The Outfit: Stylish and bloody crime fiction for the discerning comics reader
Parker is a consummate professional. Cold and detached, he never gets emotionally involved in the various heists he plans, simply executing them carefully and methodically. He is also a cold-hearted bastard who seems nearly incapable of any sort of compassion: in this volume, he is severely uncomfortable with an old partner helping him out essentially for old times' sake (as opposed to for monetary gain), as Parker views this as a sign the man is starting to go soft. He shouldn't be either sympathetic or likable, but who somehow grabs ahold of your attention and refuses to let go. There's something oddly charming about his seeming complete lack of empathy.
I read the first volume of these comics adaptations of the novels by Richard Stark a long while ago, so much so that I didn't remember much about the story except for the fascinating character of Parker himself. I therefore came into this story essentially new (or at least that was what i was expecting--the first chapter was released separately, and I had forgotten I had read that volume earlier as well). Even though this is the second volume in a series, it is not necessary to read the first one--all in all, this is relatively well contained.
Really, the only thing that needs to be known is that the mob (the titular "Outfit" of the title) is looking for Parker because they feel he did them wrong. To keep from being found, Parker had plastic surgery, and now has a new face. However, when an angry former partner who Parker left for dead spots him, the Outfit is back on his tail, and Parker needs to convince them of why they should leave him alone, a persuasion involving an unrelenting campaign of robberies on Outfit properties.
As I said before, Parker is a fascinating character to follow. His cold fury and dispassionate ruthlessness are simultaneously terrifying and enthralling, and you want him to succeed even though he is an unabashed villain. It is great to see his plans unfolds, as the Outfit is overwhelmed by robbery after robbery expertly executed, and Bronson, the head of the Outfit, is driven to distraction to stop Parker.
Darwyn Cooke's adaptation into comics form is great. The only colors are various shades of blue, black and white, and the artwork is stylized to look Sixties-ish, which really immerses the reader in the 1963 setting. I generally do not like comics adaptations from other mediums,as they have a tendency to seem cheap and lacking, but Cooke does well with Parker, making the story his own. I also like how he plays around with the art style, rendering one of the heists as a text story with only occasional pictures, while rendering others in a simpler, more cartoony style.
This is a dark story, and those looking for sympathetic heroes will find nothing like that here. In fact, the story seems to view normal human behaviors with disdain, as emotions like love, affection, and attachment only serve to hinder characters. As an Outfit henchman explains, the reason why the Outfit is so easily beaten by Parker and his cohorts is because they have forgotten that they are criminals: to them, their jobs, tied to crime as they may be, are just jobs, and they feel themselves attached to society, whereas Parker is not at all as fettered.
"The Outfit" was a great crime story, revolving around a fascinating character. I look forward to Parker's return to comics in 2012, as should anyone who likes their stories to have some stylish larceny in them. I highly reccomend this book.