Title: Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit
Writer: Richard Stark/Darwyn Cooke
Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Release Date: October 5th, 2010
The Outfit is book two in Cooke’s adaptation of Richard Stark’s Parker series. It actually combines two separate books in the series into one: The Man With The Getaway Face, and The Outfit proper. Parker spends a good chunk of the dough he got away with in the previous volume on a new face, as to have a bit of anonymity. It isn’t long though until he’s fingered by a rat, and he has to take out those who have put a price on his head… but not before stealing their cash, of course.
This may be more than a little biased, as I am a huge fan of both crime fiction, and Cooke’s work, but here we go. Book one, The Hunter, was a fairly straight-forward interpretation, told through sequential art. With The Outfit, Cooke challenges the reader with whole segments told in various formats- from true crime magazines to Monopoly cards. While that may sound potentially jarring, Cooke makes the whole experience seamless, never once taking you out of the flow of the story. The Outfit will definitely be remembered as the most experimental of his adaptations. With the various formats, Cooke allows himself the opportunity to flex different artistic muscles than he’s been able to in recent memory. This is a book that’s more designed than illustrated, and it’s a sexy package.
As for the story itself, just like book one, if you’re not a fan of time-jumping, buyer beware. The tale moves back and forth at least two or three times, showing you how Parker and company got from here to there (or there to here, as it were). More than anything, I found The Outfit informative (bordering on educational at points), as Stark/Cooke lay out in very specific detail how things worked in the criminal underworld back in the day. With Parker, you know that he’s going to come out on top, and so the joy of the story is watching a master craftsman (err… criminal) at work.
The best part of The Outfit (and all of Parker’s tales) is how unapologetic it is. Most modern crime tales and adaptations usually have at least a grain of “crime doesn’t pay, kids.” Not here. Parker is a professional (cold and distant tho he may be), and he reaps the benefits of his skills. It’s the type of tale where you’re never meant to sympathize or relate to the character. Mostly, you’ll downright loathe him. And yet, you always come out rooting for him. Those are the types of stories I love, and that’s what made The Outfit a joy to read.
The meshing of the two stories isn’t as tidy as it could have been, and there’s a few issues with pacing at the start and finish of the story. Still, these are minor issues when taking in the whole of what The Outfit accomplishes. They won’t affect your enjoyment of this teeth-grinding caper at all.
Crime fiction is a niche. I get that. Regardless, if you respect comics as a medium, this is a book you should be reading right now. Two years running now, Cooke has released a book that I’m sure will top many best of the year lists. It deserves all the praise it’s been receiving. Most importantly, for fans of crime fiction, The Outfit is the one you’ve been waiting for.