Book Review: Sin City, vol. 1: The Hard Goodbye by Frank Miller

One prob­lem I didn’t cover in my vague post about book/comic adapt­a­tions, is what hap­pens when the adapt­a­tion adheres a bit too closely to the source mater­ial. If you encounter the source first, you’re prob­ably fine; you’ll enjoy the adapt­a­tion as a suc­cess­ful trans­fer to another medium. You get to see char­ac­ters from your imagination/static pan­els come to life and parade across the screen.

But if you encounter the adapt­a­tion first, life might not be so good. You know everything that’s going to hap­pen — even the minute details. I’m not one to care about spoil­ers, but that source mater­ial needs some sort of hook to set it apart from the adaptation.

For Sin City, it’s Frank’s art. As good as the film was at aping the noir atmo­sphere of it all, it pales in com­par­ison to the ori­ginal pan­els. The film adds an extra dimen­sion with its single splashes of accen­ted col­ours, but here it’s not needed. Instead, Frank’s expert use of light, shadow, and neg­at­ive space do more than even the best spe­cial effects could hope to achieve.

Though there is the odd incon­sist­ency in the way cer­tain things are por­trayed — Marv’s facial pro­file to name one. But these are minor niggles.

If you know Frank Miller’s work, you know the story. But Sin City stands apart as being Frank’s sol­it­ary vis­ion. It’s his play­ground — uncon­strained by oth­ers’ cre­ations or writ­ing. Here, Frank is set free to tell the story he wants to tell.

Whether you like the story or not is per­sonal pref­er­ence. It’s an enjoy­ably hard-boiled romp, with a slight edge of the sur­real (or maybe hyper-real?), but (as much as I know from watch­ing the film) there’s bet­ter story threads avail­able in the Sin City uni­verse. As an intro­duc­tion, it does well to set out the rules and themes of the world Frank’s cre­ated, while still being a decent enough story in its own right.

Rating: ★★★★☆

What do you think?