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Darwyn Cooke's The Hunter

Darwyn Cooke’s The Hunter (The Hunter from here on out) is to Parker readers what The Dark Night is to Batman fans. It’s the adaptation that gets it, the adaptation that takes everything you knew about something you loved in one medium and proves that it can be done in another.

Such an achievement takes time, far beyond the time for the adapter to give the source material however many reads it takes and make his creative choices. To be done right, certain works, especially series works, need to percolate through our popular culture for awhile in order for the works’ admirers to be able to say, “This is what it means to us.” It is tapping into that consensus, far beyond the original version in whatever medium, that makes a truly great adaptation of something that has become much bigger than originally intended.

This is why the Lord of the Rings films were a huge success. Peter Jackson understood what the lovers of the books had in their heads and was able to translate that to film.

Like Peter Jackson, Darwyn Cooke gets it. He captures the spirit, traps it in a book, and sells it at your local comic book store.

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In The Hunter, Darwyn Cooke stays extraordinarily close to the text of the original novel. That, in part, helps capture the spirit.

Mr. Cooke also, through visual choices and shrewd editing, makes The Hunter even more efficient than the legendarily-efficient original. There is barely a wasted word or frame in the entire 140 pages. That, also, is part of capturing the spirit*.

These things alone would not have been enough to make the comic more than an interesting novelty. Also needed was illustration to match the images in our heads, pacing to match the accelerated-decelerated rhythm of the original, and writing to match the prose of the Master. All are achieved, and one more piece of the spirit is captured.

But it’s finally getting the character right that makes The Hunter a masterful adaptation. Mel Gibson was not Parker. Robert Duvall was not Parker. Even Lee Marvin was not Parker. This is Parker.

A bravura performance, and one that we can hope will expand the audience for the Velvet Underground of crime protagonists**.

Yes, fellow Parker readers, you need this.

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*Also, occasionally to its detriment. If you haven’t read the novel, you will likely have no idea how it is that Lynn ends up naked with Mal prior to her plugging of Parker.

I guess I’ll use this minor criticism to bring up another. Parker looks too conventionally handsome, a complaint I’ve read in other reviews and in e-mails and comments here. That’s a matter of interpretation, so I’ll let it slide while noting that the plastic surgery in the next volume happily corrects this.

**This is a reference to Brian Eno’s remark that “the first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band.” The influence of Stark and Parker goes far beyond sales figures.