Title: Sin City Volume 1: The Hard Goodbye
Publisher/Year: Dark Horse, 2005
Artist: Frank Miller
Writer: Frank Miller
Collects: Dark Horse Presents #51-62, Dark Horse Presents Fifth Anniversary Special
For people who love dark noire thrillers, anti-heroes, beautiful dames and fast paced brutal action set against the dystopian setting of a sinister city -that looks like the mutant offspring of Las Vegas and New York City.
Follow huge ex-convict Marv, who has a mental ‘condition’ that makes him hallucinate and paranoid, as he tries to avenge a beautiful woman murdered in his bed. His quest leads us from the dirty criminal underbelly of Sin City all the way into its highest levels…
Sin City Volume 1: The Hard Goodbye by Frank Miller is another milestone in the world of graphic novels. Like his classic The Dark Knight Returns redefined Batman forever, Sin City changed the way we view graphic novels. Both in terms of art and story.
Marv is a mentally ill bruiser in Sin City. He works a local strip joint as bouncer and is generally a nice guy. That is until you get tough with him. Then you have a heavy goods train coming straight at you. Marv also carry’s numerous scars from his life of fighting and his violent nature is only kept at bay by his code of chivalry (he doesn’t hit women) and the medication he chew like M&M’s (he’s got a condition…ok).
The Hard Goodbye starts with a Marv spending the night with the beautiful Goldie. He’s an ugly guy. She’s a beautiful dame. Sounds too good to be true… but to Marv it doesn’t matter.
Things start going wrong when Marv wakes up and Goldie is lying next to him in bed, dead! Our hero quickly realizes that she was murdered while he was too drunk to notice or do anything about it. Then, before a moment is wasted the cops show up. This is starting to look like a frame-up job.
And this is where Sin City Volume 1: The Hard Goodbye shines. Marv decides he doesn’t want to go down before he figures out who killed Goldie. This means going through an attack squad of Sin City’s finest corrupt cops money can buy.
Frank Miller’s action sequences are breathtaking. No time and space is wasted on talking. No banter. No witty one lines. Just a human tank crushing through everything and anything in its way!
By now you might think that Marv isn’t a very bright man and prefers to solve problems through force. Nothing could be further from the truth. Marv won’t be getting the Nobel Price anytime soon, but he knows his limitations and is really good at asking questions.
So he figures that Goldie was scared. Scared enough to run into the dingiest part of the den of sin that calls itself Basin City (Sin City’s government name). Scared enough to look for the biggest toughest guy she could find and hope that he was enough. Enough to protect her.
Marv starts asking questions. He goes to guys who might know something, asks them and if they don’t give a satisfying answer –hits them over the head a few times. Two bumbling hit men come after them, one has a very fine coat. Marv asks them some questions and gets a fine coat as a gift for his troubles. Slowly he works his way up the ladder and discovers something (that will turn out to be even more) horrible.
Prostitutes have been going missing. Golide (surprise) was one of them working gals. Everything is pointing towards the Roark’s, Sin City’s founding ‘royal family’, who rule this town with an iron fist. No business (legal or illegal) is off limits, the Roark’s get paid from everything that goes on.
Can Marv take on the powers that be of Sin City and avenge a woman he only knew briefly? Is he even getting all this right, after all our hero is prone to paranoid delusions and hallucinations?
Why does someone who looks exactly like Goldie keep trying to kill him? What sinister secrets does an old farmhouse just out of town hide? Who really killed Goldie and why?
The answers to these questions will thrill, shock and engross you!
Frank Miller is the master of the dystopian anti-hero. He also contributed to elevating the American comic into the form of the graphic novel that we know and love today. Sin City Volume 1: The Hard Goodbye is a prime example of this.
Miller’s artwork stands out because it is black and white. No colors. Just light and dark. His use of positive and negative spaces is mind-blowing. Often you don’t see a character, building or action –you see an outline.
Miller makes light and shadows dance with each other. You’d think that this simplicity would take away from the visuals but it doesn’t. It lends Sin City Volume 1: The Hard Goodbye a very unique and stylized look. Sin City is a filthy, dangerous and menacing place. The artwork conveys this atmosphere and tension perfectly.
Through this look, Miller also, once again, proves that he is a master of illustrating very complex characters and environments in detail without actually putting a lot of detail onto the page. He shows you just enough to get your imagination filling in the blanks, which leads to Sin City reading like a blockbuster action movie instead of a graphic novel.
Miller’s writing in Sin City Volume 1: The Hard Goodbye perfectly intertwines with his artwork to tell an action packed noire detective story without a detective.
Dialogue is used sparingly. It only purpose is moving the story forward or filling in information that can’t be communicated visually. This means that The Hard Goodbye is a very tightly integrated and flowing story.
You really get drawn into the story and connect with Marv. He’s a violent mentally ill bruiser but he has his own idiosyncratic system of values. He’s doing bad things to bad people.
That’s kind of a theme with Miller. That those who practice violence should be punished in kind. I love the little quirks that Miller weaves into the storyline, Marv’s obsession with fine coats for example.
The Hard Goodbye is an excellent read full of action and barely contained energy. If you like noire detective thrillers and modern action movies read this book!
If you just want to cleanse your palate after reading something more emotionally intense like Maus by Art Spiegelman or Daytripper by Moon & Bá –read this graphic novel! The Hard Goodbye is an American masterpiece that will stand out in any collection.
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