Friday, March 31, 2006

The Longbox: Sin City - Family Values

Frank Miller's Sin City Vol. 5: Family Values
writer and artist: Frank Miller
Dark Horse Comics, 2005
When I began reading comics a few years ago, one of the first collections I got a hold of was the original Sin City trade, now available as Sin City Vol. 1: The Hard Goodbye. That story makes up one third of the Sin City film, if you're more familiar with that aspect of Frank Miller's creation. At the time, I loved the artwork -- particularly his use of shadows -- but overall I was less than impressed with it, partly because it had come so highly recommended, but it probably had more to do with my tastes being attuned to the prose of the likes of William Faulkner and Irvine Welsh instead of the blunt, noir dialogue Miller employs. If I reread it today, maybe I'd feel the same way, but I doubt it, based on my feelings after finishing this volume.
Family Values is a Dwight story, the character Clive Owen played in the movie adaptation. This is an entirely different story, however, and I hope that it's included in the future Sin City film sequels that we'll get in the next few years. You see, Dwight is on another mission of revenge -- not the type of revenge we expect from the outset of the book, but revenge nonetheless (have no fear; spoilers will be kept to a minimum). A woman has been murdered Sonny Corleone style and Dwight's going to figure out who did it and then make sure they get theirs. He's joined silently on his quest by Miho, the pint-sized Asian assassin from Old Town, the section of Sin City ruthlessly run by the hookers who walk its streets.
Dwight goes about solving this murder mystery by visiting all the places you'd expect -- bullet-ridden diners, seedy bars, backseats of mob cars -- all the while extracting the info he needs from everyone who's had a hard-knock life (as if there were any other kind in Sin City). He goes about all of this by any means necessary, whether it be by flirting with a woman past her prime or calmly degrading the man pointing a .45 at his temple. And every line is an utter joy to read. Miller's dialogue in Vol. 5 is running on all cylinders. The excellent dialogue carries over to the overall plot of the book as well. Family Values truly has a satisfying conclusion, all questions answered and all loose ends tied. I don't think I've ever enjoyed anything he's written in the first person more, and that includes all his Daredevil work -- books I'm an unabashed fanatic of.
Then, of course, there's the art. I mentioned earlier how much I was impressed with his use of shadow in The Hard Goodbye, and he is still uses it in a consistent manner. Drawn completely in black and white, as opposed to the splashes of red and yellow in other volumes and I never felt that it needed those highlights. Another aspect of Miller's artwork that is impossible not to admire are the gloriously violent killings. Never conventional, you can't help but gasp at what's happening, just as if you were watching it play out on a screen.
I haven't read any of the other volumes of Sin City, with exception to Vol. 1 and this one, but that's going to change very soon. Now that the movie has been out for awhile, I'd expect that some deals could be found on eBay or other online retailers since interest will have died down by now (I love my comic book stores, but let's be honest -- they rarely have good deals on anything you really want to buy). But even if you can't find a good deal on the Sin City books, I doubt you'll be sorry if you get them at full price. They really are classics in every sense of the word.
10 out of 10

*** Now that LBM has expanded beyond comics, I've retooled some of the columns for the sake of simplicity. This was originally part of a feature I did called "Graphic Novel Grab Bag." I only ever wrote five, so I've re-tagged them as Longbox entries. Enjoy the early days of LBM that I've somehow resisted the urge to purge. -- JA, 1/20/10 ***


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