Have you ever experienced an art form that really resonated with you? That no matter how many times you look at it, you’re constantly entranced? That is what The Hunter was for me. Adapted by Darwyn Cooke from Richard Stark’s (aka Donald Westlake) Parker series of crime novels, The Hunter stands as one of the most gorgeous looking graphic novels I’ve read in years. The book’s nearly wordless opening begins with Parker’s arrival in New York City during the 1960s. Immediately, we see that Parker is a man with a particular set of skills as he deftly forges a driver’s license and empties some poor schmoe’s bank account. Parker is a man with a mission: to find those who double crossed him and get back the money that was stolen from him.
The writing in The Hunter is very much classic pulp, with larger than life characters occupying a stylized version of New York. There’s a mob-like organization represented by a bank run by slick businessmen, spineless thugs who put on a tough front and deadly, but beautiful and intelligent dames. As engaging as Parker’s path to revenge is, the biggest star of this show is Cooke’s breathtaking art style. If you’ve read Justice League: New Frontier, you may understand why. Cooke’s artwork is reminiscent of vintage magazine advertisements, with lots of masculine straight angles and sensual feminine curves. The entire book is rendered in three colors, black, dark blue and cream, giving off a Frank Miller-vibe. I’ve read through this graphic novel about four or five times now and the artwork still manages to blow me away.
The Hunter is accessible to everyone, comic book and art fans alike. The action is no worse than something you’d see in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, as most of the violence is committed off panel. In fact, the worst display of violence is Parker’s bare handed strangulation of a thug. There is some light sexuality, yet sex is often implied and when shown, it is neither graphic nor gratuitous. Although there are a few instances of nudity, women appear as dolls because Cooke does not draw them anatomically correct.