Imagine getting punched in the gut by some rogue lunatic underworld gladiator who promptly collapses into your kitchen chair and chomps down on a bowl of cheerios with his oversized mitts as you crouch on the floor stunned and drooling blood…there’s a knock on the door and you pick up your corpse of a body to stare through the peephole at a knife-wielding leather-clad dame grimacing while rare classic cars skid onto the scene followed by screaming cop sirens tolling in debauchery and corruption…then the color drops out and real nice like everything goes noir…
“Sin City” by Frank Miller (select graphic novels)
- “The Hard Goodbye (April 1991 – May 1992)” (Volume 1)
- “A Dame to Kill For (November 1993 – May 1994)” (Volume 2)
- “The Big Fat Kill (November 1994 – March 1995)” (Volume 3)
- “That Yellow Bastard (February 1996 – July 1996)” (Volume 4)
- “Booze, Broads, and Bullets (1998)” (Volume 6)
Frank Miller set his Sin City “yarns” in a timeless noir chronology. His inspiration was cool cars, hot dames, and muscle dudes in trench coats. Mission accomplished. The stories are put together in multiple volumes and flip back and forth in time, occasionally providing different perspectives from past scenes as the view point switches. The storylines interweave in expert ways over the course of the collections and it’s fun to see od characters come up again in the background or do things you haven’t seen before as you follow a new protagonist around with new problems and goals.
The world he creates is not vast. Everything revolves around a single city and its outskirts, constantly driving inward at the characters who rule or fight or flee from this place. All the spots to which they bring you really manage to pop with a lurid black and white reality.
Throughout the vast majority of narratives there is thoughtful inner monologue by the rotating cast (usually the protagonist but sometimes even secondary or background characters). We get a front seat ride in many heads, nestled right up against all the twisted struggles that torment these people. We also get to see the tarnished dreams and bitter regrets that motivate them to do what they do, whether it is for a perceived good or simply a personal selfish proclivity. Either way we are there with them in all the glory of what a first-person perspective can provide. This insight really fleshes out the people who inhabit the Sin City world and (along with the visuals) helps to distinguish the ensemble which further develops if you read through multiple volumes.
The dialog is gritty and loose, mostly used sparingly. There were times I felt a repetition in the patterns and speech, but this ultimately complimented the strong distinct style being evoked. The mood was very specific and excellently achieved. Even though the stories are set in a nameless and timeless decade, they feel grounded and real. There is nothing generic here.
The author did double duty in this series by also penciling the drawings. He also made the decision to go almost entirely black and white with almost no colors (with a few exceptions)—you can smell the plethora of black ink as you turn the pages. The resulting style is heavy handed, like everything else in this work, but utterly flawless in its delivery. His use of action and choosing what to show and when or how to show it all fell into place to maximize the narrative. The Sin City stories marry so many different elements in a perfect way that the creator is able to achieve amazing results without ever feeling over played or too intrusive.
These are the hard streets of Basin City where the players make the rules and everyone else goes along, or they pay the price. Sometimes it’s the higher ups and sometimes it’s the dregs. Nobody is immune. People get caught up in their own rachets and games and sheer humanity of being human. Everything you could want in stories like this are here. The corruption, the violence, the passion, the dreams, the loyalty, the betrayal, the revenge, the comeuppance, the chase, the desperation—all of it!
Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussede/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Tune-In Radio, Stitcher, Google Play Music, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).