If you’ve read Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter, you pretty much know this already: This is top-of-the-line stuff. Cooke’s graphic novels are epic experiences, complete in and of themselves but also wholly complementary to Westlake’s original work. The pictures enhance the words extraordinarily, and the text economizes what Westlake wrote all those years ago and places them into new, vivid, and imaginative scenarios. In short, this book, like its predecessor, is nothing short of awesome.
Everything works: The sparse colors, the tight imagery, the rapid-fire text. Even the background information the reader needs to process the full story is handled exquisitely (Cooke puts in several “Here’s How It Works” pages that explain how a particular criminal scheme would play out, plus several pages of exposition that are as captivating as the graphic portion).
The plot follows Parker as he tries to make peace with the criminal outfit referenced in the title. They want him dead; he just wants to be left alone. Moreover, the outfit simply doesn’t know who they’re messing with. Antihero Parker is a rough-hewn genius who doesn’t take kindly to thugs trying to kill him, nor to the criminal bosses calling the shots. And since he has the brains to back up his bravado, he can easily make life a living hell for everyone involved in the outfit.
The Outfit, like The Hunter, is fast-paced crime noir (guns, dames, and a tough-talking protagonist) and so much fun that it’s impossible to put down. In fact, it’s even better than The Hunter, which is saying something.
Reviewed by John Hogan on October 5, 2010