Sin City is a series in which the men are real men, and the women are real women. Except truthfully, not so much. Sin City is the creation of Frank Miller and he’s writing noir at it’s very best. His heroes are men trying to do the honorable thing in dishonorable world, his heroines are prostitutes who own their own destinies, and his villains are sexual predators and duplicitous women.
Each book is a distinct story, but they exist in the same world and you run across familiar cast of characters in each volume. Like most noir novels you are given a view into the underbelly of the city. It’s not a series for the easily offended or for the faint of heart. It’s a series that embraces the noir tradition and all of the sexual politics and violence that that entails. The violence is brutal and the gore is astronomical, although by and large it’s in black-and-white so it’s not quite as gruesome as it might be.
I’ve heard a lot of people complain about the portrayal of women in the Sin City comics. They are either blond bombshells who invariably use and betray the men who love them, or they are hard as nails prostitutes dressed in fetish gear. This is, to be fair, not untrue. But . . . (a) it’s a noir novel so I’m not entirely sure what people were expecting; and (b) Frank Miller’s heroines as victims doesn’t give them or him enough credit. The prostitutes run Old Town and protect their own, and the men who enter have to live by their rules not the other way around. The prostitutes of Old Town are more in control of their lives than any other character in the series and they are the farthest thing from being victims.
The artwork is gorgeous, stark black and white very occasionally cut with startlingly vivid color – like the blue eyes of the serial killer in The Hard Goodbye, or the yellow skin of Yellow Bastard. Frank Miller doesn’t constrain himself to a strict frame-by-frame approach and images will sometimes occupy the center of the page, and sometimes crowd themselves off the page. The black and white images are striking and evocative, and the depth of expression and character that he achieves with very simple lines is extraordinary.
If you’ve see Sin City the movie you’ve seen the plots of The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill, and That Yellow Bastard. The translation of Frank Miller’s images to the screen is astonishing. I watched the movie and recognized entire sequences of images from the comic. The movie is definitely worth seeing, if for no other reason than to see still images come to life in 3D, but I think the books are better and moved me more.