Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground

Richard Stark's Parker - SlaygroundSummary: Darwyn Cooke’s masterful and multi award-winning series of Parker graphic novels continues with Slayground! Parker, whose getaway car crashes after a heist, manages to elude capture with his loot by breaking into an amusement park that is closed for the winter. But his presence does not go unnoticed — a pair of cops observed the job and its aftermath. But rather than pursue their suspect… they decide to go into business for themselves, with the help of some “business associates.” From then on it’s a game of cat and mouse, one played out through closed rides of the abandoned carnival… a game that slowly starts to favor the mouse.

Includes the Eisner award-winning short story “The 7th,” previously only available in the Martini edition!

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Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground, by Richard Stark and Darwyn Cooke 7.75

After a heist gone wrong, Parker is on the run, hauling a large bag full of cash with him. But he’s stuck on the waterfront with no proper refuge in sight. In a pinch, he ends up at Buffalo’s Fun Land amusement park, which is closed up for the season.

Problem is, he’s seen hopping the fence by a couple of cops taking a payoff from a local mob boss’ son – and the group decides to hunt down Parker and take the money from him. So they call in for reinforcements and proceed to hunt the thief.

Now Parker is trapped in Fun Land, with only one way out: the front gate.

‘Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground’ finds the usual roles reversed: this time, Parker is the hunted, not the hunter. Thankfully, he is the perfect trouble-shooter, and he makes one big mouse trap out of Fun Land, effectively turning the tables on his aggressors.

The Lozini mob will rue the day they tried to corner him.

Unlike previous offerings, ‘Slayground’ is weak out of gate: set during a heist in progress, the layout of each page and panel seemed amateurish; they didn’t make the most of the events. Plus which the art seemed lackluster in comparison to past works.

However, Cooke made up for it soon enough, once Parker finds his way to the amusement park. Then he gets into rich detail and even provides a Fun Land visitor’s fold-out map of the whole park, designed in exactly the style that would have been used in 1969.

Oh, sweet eye candy.

I relished looking at all the silent panels of Parker preparing for the assault. Cooke is always excellent at conveying with mere images and he used only minimal text to ensure that we could follow. It’s not all perfectly clear, sadly, but nearly so.

Halfway through, though, he turns his attention to the villains, providing us with a glimpse of what took place behind the scenes from the start. This allowed for far more exposition and dialogue than the more visual scenes with Parker do.

It’s an excellent angle (no doubt taken from the novel), except that it was initially unclear that we’d gone back in time. It took me couple of pages before I went back to try to make sense of the chapter. A simple note would’ve been welcome.

Oh well, maybe it’s just me.

All told, ‘Slayground’ is a rapid-fire, pulse-pounding piece, but it leaves you wanting more: at a mere 96 pages in length (vs 144 or 160 pages for the others), it felt like a mere episode instead of a complete tale, and I was disappointed when it ended.

Perhaps as a form of compensation, a short story called ‘The 7th’ has been included at the tail end of the book. Unfortunately, diehard fans of the series will likely already have it, as it was previously included in a collection of the first three books.

(And yes, this means that the main story is only 82 pages long!).

‘Slayground’, as entertaining as it is in all its brevity, feels like a half-hearted effort, as though Cooke ran out of time but wanted to fulfill his commitment of adapting four of Stark’s novels. It’s not a terrible effort; it just doesn’t stand up to his previous ones.

Darwyn Cooke’s adaptations of Richard Stark’s Parker books have consistently been entertaining and creative in their delivery. One could argue that Cooke set the bar a bit too high for even himself. But no doubt he’ll stun us again with a future effort.

‘Slayground’ may not be a great thriller, but at least it’s all killer, no filler.

Post scriptum: A movie adaptation of the original novel was released in 1983. From all accounts it sounds like a very loose (it’s not even set in Fun Land!), rather lackluster, version that doesn’t merit viewing. I highly doubt that I’ll bother. But you never know.

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