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:

Continue reading

Femme Fatales: Femme and A Dame To Kill For


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

Comic Book Glut

RurouniKenshinRurouni Kenshin: Restoration
By Nobuhiro Watsuki

This was one of the free comic books that I picked up at Free Comic Book Day. It is a teaser for an AU (alternate universe) version of Rurouni Kenshin by the original author. It was fun, but mostly I enjoyed it because it reminded me how much I love this series. The actual teaser itself wasn’t all that great. It reintroduced the characters and held their first meeting at an arranged illegal fighting/gambling event, which just seemed like a bit of over-the-top, idiotic, self-indulgence.

While the reboot wasn’t so great, I definitely recommend the whole original series of Rurouni Kenshin, following Himura Kenshin, an amazing swordsman who, after a bloody past during the civil war, made an oath to never kill again but still manages to find and be found by a whole lot of trouble. The anime series based on the manga is also really good, and the recent live-action movie was excellent! (The animated movies, branded “Samurai X”, however, should be avoided.)

Anyway, seeing more of these characters written and drawn by the original author made me bounce around grinning with excitement. But the actual thing wasn’t all that good. It was a it of self-indulgent fluff, and while there’s nothing wrong with self-indulgent fluff, if you actually want to read a good AU take on this series, fandom (in the person of Vathara) has provided several better options, including the urban fantasy Blades of Blood and it’s sequel Witchy Woman, the Star Wars-crossover Shadows in Starlight, or the historical fantasy Gargoyles-crossover All I Need is a Miracle (which is a direct response to the awfulness of the animated movies).

So this series is awesome, and I highly recommend it, but this particular comic book is not the best example of it.


HawkeyeHawkeye: My Life as a Weapon
By Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Javier Pulido

I’ve never really followed any of the Hawkeye comic books, but I enjoyed The Avengers movie a lot and the characters cameo in the Thor movie made me grin. So a new stand-alone comic book about Hawkeye at my library caught my eye. It was a whole lot of fun.

It’s a look at what Hawkeye, aka Clint Barton, is doing when he’s not out being a superhero Avenger… which is mostly getting into other types of trouble and going out being a secret agent for SHIELD. But it also involves hanging out with his neighbors at a rooftop barbeque/potluck.

Anna pointed out that the stories in this collection are all a bit grim, which I was going to argue with, except, okay, yes, they are a bit grim. But it left me happy. I liked it. Even though it does kind of imply that one of the main requirements of being a superhero is the ability to take a beating.


the-book-of-five-rings-a-graphic-novelThe Book of Five Rings
By Miyamoto Musashi, Sean Michael Wilson, Chie Kutsuwada, and William Scott Wilson

I picked this book up because I have struggled to read The Book of Five Rings for a while now. It was highly recommended by a seventh-don black belt that I was training with. And yet, I found it super uninteresting and unhelpful. In some ways it read (to me) like The Art of War, except without the value. The graphic novel version makes up for some of that lack by being really well illustrated. And from everything I’ve read, Musashi himself was a fascinating character and I wouldn’t mind reading more about him, despite not caring for his writing.

Anyway, I actually highly recommend the graphic novel as a precursor to the plain unabridged text of The Book of Five Rings. It will give you a taste of the text while making subject more accessible. It’s readable in about an hour. Then, if you find the graphic novel appealing, maybe you should try reading the original text in its entirety.

Although, really, I mostly recommend Sun Tzu’s The Art of War instead.


Elektra_Lives_Again_00-1book_coverElektra Lives Again
By Frank Miller

I read a couple of Daredevil series before and really enjoyed them (Frank Miller’s Daredevil: The Man Without Fear is excellent, as is David Mack’s Daredevil: Vision Quest although it largely focuses on a different character), but over all the quality of Daredevil comics varies wildly, so I also read a couple of Daredevil series before that I didn’t enjoy at all. Elektra is Daredevil (aka Matt Murdock)’s tragic girlfriend, a zombie-ninja-assassin who has her own spin-off series, but I had never read any of her comics that were any good at all… until now. This collection really brought her to life (haha!) as a character, despite her being a zombie ninja assassin. I liked the writing and the illustrations and just the whole feel for it. Well done.

Plus, there are two more Elektra graphic novels by Frank Miller for me to look forward to.