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The Score
posted September 4, 2012

imageCreators:: Darwyn Cooke, Richard Stark
Publishing Information: IDW, hardcover, 160 pages, July 2012, $24.99
Ordering Numbers: 9781613772089 (ISBN13)

Darwyn Cooke dedicates the third of his Parker books to "every poor son of a bitch that's ever had to work with me" and draws as fellow comics professionals several members of the crew that Richard Stark's enduring character assembles to take down an entire town. In doing these things, Cooke underlines right through the paper that this book is about a job, about men working, about how that defines a person and how choosing to push away from the suffocating post-War formula for what that entails both flatters and frustrates the individual personalities involved. In other words, he remains on point. The occasional critical rumbling about Cooke's crisp style and idealized design choices somehow being inappropriate as methods to explore Parker's world seems particularly ungenerous with this release. Unlike even some of the good movie versions derived from the novels, Cooke's comics seem to consistently get at that crucial and fascinating theme of vocational dissatisfaction, the crux of the series' fulminative qualities. It's a worldview reinforced throughout this latest book in ways big and small, sly and obvious, everything from the main antagonist's revealed motivation to an offhand description of Parker's personality on the job versus off to Parker's revelatory criticism of what will eventually put one of his partners behind bars. A connecting quality between volumes also surfaces and finds new life: how Parker separates his time with women from his time planning and executing a job. When Parker is at work, he's really at work; everything else recedes, up to and including entire parts of the man himself.

Parker's crew executes the job at hand with few mishaps, or relatively few until the book's central narrative twist shifts to the surface like a canvas belt full of tire-destroying spikes. The relatively smooth ride makes pop even more than usual Cooke's choices on which scenes to illustrate in something other than straight-forward fashion. There are maps and close-ups and establishing shots galore in The Score, as well as three-panel sequencing and abstraction of figures; it's difficult not to compare Cooke's plan to that in the book, as facile as that may sound, if only to find a continuity within their shared, methodical, steely effectiveness. The showiest flourish employed by Cooke is a series of hallucinations/daydreams in which one of the men indulges. I'm not sure that works in prose or on film but here it's shorthand for a character that walks out of step with the other male cast members in a manner that also contrasts sharply with Parker's considerable remove. My favorite sequence in the book is a two-page description of the basic operating plan that visually puts the men into place but verbally reflects what they might be saying as they hear about it. That's not just pleasurable to read, it gives the reader necessary information in a succinct way and even pushes the narrative forward; it's not for the weak of heart or comics-dim, that's for sure. None of these comics are.