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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For review

Once upon a time, there was a boy.  He was a good boy who always tried to do what
was right and look after his friends.  He
had a bit of a wild streak, but he tried to keep it under control.

One
day, this boy met a girl.  The girl was
very, very beautiful.  The boy fell in
love with the girl, and they were very happy together.

For a
while.  Then the girl decided she wanted
more.  She moved on.

The boy
didn’t.

Or something like that. 
No one really knows what happened to Dwight before A Dame To Kill For, because Frank Miller hasn’t written that story
yet.  But it’s probably close
enough.  As the second chapter of Sin City opens, Dwight isn’t real happy
with the life he’s living.  It’s a dull,
grey existence, but he keeps everything under control.  He’s taking pictures of cheating husbands for
rich jealous wives, working for a fat slob who enjoys his work far too much.

 He
still performs the occasional good deed – cheating husbands can get out of hand
when they’re afraid of being caught – but for the most part, Dwight keeps a low
profile. He keeps his cool.  He stays in
control.

 Then one day, the girl comes back.  The girl – whose name is Ava – made a
mistake.  The man she left Dwight for had
money and style and charm, but he also had a few nasty tendencies that have
recently come to light.  She asks Dwight
for help, and Dwight refuses.  But then
he starts to think about it…

 To say
much more about the plot would be to risk spoiling it. A Dame To Kill For is full of twists and turns and lies and
betrayals.  It’s all about love, lust,
and the grey area in between.  Even when
Dwight’s doing the wrong thing, it’s hard to blame him; can you really blame a
guy for the things he does for love?

 Dwight
is probably Miller’s best defined and most relatable character.  He’s about as close to a regular guy as
you’re likely to find in Sin City, being neither an ex-cop out for revenge nor
a drunken psychopath.  Dwight’s easy to
like: He screws up, but he always seems to do it for the right reason.  He’s a knight in tarnished armour who always
wants to do the right thing, even if he doesn’t always think it

While The Hard Goodbye was Marv’s book, the
big lug gets put to much better use in A
Dame to Kill For
.  While Hard Goodbye used Marv as the framework
for the story, Dameallows us to see
Marv from the outside.  Dwight summarizes
Marv perfectly: Marv’s not stupid or insane or anything simple like that:
“It’s like there’s nothing wrong with Marv, nothing at all – except that
he had the rotten luck of being born at the wrong time in history … He’d be
right at home on some ancient battlefield, swinging an ax into somebody’s
face.”

For all
that, and despite being a pretty decent guy, Marv is still just a tool; he’s a
fighting dog to be pointed at the target and let loose. Dame To Kill For is Dwight’s story, so while Marv gets to show up
and inflict some much-deserved violence, his overall impact on the plot is
fairly low.  He does offer some great
insights into the music of Merle Haggard, though.

 Dame takes advantage of the cast and
settings introduced in Hard Goodbye.  While Marv blasted through town like a
locomotive, Dwight takes his time.  Just
as Marv gets some better definition, so too do the girls of Old Town –
including the soon-to-be-deceased Goldie – the mob, and the Sin City police
force.  While Dwight is clearly the main
character, his supporting cast is far better defined than Marv’s.  Everyone serves their purpose in the plot,
and everyone seems like a legitimate character. 
And if Dame accomplished no
other purpose than to introducing deadly little Miho, Miller would still have
done a great, great thing. 

While Hard Goodbye gave Miller the freedom to
do whatever he wanted with his own toys, Dame
To Kill For
is a far more focused and evolved work.  There’s a clear purpose and direction at all
points, even if that purpose turns out to be a lie and the direction a wrong
turn.  This is the point where Sin City
moved from being a side project by a guy who usually did superheroes into one
of the most vital and artistic comics of the last decade.  It’s a prime example of what creators can do
with the medium, if they’re only willing to take the risk.

 

This
volume also represents the point where Miller really kicked his artwork into
high gear.  While his earlier work could
be inconsistent at times, here Miller is fully locked into his Sin City
style.  Characters are defined by smoke
and shadows and curves, and Miller’s phenomenal storytelling ensures that every
detail is captured perfectly.  Ava’s
entrance is a work of art; as glamourous and elegant as Ingrid Bergman, but twice
as much trouble.  Miller’s original
covers for the series are some of the most striking pieces of cover art you’re
likely to see: In an era of pinups and exaggerated anatomy, Miller’s sense of
design easily set him apart.  His
constantly evolving style has inspired a slew of imitators over the years, but
not even Jim Lee has managed to capture Miller’s magic.

 A Dame to Kill For isn’t included in the
Sin City film, which is somewhat puzzling; unlike Big Fat Kill, it shares overlaps with both Hard Goodbye and Yellow Bastard.  Marv’s own story bumps into Dwight’s on
several occasions, just as Dwight unknowingly crosses paths with Hartigan.  But Dame is probably the most complex and involving
story of Sin City, so one might hope it’s being set aside for its own movie.

But
while it doesn’t fit into the movie, it still provides the backstory and setup
for The Big Fat Kill, which is a part
of Rodriguez’s tapestry.  More than that,
though, this is simply one of the best stories of Miller’s career, and one of
the definitive Sin City stories: It’s
full of beautiful women, dangerous men, brutal violence, hot sex and
treachery.  While Hard Goodbye represented Miller firing on all cylinders, A Dame To Kill For is Miller driving
full speed through a twisting mountain highway. 
In a career that includes definitive runs on Daredevil and Batman, it’s Sin City that may stand as Miller’s
greatest achievement, and A Dame To Kill
For
is the best of the best.

Published in Comics