Richard Stark’s Parker : Slayground by Darwyn Cooke….
Parker is a stone cold son of a bitch. He is absolutely ruthless, completely professional, unforgiving, unyielding, unpredictable and vicious to the core. So much so that he could easily be portrayed as the antagonist of any story. And therein lies the novelty of the Parker series by Richard Stark. Portraying the ruthless, cold, vicious, professional thief Parker as the protagonist as he goes on pulling one of his daring schemes is the trademark of the Parker series and it almost never fails to deliver. Especially when it is illustrated by Darwyn Cooke.
This latest installment of the Parker graphic novel series is based on the novel of the same name by Richard Stark. In the opening pages of the book, we have Parker and his slightly wacky pal Grofield pulling a heist only to see their escape go bad resulting in Parker being on the run with the money. As Parker finds respite in a closed-for-season amusement park, a local mob coupled with some dirty cops spot him and they decide to make him their game. And so starts the methodical slaughter.
It is a very simple story. A vicious hunt in a closed off amusement park in the middle of winter. But it is this factor that makes it work. The previous release Parker: The Score was about an elaborate scheme of robbing an entire town, which just seemed silly and fantastical. Here, we see Parker return to his base nature and it makes for a much better setting.
Even better than the setting is the fantastic artwork by Darwyn Cooke. His choice of color to depict the snow filled winter is absolute gorgeous to look at. Comparing it with his other artwork for the same series, it is second only to (if not on par with) his noir defining artwork of Parker: Hunter. The choice of the color completely captures the severity of the winter and perfectly compliments the bleak setting of the story. The two pages showing the car crash is absolutely breathtaking. If there is a weak link, it is the size of the story, which is just about 82 pages long, along with the short story “The 7eventh” (about 10 pages+ 4 pages of title and other filler) this makes the book to be an unsatisfyingly slim 96 pages as opposed to the usual 160 pages. The other minor weak link is that none of the characters have any room for development. Cooke seems to have decided to make this a simplistic, action packed cat and mouse thriller and it works for the most part. If only he had had figured out some way of adding in the details with the pace it has delivered, it could have been great. As it is, Slayground is very entertaining and only memorable for its brilliant artwork.