The first volume in the Sin City series, The Hard Goodbye, features the empathetic dumb brute Marv, as he seeks vengeance for the murder of the only woman he ever loved, Goldie. Sin City is the ultimate in gritty noir, and helped to redefine the comic book industry in the early nineties. Just as the artwork is stark black and white, so is the story. Sin City is an over-the-top, revel-in-its-own violence revenge story that’s page-turning, face-bashing fun! You’ll likely forgive the hints of misogyny and homophobia because the comic is from Marv’s perspective, and he’s (mostly) nice to women.
While I understand Sin City is often cited as some of Miller’s best work and may have changed the face of comics over 20 years ago, it doesn’t hold up to my personal standards for a great piece of fiction today. Good fantasy and scifi creates a world into which the reader can escape, but great fantasy and scifi creates a world that parallels our own, that provides a social/political/personal commentary in order to examine humanity and its choices from the outside. While some may argue Sin City does reflect the real world, I would argue its portrayal shows only the most basic understanding of good versus bad, without any of the nuance, the gray in between.
You like Marv because he has the misfortune of being born ugly with a (sort of) good heart in a dog-eat-dog world. In fact, Marv is the best thing about this comic, and he’s obviously a labor of love for Miller. Marv is a dangerous man, a brutal killer who enjoys torture, but he’s also loyal to his friends and loves his mom. As a kid he went to Catholic school and camp, and had a “retard” friend, Chuck, who worshiped him. He’s a big tough guy who vomits from nerves. He has a gun named Gladys.
The drawings are beautifully raw, but are often either too stark or too complicated to make out what’s actually happening, especially during the fight scenes. Also, sometimes Marv looks a lot like Batman in silhouette.
I like Sin City and can see why it’s had so much commercial success, especially with school-age boys. Just don’t expect anything deeper than a gritty, edgy, noir drama with excessive violence and prostitutes with idealized breasts. Sin City is a pulpy good time!