Instead of pursuing this review in my normal fashion, which is to analyze each volume of a noir comic with its own posting, I have determined to mix things up; Here I will provide one paragraph on each of the seven volumes of the Frank Miller classic Sin City. This review will not be a regurgitation of plot lines or summary, instead it will focus on the noir aspects of the work as a whole both pleasing and displeasing. Having freshly devoured the entire series within a span of two weeks, I feel qualified to approach Sin City with a critical and subjective eye.
1) The Hard Goodbye
Frank Miller’s series begins with ferocity. Immediately the reader is immersed in a world where sexual ecstasy and violence drip off the walls like wet paint. Within this seedy underworld our first anti-hero, Marv, staggers angrily out of the inciting incident; the murder of the only woman who ever loved him. Marv’s strengths are as impressive as his weaknesses are redeeming. He is on heavy prescription medications because he is prone to confusion and hallucination, his brutal strength makes him the frequent victim and perpetrator of horrific trauma, and he is as gentle as a kitten when dealing with the fairer sex. He is the most perfect anti-hero in any of the noir comics I have read.
2) A Dame To Kill For
The second volume of Sin City paints a beautifully cruel portrait of the femme fatale archetype. The reader watches Dwight, a clean-cut, reformed alcoholic, slowly lose his self-control and self-respect to the subtle and conniving influence of the wicked Ava. Her goddess like beauty coupled with her luciferic sexual rhetoric eventually dominates Dwight, and leads him to commit the irreversible sin of murder. An intensely entertaining and frighteningly dark noir plot.
3) The Big Fat Kill
Volume three is most memorable for its sudden plot twist, where a dead grabby goon in Old Town turns out to be a hero cop and a death knell in the shaky truce that keeps the working girls safe. Sweat, desperation, and fear drive the story and tie the seedy underworld of this volume together. Most interesting are the references to the Spartans memorable battle at Thermopylae, it seems that Frank had the seeds of 300 in mind even as he was early into his Sin City saga. Also, the dialogue was near noir perfect between Jackie Boy and Dwight on the ride to the Santa Yolanda Tar Pits.
4) That Yellow Bastard
Frank Miller’s best comic, hands down, is Sin City volume four. Although the previous three volumes were excellent, he hits his high point in That Yellow Bastard and then never returns to it (more on that later). The reason that the story sails is because of how endearing Detective Hartigan is and how detestable Roark Junior’s pedophilia is. Additionally, the plot seems to be the least recognizable of any noir crime fiction or noir comics that I have ever read. This originality coupled with the uniquely detailed characters and dialogue makes That Yellow Bastard the black laces on the corset of Sin City.
5) Family Values
The fifth volume is an homage to the “Miller-boner” that Frank has for the deadly female assassin Miho. I will be the first to admit that Miho is really cool, but upon closer inspection she is much more of a caricature than a character. She is a product of Asian martial art stereotypes in the same vein as Tarantino’s O-ren Ishii, and has as much depth as a cinder block. The premise of the story delivered on intrigue, but was ultimately predictable and fell flat in comparison with volume 4. Its at this phase that Nancy has completely faded from the setting, and new characters are being introduced in rapid succession. It only gets worse.
6) Booze, Broads, and Bullets
Train-wreck. Volume six of Sin City is comprised of a collection of “one-shots” and it was horrid reading. It felt like Frank Miller was completely tired of the series; it showed in the dialogue and it showed in the artwork. Very few pages were crafted with the lust for detail of the earlier volumes, and the stories felt forced or contrived. The only redeeming aspect was the introduction of Delia, AKA “Blue Eyes.” She’s a bada**.
7) Hell and Back
I’m met with uncomfortable and mixed feelings as I contemplate this last volume of Sin City. It had several noir aspects that I was impressed with, but again I felt like the artwork and the attention span of the author was slipping. That, coupled with the worst closing lines to any story ever (“they talked about many things.”) made me extremely sad. He seemed to introduce new characters with reckless abandon and little care paid to back story or real development. Hell and Back is as sloppy as it is disappointing. What a sorrowful dirge to such a promising canon of noir comics.
I will always be a fan of Sin City, even if I feel it is an unpleasantly lopsided. If you are only going to read one of them, read That Yellow Bastard.
protip: you can see EVERY page of the entire Sin City saga at http://www.mk-goldenmoon.com/Comics/Sin%20City/