Friday, August 14, 2009

It Ain't Called GUYS Lit Wire For Nothing

Being that this is GUYS Lit Wire, I’m now going to offer, for your consideration, the most guy-centric book I’ve read in a long time. Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter (by Cooke) is a guy’s book, right down the line: stone-cold criminal Parker comes walking back into town with a razor gleam in his eye and the urge to strangle someone in his powerful hands. He’s supposed to be dead, or so thinks his wife and her partner Mal, who pulled a double cross and left Parker to burn to death. It’s that simple, but what follows is a hunt through an underworld filled with seedy dives, rough women, two bit flunkies and corporate killers in neck ties and fancy suits. It’s right out of the first Parker Novel (there were a whole series of them) by famous crime writer Donald Westlake (using the Stark pseudonym) that began in the early 60’s when they really new how to tell a crime story just right. Cooke, who captured the look and feel of an era gone by in DC: the New Frontier, keeps the action set in 1962 and evokes a different time period like never before with a washed out, sepia-toned art that will bleed grit right onto your fingers. Even though it’s not quite in keeping with all the macho, I should say that this could also be the most gorgeous graphic novel of the year.

Well, that’s a lot of testosterone, so let’s balance things out just a tad with a fine Wonder Woman yarn. Sorry to say, there haven’t been an awful lot of those in the history of comics. Of the Holy Trinity of super-heroes (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, of course), she’s always had a more difficult time defining her archetype, being that the genre is very much about guys doing guy stuff (beating up criminals, natch). But, with Wonder Woman: the Circle (by Simone and Dodson), that situation is at an end. As Wonder Woman races to stop a Neo-Nazi invasion of Paradise Island and confronts a deadly conspiracy of Amazonian Warriors, we get a tale not only filled with action and character and burnished with a nifty shine of mythology, but also and finally a clear understanding of what Wonder Woman is and what she represents. The balance she strikes between fierce warrior and thoughtful diplomat has a fantastic potential, which you can follow into the next volume, if you like. And the art is so beautiful it practically glows, as only befits an Amazonian princess, after all. Even the backup tale, featuring WW’s battle, both physical and philosophical, with a renegade Green Lantern, offers a level of moral consideration you seldom see in mainstream comics. That maybe more depth than you’re used to in your summer action extravaganzas, but I reckon you can handle it.


Leila said...

I hadn't heard about the Parker GN -- awesome! I'm off to put it on my list. Thanks!

Jesse said...

Check out Westlake (Stark)'s original series, too, if you don't know it already. He practically invented the tough guy.

SkinnerBox said...

VERY excited to see this new Darwyn Cooke GN. Just received it in the mail and can't wait to read it.