. It’s easy to see why when you read this graphic novel, it is simply perfect.

Parker comes to town. He is an independent, but brilliant, thief. He was double-crossed, not just by his partner, but his wife. Seemingly back from the dead, Parker not only wants revenge, but what is rightfully his. Namely, $45,0000. The local mafia was paid a debt with his money and all their guns, all their connections are not enough to convince our hero to give it up and head home. Will Parker’s righteousness get him killed or will the organization buckle to his will?

This promises to be the first in a series. There is the "book one" gracing the spine and the promise of a new volume in a year. The announcement should send shivers into the heart of Azzarello and Brubaker. The revitalized crime genre has been perfected. Everyone else can merely hope to be a pale imitation.

Cooke hits all the right notes. Parker is hard and cold. Everything is a precise calculation. There is no room for error and if the unexpected happens, he is apt, ready to recover. The script is as smart as the man we root for. There is never the easy convenience. The anxiousness of the mob bosses and the calm of Parker are palatable at every turn, but more importantly it is genuine. You believe this could happen.

Then there is the dialogue. Parker’s speech matches his attitude. Rose’s reflects the weariness of doing a dangerous favor for a friend. Resnick’s is smarmy and vomits into the word balloons. It all makes for a seedy world, dangerous and real.

The hand lettering is obvious, but never illegible. It is attractive, perfectly centered, but allowed to effortlessly become part of the scenery or to accentuate the sound emanating from a throat drawing its last breath. Like the main character - like the book itself - it has charm and personality.

The green, blacks and off white of the pages become the making of perfect illustration. The square jaws, the trademark femme fatales. Cooke uses his tool bag to great effect. The almost pantomime of the introduction allows Parker’s charm and panache to melt into the distinct effect his ominous personage has on the world around him. The opening tells the story of his trek back to New York with an effortlessness that a million words would struggle with. However, Cooke isn’t slacking in the prose either. He knows that words are the way to describe the job with Resnick, a map providing a cinematographic backdrop with accents of scenery and action.

The panel work is exact. At times, the art seems to be an altered photograph. Smoke just diffuses into the empty green tone of a room - the table not drawn but clearly there. This is a world of alleys and night making for a pulpy milieu.

The Hunter is one of those rarest of all comic books. It is a perfect graphic novel. It is expert in its writing and art. It is exciting and intelligent. The perfect fusion of compelling, passionate story and crisp, clear drawings. The entire medium should be striving for this level of synergy. It is quite simply put, the kind of book that should be proudly displayed on any book shelf.

For anyone wanton of an Event Free world, tired of decompression and elongated stories, for those who would complain about the state of comic books in general - let it be known that there are important, brilliant works available. With this book, Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp, and Lemire’s The Nobody, there is on full display the heights to which this medium is capable beyond tights and capes. It is a great time to be reading comics.

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