The second book in Miller’s iconic black-and-white series, in which Dwight McCarthy is pulled back into a world he so desperately tried to escape four years earlier. With a straight job as an investigative photographer, Dwight has given up alcohol, drugs, and killing. Until Ava calls.
The classic femme fatale story ensues. Dwight slowly loses his self-control because of Ava’s subtle and conniving feminine wiles. Or at least that’s the message you’re supposed to get. I find Ava absolutely obvious, her motives, her moves, and therefore the plot. Sure, she’s practically a goddess, naked in almost every scene, and she spouts apologies and helplessness with every sexual promise, but it’s campy and over the top.
The black-and-white art is just as beautifully stark as volume 1, using pure shadow and silhouette that convey the gritty dark noir world of murder and prostitution. Most of the frames are even bolder than the first volume, minimizing confusing action scenes. The frames above create great mood with blurry horizontal lines that illustrate the smoky bar in which Ava asks to meet.
If Ava is predictable, then Dwight is not quite pathetic enough to root for. Initially following a wealthy man cheating on his wife with an Old Town prostitute, Dwight uses a level head to see past the little girl voice and hard nipples to do his job and take incriminating pictures. After the cheating man finishes and decides to kill the hooker, the chaste photographer rushes in and saves her, then refuses to kill the cheater even after she asks. Dwight seems like a stand-up guy with morals. But later, Dwight contemplates the “numb, grey hell” he has made of his life and what he’d sacrifice to “cut loose” one more time. Throughout Ava’s subsequent visits, Dwight turns back into the man he once was, and instead of reveling in his downward spiral, he continues to hate himself, and the reader has no reason to argue.
Recommended for comic fans who enjoy bold action and nudity, but don’t necessarily need characters that feel real. I’m not sure if the second volume reaches a new height of melodramatic cheese, or if I liked the archetypes in the other volumes better. Be on the lookout for the frequent cross-overs between Dwight’s and Marv’s stories, which bring together a string of loosely related stories into the tangible world of Basin City.