Darwyn Cooke has an amazing talent for novel-to-comic adaptation, and The Score is a particularly delicious example. Originally a noir crime fiction novel by Richard Stark (AKA Donald Westlake), Mr. Cooke has turned a great heist plot into a visual treat of diabolical noir. The Score is the third such release in the last few years, and is easily the most ambitious of the trio not only in the broad scope of the heist but also in the breadth of the characters.
I imagine that one of the most difficult things about such an undertaking is making sure that each character is represented correctly and is easily recognizable from panel to panel. In the previous volumes, there were only five to six characters maximum, but The Score is comprised of a cast more than twice that. As a result, the story seems to be more shallow than the previous two, albeit no less entertaining or engaging. I feel compelled to read the entire graphic novel again, purely to make sure that all the moving parts fall into place.
The Score begins with Parker wandering the streets of a deserted city at night. A smallish fellow in a plaid coat obviously follows him, though Parker seems to be ignorant of the tail (the keyword here is “seems”). The little guy is quickly cornered and interrogated, his last mistake pulling a knife in defense. Parker kills him with bare hands.
This sort of thing doesn’t spook Parker, it annoys him. He returns to a hideout and tells a small gang waiting there, “The deals off. I’m out.” You see, to Parker, something like this is a sign that the job is sour; and he won’t take a job that’s sour. The finger, a man named Edgars, prevails upon Parker to at least hear the job out before walking, and it’s in the details that Parker can’t resist: They’re going to knock over a whole town.
Parker is a great protagonist because he feels like an antagonist. He’s unfeeling, cold, and abrasive. Donald Westlake writes:
The idea of the book had come about in a very mundane way; I walked across the George Washington Bridge. I’d been visiting a friend about 30 miles upstate from New York, and had taken a bus back to the city. However, I’d chosen the wrong bus, on that terminated on the New Jersey side of the bridge instead of the New York side (where I could catch my subway). So I walked across the bridge, surprised at how windy it was out there (when barely windy at all anywhere else) and at how much the apparently solid bridge shivered and swung from the wind and the pummeling of the traffic. There was speed in the cars going by, vibration in the bridge under my feet, tension in the whole atmosphere.
Riding downtown in the subway I slowly began to evolve in my mind the character who was right for that setting, whose own speed and solidity and tension matched that of the bridge. People I knew came and went, but he quickly took on his own face, his own hard-skeletoned way of walking; I saw him as looking something like Jack Palance, and I wondered: Why is he walking across the bridge? Not because he took the wrong bus. Because he’s angry. Not hot angry; cold angry. Because there are times when tools won’t serve, not hammers or cars or guns or telephones, when only the use of your own body will satisfy, the hard touch of your own hands.
So I wrote the book, about this sonofabitch called Parker, and in the course of the story I couldn’t help starting to like him, because he was so defined; I never had to brood about what he’d do next. He always knew. To some extent, I suppose, I liked Parker for what he wouldn’t tell me about himself.
I absolutely love this series, these books are the noir crown jewels of my bookcase. The binding is the highest quality possible, and the hardback is beautifully vintage. My only peeve is that I have to wait until 2013 for the next one!
I hate the quality of these images (taken with my last gen Android)- but the internet has a pitiful offering where the contents of this great noir comic is concerned. I wanted to at least give you a peek at some of the quality work being done here, even if the pics don’t do it justice.