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Sin City: Booze, Broads & Bullets review

Booze, Broads &
Bullets
is like the beginner’s guide to Sin City.  A collection of stories Frank Miller wrote
and drew in between longer works, BBB
visits with old friends, introduces new characters, and shows off some of the experimentation
Miller would build upon later.

There are several longer stories included.  Chief among these is The Babe Wore Red,
starring Dwight, Miller’s least-dead protagonist.  Dwight pays a visit to an old friend, only to
find said friend hanging by the neck from his ceiling fan.  Upon a bit of requisite snooping, Dwight
finds another surprise: A beautiful woman in a hiding in the bathroom.  Dwight’s barely had time to ask her name
before the bullets start flying, so Dwight and the babe in the red dress hit
the road.

The Babe Wore Red
is notable for two reasons.  The lesser
one is that it introduced Douglas Klump and Burt Shlubb, the low-class hitmen
known as Fat Man and Little Boy.  Though
they’re pretty generic, almost competent hitmen here, they do go on to greater,
stupider things in later books.  But the
Big Deal about this story is that it’s the first time Miller used colour in his
stark, black and white world.  It’s used
to gorgeous effect, making Mary stand out in the dingy and dirty world of Sin
City.

Fat Man and Little Boy get their own three-page story as
well.  Having messed up every job they’ve
ever had, they find themselves tasked with disposing of a body.  Only disposing of the body.  Nothing else. 
So poor Shlubb is sorely tempted when he compares the dearly departed’s
footwear with his own sorry boots.  It’s
all terribly pointless, but Miller writes some ridiculously funny dialogue for
the two attempted intellectuals: “Herewith it is incontinent upon me to
most strenuously challenge your assessment of the consequences of the simple
act of acquirement.” 

 The really short
stories – usually 3-4 pages – offer some of the highlights of the collection.
In The Customer is Always Right,
which will be familiar to anyone who’s seen the film, an unusual business
transaction takes place. And Behind Door
Number Three…
takes the reader back to Old Town, where the girls continue
to look after themselves quite nicely. 
They’re nice, fun, stylish and easily digestible tales, snapshots of Sin
City and its inhabitants. 

 Miller gets back to stories with wider implications in Blue Eyes and Wrong Turn, which introduce the lovely and lethal Delia.  Miller brings a bit of colour back to the
book for Delia; it feels squandered in Blue
Eyes
, but makes for some breathtaking visuals in Wrong Turn.  Delia herself is
a bit of a one-note character, but it’s a fun note.  She’s the epitome of a Frank Miller dame:
Beautiful and dangerous, just as likely to snap your neck as show you the night
of your life.  Though she returns to play
a role in Hell And Back, Delia really
shines here; she was always a bit absurd to be a real Sin City villain.

 The most interesting work in the collection is Silent Night. As you may be able to
guess from the title, it’s both a Christmas story (more or less… there’s
snow, anyway) and a silent story.  Told
in full-page panels, this nearly wordless story follows old-favourite Marv as
he goes looking for a lost little girl. 
It’s some of Miller’s best visual work, beautifully capturing Marv’s
brutality and humanity.  It is not, by
any stretch of the imagination, recommended to those who are inclined to judge
the quality of a story by the number of panels and speech balloons.

 Booze, Broads &
Bullets
isn’t essential Sin City reading. 
There’s no particular theme or narrative beyond “A lot of weird and
messed up stuff goes down in this city”. 
Not all of the stories are winners – Just
Another Saturday Night
is fairly forgettable, aside from the ghetto ninjas
– but there’s certainly enough to justify the price of the book.  There’s some interesting experimentation from
Miller, and plenty of dazzling art.  This
is Frank Miller playing with all the toys in his playroom, and while it’s not
particularly focused, it’s still entertaining.

Published in Books