After having revisited all six volumes of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Scott Pilgrim” graphic novels, I decided to jump back into another one of my all time favorite ‘indie’ comic book series: Frank Miller’s “Sin City”!
“Well, I’m gonna find that son of a bitch that killed you, and I’m gonna give him the hard goodbye. Walk down the right back alley in Sin City, and you can find anything.” – Marv
FRANK MILLER'S SIN CITY
“Sin City” is a neo-noir anthology series. It’s basically Frank Miller’s ode to the works of the great pulp crime novels and detective yarns. Sin City aggressively leans into the tropes of the entire film noir genre, but it’s also wholly unique in it’s style and storytelling, thanks entirely to the incredible talent of writer/artist Frank Miller. It’s easily one of the most iconic works of Miller’s career, a career filled to the brim with some of the greatest graphic novels of the era: “300”, “The Dark Knight Returns”, and “Daredevil: Born Again” just to name a few.
The “Sin City” series is a collection of interconnected stories about the denizens of the fictional Basin City, a corrupt and depraved urban jungle that would give Gotham a run for it’s hard-earned gambling money. First appearing in the pages of 1991’s Dark Horse Presents #51, Frank Miller’s first tale was “The Hard Goodbye”, a 13-part story arc, which was later collected as Sin City: Volume One.
What sets this series apart from so many other crime comics is it’s larger-than-life imagery, with some of the most breathtaking black and white panels ever inked. It’s all so unmistakably Frank Miller.
“THE HARD GOODBYE”
“The Hard Goodbye” (Sin City Vol 1) follows Marv – a psychotic killer with… a heart of gold? Marv wakes up next to a dead woman named Goldie, and soon finds himself on the run from the cops for her murder. Convinced she was murdered in her sleep, Marv goes on a one man quest for vengeance, wreaking havoc across Basin City in a murder spree to try and uncover the truth.
The story is so brutal, visceral, and in your face, but it’s just surreal and over-the-top enough to retain it’s fun. Frank Miller’s artistic style is really on display in this one – every page is a work of art. From Marv taking on a SWAT team in a rundown motel to his gory final showdown with the creepy silent serial killer, Kevin. When it comes to Miller’s style, his most striking images rely on shadows and silhouette. Less is more. Plus, it’s often what you don’t see that’s the most disturbing, the implied horrors between the panels…
The absolute best aspect of this story is Marv’s epic narration, with lines like “She smells like angels ought to smell, the perfect woman… the Goddess. Goldie. She says her name is Goldie.”. As the book goes on, you start to wonder whether or not Marv’s side of the story is even credible, especially when he starts talking about how he keeps forgetting to take his meds and then eats a handful like Tic Tacs.
There are some pretty memorable moments, like the whole sequence where Marv is walking through the rain, staring up at the oppressive statue of Bishop Rourke, as he starts to piece the whole conspiracy together. However, by far my favorite moment is when Marv’s going over his inventory for the mission ahead: “I check the list. Rubber tubing, gas, saw, gloves, cuffs, razor wire, hatchet, Gladys, and my mitts.”
“The Hard Goodbye” is one of those stories I find myself returning to year after year, as with so many of the ‘Sin City’ graphic novels. Between the stark imagery, the poetic narratives, and the oh so gruesome details.
COMIC vs MOVIE
In 2005, director Robert Rodriguez brought Basin City to life with “Frank Miller’s Sin City”. The movie is based primarily on 3 different story arcs from the Sin City comics, including “The Hard Goodbye” as one of it’s central stories. The movie is incredibly faithful to the source material, going so far as to evoke Miller’s black and white style (with very specific instances of color, red blood, etc), even recreating specific panels. As far as comic book adaptations go, it’s up there with Zack Snyder’s “Watchmen” and Edgar Wright’s “Scott Pilgrim vs the World” in it’s visual adherence to the source material.
As for “The Hard Goodbye” specifically, the movie does an incredible job adapting Marv’s story, thanks in no small part to talented badass Mickey Rourke as Marv himself. Rourke brings the character to life so fully to the point where I can’t read this book without hearing his voice over the narration. The main difference is that the original comic has a few scenes, lines, and moments that didn’t make it into the movie, mostly for pacing and runtime.
If you haven’t seen the Sin City movies, I highly recommend them, especially if you’re a fan of the comics. And if you’re a fan of the movies, and haven’t read the original books they’re based on, then do yourself a favor and pick these bad boys up! They’re a bloody good time!