THE OUTFIT is the second in Darwyn Cooke's series of authorized comics adaptations of Richard Stark's crime novels about professional thief named Parker—and despite the hardboiled subject matter, Cooke's visual storytelling style tempers its steely protagonist with a surprising amount of fun. The Outfit chronicles professional badass Parker's attempt to take down the gangster syndicate that wronged him. With a face disguised by plastic surgery and the connections and know-how to hit "the outfit" just where it's weakest, there's never any doubt that Parker is up to the job—but the story is livened up and humanized by touches like Cooke's clever juxtaposition of Monopoly playing cards and the gangster lifestyle ("Destroy Your Enemies – Advance to Go"), or lighthearted diagrams explaining the details of how gangsters run gambling and numbers games. (I learned more about horse betting from 3 pages of Cooke's diagrams than I did in an entire childhood's worth of Saddle Club novels.) The staff at my favorite comic-book shop made me buy this one, insisting it was one of the best things going—they were right.

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