In anticipation of the release of Sin City: A Dame to Kill for coming to the big screen in August, Dark Horse has, unsurprisingly, released a new edition of the original neo-noir comic book by Frank Miller. It’s full of crooked cops, desperate men, femme fatales and a whole lot of nudity. But is it good?
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Like many comic book fans, I have a bit of a strange relationship with Frank Miller. On the one hand, he’s written and drawn some of the best and influential comics of all time, but on the other hand, Holy Terror was such an Islamophobic, socially irresponsible piece of crap that I actually shed a few tears while reading it. Luckily, A Dame to Kill For is yet another work by Miller that proves that, for all his excesses—and in some cases, perhaps because of them — he deserves to be recognized as a living legend.
Though A Dame to Kill For features characters and plot elements that reappear throughout the Sin City series’ many “yarns,” it can be easily read as a standalone story for newcomers to the series. Full disclosure—the only other Sin City yarns I’ve read are “That Yellow Bastard” and “Hell and Back,” both of which were released after “A Dame to Kill For” (I also saw the first film adaptation, if that counts for anything.)
The story follows Dwight McCarthy a recovering alcoholic trying to live a clean life, even with a job with some sort of P.I taking pictures of adulterous spouses. His life comes crashing down, though, when he gets a call from his beautiful and seductive ex-lover, Ava, who broke his heart four years ago when she cheated on him. Soon, Dwight finds himself entrenched in a world of sinful sex, brutal violence, and machine gun wielding hookers.
Yes, Miller’s characterization of female characters can be described as problematic. Some may even describe his portrayal of women as misogynistic, and they’d probably have a strong argument to make in that regard. After all, there doesn’t appear to be a single female character in “A Dame to Kill For” that isn’t a stripper, a hooker, or even, at the very least, scantily clad. In Miller’s defense though, none of the male characters are paragons of humanity either. Just about every character in Sin City is a despicable person, and the few that aren’t are negatively affected by such a sour environment in different, interesting ways.
The characterization is incredibly strong for a book that could so easily be full of homogenous characters. Each “acts” in a distinct visual manner, with nuanced dialogue to match. Every character speaks with their own rhythms and vocabularies. And while few of the characters can be described as multi-dimensional, they all serve the overall story in memorable ways. The real star of Sin City, though, isn’t Frank Miller’s writing, but his art. Every panel has perfect composition, brilliant use of light and shadows.
Is It Good?
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For may seem too brutal and insensitive for some audiences, but for those that love noir, it doesn’t get much better than this.