Tuesday, July 31, 2012
PARKER: THE SCORE by Darwyn Cooke 
Just last week, Darwyn Cooke released his third volume of his adaptation of Richard Stark's classic Parker novels. Like the first two, Parker: The Score is an illuminating and faithful look at the source material while still containing plenty of Cooke's own style.
The story of The Score is actually one of the simplest in the series. Parker, who is running low on funds, and a large crew of 12 accomplices decide to rob an entire town in North Dakota. They account for as many problems as they can, securing supplies, exit routes and hideouts, all explained in in great detail. However, in the middle of the operation, it doesn't go to plan (as usual) as other variables rise up. But that's the fun part of these stories in the first place. This one is particularly engrossing as the scale is so much grander than knocking off just an armored car, for instance. Plus, everyone finally gets to meet the pleasure that is Alan Grofield, one of the best supporting characters in Parker's world.
It should be noted that I'm a big fan of these Parker novels. Incidentally, the novel version of The Score from 1964 may be my favorite of all the ones I've read. It's the fifth book in the series of 24 from Richard Stark (one of the many pseudonyms used by the great Donald E. Westlake). Earlier this year I finished the long-hard-to-find 16th entry Butcher's Moon, which is probably the only one that I might rate higher. It's been probably five years since I burned through The Score, so I had been wondering if my stance on it being the best in the series to that point was accurate or not. Fortunately, Cooke's version has reinstated my belief that this is one of the finer entries.
As for what comes next, I read some time ago that Cooke planned on releasing five volumes of Parker graphic novels. We're now at volume three. The first covered the inaugural appearance of Parker in The Hunter, a revenge yarn of the most fanatical proportions. His second release was Parker: The Outfit, which covered Stark's second and third novels, The Man With The Getaway Face and The Outfit. This was a really brilliant decision of Cooke's part to combine the two since each is a little thin for a standalone comic. Plus, it establishes Parker as a master thief (Getaway Face) and completely hellbent on completing his quest of revenge if he's been wronged (The Outfit). The Score is an exhilarating, bombastic heist on every level -- through planning, the execution and it's largely successful. I can't imagine he skips Slayground entirely (where Parker battles a giant force comprised of a local syndicate operatives and corrupt cops on his own while hiding out in an abandoned amusement park) or Butcher's Moon which starts out as a simple sequel to Slayground only to spin into a grand tale harking back to the ruthlessness originally displayed in The Hunter. Whatever he ends up doing, I'm definitely in.
I'd like to thank Trent and Nick over at The Violent World of Parker for creating an invaluable cache of info on these novels (and a lot of other related material). I've been a fan of their site for a long time and it made writing this review much simpler having something to refer to for these books where many of the details had escaped me. Follow their blog; it's good stuff.