Sunday, 20 January 2013

Richard Stark’s Parker: the Outfit review

In my review for Parker: the Hunter I wondered whether or not Cooke was going to let loose in his second Parker adaptation The Outfit much like Parker lets loose after a job. Having read The Outfit for the first time, I would say Cooke indeed let loose. Once again the plot is simple. Parker underwent plastic surgery to change the look of his face in order to avoid being hunted down by the Outfit (the Organization or the Syndicate, it’s all the same). Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long, just one job, for his identity to be made known to the Outfit. He decides it’s time to end this nonsense once and for all and declares war on the Organization and acts out his threat to ask all his thief friends to hit the Outfit anyway they can.

According to Trent at The Violent World of Parker, Parker: the Outfit is based on two novels by Richard Stark The Man with the Getaway Face and The Outfit. It also seems Cooke was less faithful with his adaptation this go around. I’ll let experts like Trent tell you exactly how faithful he remained while I concentrate on the comic adaptations.

Taking a free hand with The Outfit was a good call by Cooke as I enjoyed the second comic more than I did the first which was excellent. I essentially only have one complaint which is the way Cooke draws women. Now this was a bigger problem in The Hunter but I forgot to mention it. Essentially, all his women look the same. Same body type, same face, all he seems to do is change the hairdos. He adds more variety in the second comic notably with Alma and the retired-prostitute-turned-motel-owner. We get larger woman in her forties and an elderly lady in her sixties. It was nice of Cooke to avoid giving us nothing but magazine worthy babes which, incidentally he does very well but it gets tiresome after a while.

The colour palette is similar and it keeps it consistent with The Hunter. The main difference is the blue-grey from the first book is now a darker blue. Just a slight difference but it was nice. It also gave it a darker feel which suits The Outfit just fine. Cook uses different art styles during one of the book’s four chapters whichs depicts different heist being pulled by friends of Parker (and one of them being pulled by Parker himself and two associates). It works well because it gives a lot of information to the reader quickly. This book more than The Hunter is dense. A lot of things happen and they happen quickly. Cooke puts half a dozen or more panels on at least half the pages and it’s impressive. Especially once you consider the smaller than average page size. Using different art styles for the various heist allowed Cooke to show us a nice variety of jobs while he gets to stretch his drawings muscles and move the story along. It was a great idea and it very well executed.

There is a really interesting few pages that end the third chapter. They bring up the effects of criminals organizing and beginning to work like a business. It makes them soft. Men like Bronson and Fairfax, used to be hardened criminals like Parker (well, maybe not as hard as Parker). Bronson mentions the arrival of a new breed of men in the Organization. There is a new kind of criminal, white collar criminals, businessmen. Essentially other people are hired to do the dirty work while these people coordinate the whole thing from behind a desk.

Another element I liked is Parker’s new face. He’s uglier. Not hideous but uglier than in book one and it works. He’s not just crook, now he’s an ugly crook. His new face also seems to go well with his overly large hands. He’s not deformed but he doesn’t look like you’re average Joe. There’s a full page spread of Parker in his underwear in the first few pages and he’s a physically imposing man. You do not want to mess with this guy! Cooke nails the body language in that page. Parker could have easily looked silly or weak just standing around in his underwear but it’s clear that he means business. It’s even more imposing in hind sight since Parker follows through on his tough look by springing into action.

What I liked the most about The Outfit, and this is true of the Hunter too, is that Parker has to clean up after nearly every job he does. Part of being a thief is working with other crooks. Double crossing and backstabbing are just another part of the job. I find this aspect of crime fiction much more interesting than showing us the ins and outs of planning for a job.  I really like crime fiction that depicts the bad elements that naturally come with the career choice. Sure the payoff can be big but so are the risks. Parker spends as much time dealing with the outcome of a job as much as he spends time planning his next job. That’s not always the case but based on the first two Parker comic adaptations, it sure happens often enough to be a dangerous way of making a living.

What's attractive about crime fiction is that the reader gets to live out fantasies of a criminal life and lifestyle. We've all though about how easy it would be to rob a place but, for obvious reasons, only a small percentage of the population actually try to do it. Crime fiction gives us a chance to play out the fantasy. Good crime fiction shows us why it's not a good idea. We'd probably end up in jail or worse, dead or even worse than that, with Parker hot on our trail.

I'm happy to say I paid for my copy of Parker: the Outfit. The last thing I need is Cooke and IDW sending out goons to roughen me up. 

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