Dwight McCarthy used to be somebody – a photographer and Pulitzer Prize-contender, working for the local newspaper. But hard drinking and harder living cost Dwight everything. Now, he’s been reduced to working as a leg-man for a sleazy detective and he lives a largely monastic existence – shaving his head, staying off the booze and staying away from women for fear of letting out “The Monster”.
Then one night “she” calls. Ava. The one that got away. The one that broke his heart. The one that left him four years ago for a richer man. Despite his anger and better judgment, Dwight agrees to meet her. She spins a story of abuse and torture at the hands of both her rich husband Damien Lord and his mountainous manservant Manute – a story that Dwight finds hard to ignore after Manute shows up to “escort” Ava home. When his investigations seem to confirm Ava’s story and earn him a beating at Manute’s hands, Dwight will call in every favor he can and let out “The Monster” to save Ava. But is Ava really a dame to kill for? Or is she playing on Dwight’s chivalric side once again?
Attention must be paid to how effortlessly Frank Miller has blended the continuity of two stories shamelessly. Parts of this story take place at the same time as Sin City, vol. 1: The Hard Goodbye and one can see scenes from that story play out in the background of this one. Marv, the protagonist of the first volume, even plays a supporting role as Dwight’s back-up when he storms Damien Lord’s estate for the second time!
This is one of the more novel touches as one continues to read the Sin City series. Characters we saw in the background of one story are brought to the foreground of another and it’s not unheard of for us to see the death of one character before finding out their full story in a later work. This attention to detail serves to make Sin City seem more like a real place as we slowly see how everything is interconnected.
Dwight McCarthy stands out as one of the most interesting characters to populate Sin City. Unlike Marv, Dwight is not a psychopathic man-child, despite his “monster”. Marv knows that some things are just wrong, but lacks the mental capacity and emotional maturity to appreciate precisely why those things are wrong. By contrast, Dwight has morals enough to feel disgusted by his sleazy job snapping pictures of adulterers for divorce cases and guilty for fast-talking Marv into helping him invade Damien Lord’s estate. Dwight is not a hero yet he has heroic impulses, risking his life to save the life of a strange woman in the opening chapter. Ironically, when he lets “The Monster” out, Dwight begins to act like a more traditionally heroic figure, being brave and bold even as he is devoting himself entirely towards becoming an angel of vengeance.
As always, Miller’s art perfectly conveys the world as he means to portray it. As a location, Sin City is not pretty but it has a certain style. The same can be said of Frank Miller’s artwork, which seems to be rough and crude before surprising you with an image of stark, simple beauty, such as nearly every scene where we get a look at Ava.
Speaking of getting a look at Ava, I should mention that we get to see quite a lot of her in this book. Nearly everything, in fact. Indeed, I should mention that this book is chock full of nudity and ultraviolence. This should not be a shock to anyone who knows anything of Frank Miller’s recent writings in general or the Sin City series in particular. Regardless, you have been warned.
Sin City, vol. 2: A Dame To Kill For
by Frank Miller
Dark Horse, 2005
Publisher Age Rating: 16