On The Cheap: Humble’s IDW/Top Shelf Bundle Has Darwyn Cooke’s ‘Parker,’ Jess Fink’s ‘We Can Fix It’ And More
Over the past few years, the Humble Bundle has become a pretty reliable source for getting great comics at incredibly cheap prices, to the point where I finally had to sit down and read a bunch of comic books about robots that turn into cars because it just didn't make financial sense not to. This week, though, it looks like they're officially done fooling around. The current bundle, which runs through June 10th, finds Humble teaming up with IDW and Top Shelf to offer a massive amount of books.
The bundle, which is divided up into the standard three tiers (pay what you want, pay more than the average and pay the average plus five bucks), features six volumes of the critically acclaimed Locke & Key and the later stories from Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neil's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but for me, there are two big hooks: Jess Fink's We Can Fix It, one of the best autobiographical comics I've ever read, and two volumes of Darwyn Cooke's adaptation of Richard Stark's Parker novels, including the most recent, Slayground.
The Hunter, Cooke's first adaptation of the Richard Stark novels --- "Richard Stark" being a pen name of prolific writer Donald Westlake --- was such a big hit back when it was released that it's almost not worth it to talk about how great it is, but it really is that good. It's one of the best things Cooke's done in his considerable career in comics, capturing the style, mood and sheer brutality of that revenge story in an extremely entertaining way. And if I had to guess, I'd say that it's probably solely responsible for getting a bunch of comics readers to check out Donald Westlake's original novels --- me included.
Which is how I discovered that Slayground is exactly my jam.
If you haven't read it, it's one of those absolutely perfect premises. Parker, who is famously meticulous about selecting and planning jobs that always seem to immediately and catastrophically go wrong, is in a car crash after robbing an armored car and ends up fleeing into an amusement park that's been closed for the winter, only to find out that he's stumbled upon a bunch of crooked cops and killed the local mob boss's son in the process. That's how the book begins, with Parker alone and unarmed, trapped in an amusement park with cops and killers all trying to hunt him down.
So yeah, it's basically Die Hard In Disneyland.
To be perfectly honest, I don't mind saying I prefer the novel to the comic. I don't think even Cooke would argue that the original novel is a pretty amazing masterpiece that sets a pretty high bar, if only because it has a lot more time to breathe and allow things to slowly build to a crescendo once the bad guys --- well, worse guys --- storm into Fun Island on the hunt for the hunter. But Cooke's version is stellar in its own right, with a fantastic, mostly silent stretch in the middle that sees Parker moving through the park, turning the rides and attractions into lethal deathtraps to give him an edge despite being completely outnumbered by his enemies.
It's one of those books where it's all I can do to not just launch into, "Oh and then when he kills that guy in the House of Mirrors," or, "When he hides all the knives and lures them in after him," and blow everything that happens in the entire book, but trust me, it's well worth reading for yourself, especially if you can snag it for a fraction of the cover price.
To be honest, I'm actually surprised that it's in here --- The Hunter and Slayground are the first and most recent installments of Cooke's Parker adaptations, with The Outfit and The Score between them. There's not a whole lot of continuity between the stories --- one of the nice things about both the novels and Cooke's adaptations is that you can pretty much pick up any of them and get a complete story that rewards reading the entire series but doesn't require it. Parker himself is one of those rare characters that's actually pretty two-dimensional, but in a good way. He likes money and dislikes literally everyone else, he will kill people with his giant hands, and that's about all you need to know. Everything else is on the page.
What's surprising, though, is that The Outfit, the second of Cooke's adaptations, isn't in here. It's a direct sequel to what happens in The Hunter, and there's a bit in there with a series of heists where each one is drawn and told in a different style that's absolutely beautiful, and shows how much Cooke is bringing to the table in terms of adaptations. If you snag The Hunter and like what you see, then that's the one to go to next. And who knows? Humble tends to add a few books over the course of a Bundle sale, so maybe that'll wind up on the list too.
On the Top Shelf side of things, Jess Fink's We Can Fix It is at the complete opposite end of the scale in terms of subject matter, but it's every bit as great as the Parker books.
It's another one of those books where the premise alone makes it worth checking out: An autobiographical comic about the author getting a time machine and then going to the past to try to keep her past self from making all the mistakes of her youth. Fink's comics are universally fantastic, but We Can Fix It has an honesty to it blended with comedy that makes it very easy to love. It's a book that deals with the idea of regrets and how they shape us in a way that generates cringing and empathy in equal measure. It's a book that's every bit as touching as it is funny, and it's very, very funny.
There are, however, no amusement parks filled with deathtraps, so keep that in mind when you're reading.
As for the rest of the stuff on offer, I'm looking forward to finally sitting down with Locke & Key after years of people recommending it to me, and the first two volumes of March, the award-winning comic about the Civil Rights movement from Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell is already a favorite here at ComicsAlliance. In other words, there's a ton of great stuff in here that is definitely not to be missed.