Gangsters, Surgery, and... Peter Lorre?

First, an apology for being the constantly absent member of the blog writing team. Those of you who know me personally know that I am usually swamped at work. The past month has been a blur of six-day weeks at the comic shop, which is wonderful but it doesn't leave a lot of time for my own writing. However, this week something came out that was so good that I have to review it: Darwyn Cooke's adaptation of The Man with the Getaway Face.

Please excuse that thing that you just tripped over on the floor. It was my jaw. In all seriousness, I was not expecting this as I dutifully unpacked the Diamond boxes this past Wednesday (and yes, that is my fault for not paying attention to the internet. But shhh!). I was absolutely thrilled to see the next installation in Cooke's adaptation of the Parker novels.

Now, I'll confess, I haven't read any of Richard Stark's books. I tend to like my noir in movie form but then last summer The Hunter hit the stands. Ah, yes, back last summer when I was buying a ton of stuff (as opposed now, where I only buy half a ton of stuff). There I was, standing in the store with a pile of comics. Innocent. Not planing on buying a new hardcover that week. Then my boss came along and forced it into my hand. My boss is very good at what he does: selling comics. He also knows that although I'll kick and scream, I'll end up buying the books he says are good. So I begrudgingly payed for The Hunter and took it home.

And I was blown away. From the first page (a splash of New York City, my beloved home) I was hooked. I blew through it, marveling at the expressive art, getting lost in the plot, and theorizing that Cooke is secretly a god. Since then, I have recommended The Hunter to many friends (some of you have been those friends) and sold several copies at the comic shop I work at. Meanwhile, I mourned that I would have to wait until Summer 2010 to get to read the next graphic novel.

Well, turns out I still have to wait until October to get to read The Outfit, but at least the clamoring masses were not forgotten. Getaway Face, as Cooke calls it in his intro, is actually a full novel in the Parker series, however Cooke felt it was not necessary for the overarching story. However, there are elements of Getaway Face that directly link to later plot lines. The solution? Why, put out an oversized comic book for $2 conveying said necessary elements of course!

Brilliant. Who could say no to a $2 book, when the average comic book is $3.99 these days? Who could say no to paying $2 for Darwyn Cooke comics? Let's be honest here, I'm far from the only person who believes that Cooke is secretly a god. Kudos to IDW for the brilliant sell. But lets talk about the actual book.

I swear, someone needs to give Cooke a medal for his title page art, which I fell in love with when he was writing The Spirit. The first page is a five panel sequence of surgical bandages being snipped away, slowly revealing the words The Man with the Getaway Face, and the quality of the work stays as high the whole way through the book.

The story that follows this beautiful opening is one about Parker's first crime after fleeing New York at the end of The Hunter, after completely altering his face. His associates on this heist are Skim, who's kind of a schmuck, Skim's girlfriend Alma, and an old colleague named Handy. What results is a tale of double-crossing, and double-crossing the doubler crosser, but I'm not saying more than that. One thing I will say is that Skim is a dead ringer for the actor Peter Lorre, who played some of my favorite schmucks in the 1940's. He was Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace, Ugarte in Casablanca, and he was Joel Cairo in my favorite noir film-- The Maltese Falcon. Lorre was well known for his roles in noir films (as well as horror), and I can't help but think that Cooke's portrayal of Skim is a nod to Lorre. If anything, it added an extra dimension to the storytelling for me personally. I totally heard Lorre's voice in my head.

I will admit that Getaway Face is not as neatly tied together as The Hunter was. However, this is clearly because it is a 200 page book boiled down to twenty-four pages of sequential art, so I can forgive that. The fast-pacing is balanced out by Cooke's art and the simple enjoyment of reading a good crime story. Cooke even writes Getaway Face so you don't have to have read The Hunter to enjoy this comic. So, do yourself a favor: take $2 out of your piggybank and go pick up a copy of The Man with the Getaway Face. You'll thank me.

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