Sin City Series

By Frank Miller

So, after reading Frank Miller’s A Dame To Kill For, I rewatched the movie “Sin City” and then decided to read ALL the Frank Miller Sin City graphic novels. I went on a wild reserving spree at the library; the library rental system just sort of lists “Sin City Frank Miller” for each of the volumes, so I had to do scattershot holds on all the books. I ended up reserving multiple copies of some volumes and no copies of the first volume until about a month after all the rest. So, I’ve been reading them as they come, completely out of order, but I’m going to quickly review them all in order here.

Quick caveat upfront: Frank Miller is not to everyone’s taste, so while I love the comics, I can’t indiscriminately recommend them to everyone. If you don’t like broad noir stereotypes and ultra violence, it doesn’t matter how well it is done, this is not going to be for you. For the rest of us, here’s my rundown, with semi-spoilers (revealing a character is in volume 5 sort of spoils that he doesn’t die in volume 4, I guess? Although, actually, only sort of. I was reading them out of their published order, but the volumes weren’t written in strictly chronological order, either):

Volume 1: The Hard Goodbye

The first panel of the book and the series:

First Panel: Sin City

It doesn’t get more classically noir than that. Most noir mysteries are sweltering hot; sometimes they are bitter cold, but mostly roasting. Reading this issue last, I can tell that it was Frank Miller’s first (he is still finding his style for this series) and I can understand why it made such a splash in the comic book world. Everything is just so in-your-face: the violence, the machismo, the sex – I think it was probably unlike anything else people were reading at the time.

Book Cover: Sin City Volume 1

The Hard Goodbye is Marv’s (Mickey Rourke) story from the “Sin City” movie, the plot line with the most action but the least explanation, so I was happy to get more of the backstory this time around. With a couple of well-placed lines, The Hard Goodbye also gives a very quick overview of the origins of Sin City itself, which was most welcome after reading the other six volumes. At the end of this volume, too, I realized that The Hard Goodbye bookends at least several other volumes, with several of the subsequent volumes occurring to other characters within the span of time of this volume.

Volume 2: A Dame to Kill For

Previously read and reviewed here, inspiring this extended post.

Volume 3: The Big Fat Kill

Book Cover: Sin City Volume 3

The Big Fat Kill is Dwight’s (Clive Owen) story, starting with him in Shelly’s (Brittany Murphy) apartment while she argues with her ex-boyfriend (Benicio Del Toro). I kept thinking that I had already read this one, but then realized that it is literally the same as the movie, frame by frame, line by line. It’s really quite impressive.

It also made me appreciate the movie even more. By entwining volumes 1, 3 and 4, they made for a diverse group of characters and quick pace that the original comics seem to lack a bit in comparison.

Volume 4: That Yellow Bastard

Book Cover: Sin City Volume 4

That Yellow Bastard is the Bruce Willis/Jennifer Alba story line from the movie. This is probably the most…problematic of the Frank Miller stories (and that is saying something). Spoilers for both the book and the movie, of course:

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Femme Fatales: Femme and A Dame To Kill For

Femme

By Bill Pronzini

Book Cover: FemmeAh, Bill Pronzini. You were one of my early introductions to pulp mysteries, and I have a lot of left-over affection for you, but I’m afraid I may have outgrown your nameless detective.

I hadn’t read a Bill Pronzini novel in at least 15 years, but I ran across this very short novella in the new releases shelf at the library and picked it up, as I do love a femme fatale! I also had very fond memories of Pronzini’s nameless detective series from high school; they are somewhat run-of-the-mill novels, but are told in first person by a detective who is never named (I was also at the time watching Clint Eastwood’s “The Man with No Name” series, so it was a bit of a theme).

I read Femme in the space of one delayed flight, so probably over 3 hours total, and it was the fluffiest of fluff. I have a bit of a problem with novellas, actually. Whereas authors seem to put extra effort into short stories to be concise and compact as independent entities, novellas have a tendency to just come off as reading like general outlines for a future novel, and this one was no exception.

The plot, characters, and setting were quite generic, which is especially problematic when it comes to a femme fatale. A woman who uses her very femininity to lure men to death and destruction really needs to stand out. This particular femme seemed no different than the average murderess on any given Law & Order episode. I get that it is more difficult to make violence stand out in this modern age, but that’s what makes writing a femme fatale such a challenge.

Now, if you want someone who is up to that challenge:

A Dame To Kill For

By Frank Miller

Book Cover: A Dame to Kill ForFrank Miller’s A Dame To Kill For is the basis for the new Sin City movie coming out next year, and coincidentally the only Frank Miller graphic novel that Rebecca owns. I really enjoyed the first Sin City movie and was torn over whether to read the graphic novel for the second one, and thereby “spoil” it for myself, but finally decided that part of the fun of the movie is seeing what a brilliant job it does of bringing to life each individual illustrated panel. (I saw in a “making of Sin City” that they actually used the graphic novel as the original story boards for the movie, which makes a lot of sense, given Frank Miller’s very cinematic style.)

While it is no spoiler that Frank Miller loves a femme fatale (or ten), I’m going to go ahead and spoil this particular book (and upcoming movie), so proceed with caution. Continue reading