Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground OGN (IDW)


Rating: 5/5 – A Study in Sequential Storytelling.

If you haven’t been picking up Darwyn Cooke’s adaptations of Richard Stark’s Parker series, you’re missing out on the biggest flip of the finger to everything we’ve come to expect…nay, demand…of our funnybooks these days. In an era of dare I say overproduced comic artwork, where the (ab)use of technology creates a muddled product to be digested and quickly forgotten, Cooke is able to say so much more with a simple black line and a single color. Read them at your peril…you may find yourself questioning what you’ve been reading up to this point, and why you’ve been wasting your money.

For about 80% of Slayground, the color Cooke chose is a slate bluish-gray, which nicely conveys the winter setting. The last 20% is a trip to more southern setting, for an additional tale, so Cooke switches to a rust-colored orange.  If you’ve read the first three Parker adaptations, you know why this is important. The color of each story almost seems to play a role in our perception of it, as important as Stark’s dialogue and Cooke’s linework. In Slayground, the dialogue takes a back seat for the first part of the book, relying mostly on Cooke’s ability to relay the action via panel after panel showing the protagonist’s attempt to get out of a particularly tight situation.

After a heist goes bad, Parker finds himself alone in an amusement park that’s been shut down for the winter. With limited weaponry available, and a group of mafia thugs and crooked cops looking to get their hands on the take (by taking Parker out of the equation), it’s up to the hard-edged criminal to find a way to use the materials at hand to get away. In a follow up story, The Seventh, another heist goes wrong with Parker now forced to track down an unforeseen entity who’d made off with the group’s take.

Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake) has seen his stories adapted for the screen several times, with varied results (see the Mel Gibson movie Payback for one example of perhaps the most classic Parker tale). In Cooke’s comic series, we’re given perhaps one of the best ways to experience the tales of the master thief outside of picking up Stark’s novels themselves. Each book is self-contained so you don’t need to start with the first book in the series…you’ll end up picking them up after your first taste, anyhow. And you’ll be just as happy as I was to read the words on the final page – “Parker will return in 2015.”  It’s gonna be a long year.

Reviewed by: Al Sparrow – Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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