Here's a book that fulfills its promise just perfectly. It's 144 pages of beautifully-drawn, evocative artwork - detailed linework shaded with a blue wash - illustrating a seminal crime story about a career thug out for revenge. The original novel, written by Donald E. Westlake in 1962 under the pseudonym Richard Stark, has been filmed twice, starring Lee Marvin and Mel Gibson in the lead role, and influenced authors as disparate as Robert B. Parker and Don Pendleton, but Darwyn Cooke makes it seem very fresh and vibrant.
As an adaptation, it's so good that readers will probably forget that the tone and the plot have been such an influence on the genre for so long and appreciate it on its own merits. If this makes sense, it feels like Cooke has captured 1962 so well that readers can become immersed in a period long before the storyline of a vengeful criminal became cliched through overuse.
It's a very cold and cruel book, and certainly not for everyone. There's no character development to speak of - there almost never is in the genre - and the joy comes from watching the plot unfold. But much in the same way that readers will return again to the genre's best writers for the joy of reading their prose, this is definitely a book I'll enjoy coming back to, just looking over how masterfully Cooke stages certain scenes. The most memorable of these will be a climactic sequence at a subway station, and the thunderous scene of Parker tracking down his wife and, finding no sympathy for her tale of pity and woe, telling her to do him the favor of killing herself. It's an excellent start to the series - Cooke plans three further adaptations - and one I recommend gladly.