Book Review

The Hard Goodbye: Sin City Book 1 by Frank Miller


Title: The Hard Goodbye: Sin City Book 1
Author: Frank Miller
Publication Info: Dark Horse 2005
ISBN: 1593072937
Genre: Graphic Novel

I made the mistake of reading this on Tuesday night. It was late for me—about 11 p.m.—and I was dog-tired, but I’m the kind of girl who needs a book to lull her to sleep.

This book did not lull me to sleep. Despite knowing everything that happens, courtesy of the movie, the book firmly attached itself to my fingers and refused to let go until I turned the last page. Even then, I started over and re-read several pages before I looked at the clock, realized that 1 a.m. was sidling up on me and my alarm clock was going to ring in five hours.

Those of you who watched the movie know the story already: Marv, a big, ugly psychotic (and psychopathic) killer spends a drunken night of pleasure in the arms of a gorgeous woman named Goldie. When he wakes up, Goldie is dead, and police sirens are ringing.

Someone wanted Goldie dead. Someone wants to frame Marv for her murder.

The rest of the book traces Marv’s obsession with finding Goldie’s killer and avenging her death, no matter what the cost. The results are a visceral—and I mean that in a literal sense—blood-soaked rampage through Sin City.

Marv is quite possibly one of the most perversely appealing fictional characters I’ve run across, barring Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. Unlike the latter, however, there’s a side to Marv that’s tender, even sweet. Frankly, he reminded me quite a bit of Don Quixote. OK, the good Don wasn’t an overgrown lug who wasn’t satisfied until his victims screamed. But Marv’s worship of a woman he barely knows, his refusal to hurt dames, his relentless quest for her killers, the confusion over what’s real and what’s not and his willingness to take on a task despite the overwhelming odds because dammit, it’s the right thing to do made me think of Don Quixote more than once. This is a psycho with an unwavering moral code, and goddamn, I liked him for it.

And the artwork—what can I say about the artwork? The black-and-white panels are stark, crude and beautiful. The play of shadow and light and the creative way Miller framed many of the panels means it sometimes takes more than a quick glance to figure out exactly what’s going on, but I like that aspect of this book. Some of the drawings, like the panels of Marv walking in the rain, or leaping through the windshield of a cop car, gave me goosebumps. Giving me goosebumps right now remembering them, actually.

I can’t recommend this graphic novel highly enough. If you liked the movie, you’ll love this book. If you like ultra-violent noir, you’ll love this book. If you like comics in general—well, shit, you’re probably sneering at me for waiting this long before getting my mitts on a copy of this classic. Anyway, what can I say? Go. Read it. Laugh. Cringe. And glory in the seedy, insane world that is Marv.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Bam says:

    Candy, I think you’re my new best friend. I LOVE Marv! I love Frank Miller even more. I have all of the Sin City serials. It is Frank Miller who revitalized the comic book world; he is the KING of the graphic novels. Batman, Daredevil, the Punisher… he made all of them darker, grittier. He is fucking Shakespeare to me.

    By the way, if you like Sin City, check out Preacher by Garth Ennis. It’s a tale of redemption, love, and revenge for the sake of revenge, baby. Oh, and it also gives a new meaning to “Go fuck yourself!”.

  2. 2
    Meljean says:


    Hehe, okay, I’m just happy when anyone picks up a graphic novel and enjoys it.

    I like Frank Miller’s work almost across the board. At times, his artwork is a big mess (THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN) but here it is just…wow.

    I think you’d really enjoy PREACHER, by Garth Ennis. Though not quite as hard-baked noirish, it has great characterizations, dark humor, violence—just fantastic all around.

  3. 3
    Bam says:

    Meljean, one word: Arseface.

  4. 4
    Meljean says:

    Holy crap, bam! Be my new friend.

  5. 5
    Bam says:

    Mutual love of all things nerdy, meljean. It’s a magical thing. I go to the San Diego Comic Con every year. :)

    And any lover of Garth Ennis and Frank Miller is an automatic friend of mine. If you happen to like Alan Moore as well, then best friends forevah!

  6. 6
    Candy says:

    Did anyone else feel the perverse urge to cuddle Marv, kind of pet his head and say, “there, there” every time he got all confused and enraged? He is definitely one of my favorite fictional characters. I won’t be forgetting him any time soon.

    And thanks for the tip about Preacher. Off to see if the library has it. More reading material, wheee….

    What’s that, TBR stacks? You say you have no more space? SHUT THE FUCK UP!

  7. 7
    Bam says:

    Candy, I know you’re probably going to read the whole Sin City series (right? right?), but I can’t wait till you get to #6, which is Booze, Broads, and Bullets. I think it’s the best one. It’s a collection of eleven short stories about the characters you already know, my favorite of which is Dwight. I love both Marv and Dwight, but I just love Dwight a little bit more. Once you read “a Dame to Kill for” (if you haven’t already), you’ll see.

  8. 8

    When I saw the trailers for “Sin City”, I cheered.  Finally, someone was going to get it right.  After years of bad comics-to-film adaptations (Daredevil, anyone?), Frank Miller found the director who could make his vision come alive on the screen as well as in the pages of the graphic novel.

    I’m still hopeful that someday we’ll see the “Watchmen” film.

  9. 9
    Candy says:

    Bam: Yes. I’ve placed all the other Sin City novels on hold at the library. They should be in within a week or so. Once I have spare cash *laughs hysterically* I’ll buy copies to own—that is, if the other books are anywhere near as good as this one. I’m going to be a bastard and keep this copy for the full three weeks and re-read to my heart’s content.

    And Darlene: Holy SHIT Daredevil the movie was so incredibly fucking bad that I… Agh. Bleh. Gack!

    I was shocked at how faithful the movie version of Sin City was to the book, both in terms of story and just overall feel. I can’t wait to get my hands on the DVD so I can watch all the nifty little extras.

  10. 10
    Candy says:

    OK, the library has a shitload of Preacher books. Which one do I start with? (Asked She-Who-Is-Too-Lazy-To-Google-Crap-Herself.)

  11. 11
    Bam says:

    For Preacher, if we’re talking trade paperbacks (which is what I have)

    1. Gone To Texas
    2. Until the End of the World
    3. Proud Americans
    4. Ancient History (this is a backstory volume)
    5. Dixie Fried
    6. War in the Sun
    7. Salvation
    8. All Hell’s a Coming
    9. Alamo

  12. 12
    Bam says:

    Darlene, I’m just hoping that V for Vendetta would actually be watchable, but V is played by Hugo Weaving and I think he’s awesome.

    I can’t wait till it comes out!

    Candy, read the Preacher(s) in order or there will be much confusion to be had by you.

  13. 13

    Bam—I haven’t kept up with the blogs and comments, but I understand Alan Moore has distanced himself from “V for Vendetta”. I too love Hugo Weaving, so I’m optimistic, but I’ve been disappointed before. 

    On the other hand, only a little bit longer until “Serenity” opens.  Time to get out my DVD’s and drool over Captain Mal.

  14. 14
    Bam says:

    Yeah, Alan Moore has never been happy with any of the movie adaptations of his work (League really sucked). He should totally pull a Frank Miller and co-direct.

    I’m going to watch Serenity, too. I’m still pissed at Whedon for ending Angel the way he did, but I’ll still watch Serenity. I hope he makes Wonder Woman awesome.

    Candy, I’m sorry if I turned this thread into nerd chat. :(

  15. 15

    *sigh* I’ve only seen the movie; I suppose I must pick up the books now. Before the lynching proceeds (because I really should have read the books before I went and saw the flick) I will plead this in my defense: I did read League of Extraordinary Gentlemen before I saw the movie (and frankly, the movie sucked); I know what Escaflowne means, and I totally dig graphic noir.

    I share the love of all things graphic and nerdy, not to mention manga and nerdy. ;) I must say that the movie TOTALLY blew me away, and from what I hear it IS the book, shot with a total lack of ego by Rob Rodrigues (El Mariachi, anyone?)

    Mmmh, maybe I’ve redeemed myself…

  16. 16
    Arethusa says:

    I remember thumbing through this comic at the store and being astonished at how close to the book really was. The art is very evocative.

    I didn’t purchase it though ‘cause it cost like $20+ CD which is like nearing hardcover price for a few pages. I’m po’.

  17. 17
    Jeri says:

    Candy, you are one Smart Bitch.  This just confirms it.  Try Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis.  It’s a deliciously nasty DC Vertigo title.  Picture Hunter S. Thompson in a dystopic future USA.

  18. 18
    Bam says:

    Jeri, a friend had given me a trade paperback copy of Transmetropolitan Vol. 1, but I haven’t read it because I’m poor right now and if I start volume, I’ll have to go get the rest and I really don’t have any money.

  19. 19
    Nicole says:

    You guys are so evil.  Especially when I’m already on a graphic novel kick.  So I’ve got the first Sin City vol. at the library on hold now.  They have seven, are there more?

    And they had Watchmen which I’ve never read. 

    But damn, do these things have to be so damn expensive to actually buy?

  20. 20
    Candy says:

    Anyone feeling qualms about being too nerdy: Nerd away. This isn’t even getting close to crossing my nerdery threshold.

    Now, if someone starts talking about the time she totally got into a big argument about the ending of Neon Genesis Evangelion with that dude in the Vegita outfit while wearing her Sailor Moon getup in Otakon ‘02—THAT might start reaching nerd heights that make me dizzy.

  21. 21
    Bam says:

    Okay… umm… you got me there, Candy.

    Nerd Alert! Nerd Alert! ;)

  22. 22
    Doug Hoffman says:

    Candy, you are too cool for words. The dame likes graphic novels, and has good taste in them, too.

    My recommendation: Alan Moore’s The Watchman. You won’t be disappointed.

  23. 23
    Doug Hoffman says:

    Oops. Watchmen. Damned lack-of-editing doohickey.

  24. 24
    Monica says:

    I’m so in danger of getting obsessed with those things.  How can I afford another obession?  “Back, back!” I scream, holding up two crossed pens.

  25. 25

    OMG, Watchmen totally kicked ass. *bows to Doug, recognizing his studliness for mentioning*

    I would recommend Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai too- not as “dark” as some other graphics but he handles intense situations very nicely, and it is well-drawn. (It also has a rabbit. Tee hee.)

  26. 26

    I haven’t seen Sin City. I was afraid it would be hokey. Plus, I hate Bruce Willis. And I haven’t gone anywhere near the novels because too many novels & comic books have been ruined by the movie industry. But I have to admit, now you have me intrigued. If the Smart Bitches say Sin City is worth checking out, I’ll check it out.

  27. 27
    Anna says:

    Okay, I loathed, hated, intensely despised the movie, but I have to say the only character I could build any sort of sympathetic relationship with as a watcher was Marv.  He shone.

  28. 28
    Marjorie Liu says:

    I am so, so, glad someone finally gave kudos to The Hard Goodbye.  I place it as one of my top ten reads of all time.  Frank Miller is a genius.

  29. 29
    mapletree7 says:

    How would you compare it, artistically, to the movie?

  30. 30
    bam says:

    Maple, artistically speaking, it’s FUCKING BRILLIANT, pardon my french. Rodriguez directed the film with complete and utter respect for Frank Miller, who co-directed. The visuals are stunning and visceral. Unfuckinbelieveable. It’s a beautiful film.

    SARA: “Hokey” and this film should not ever, EVER exist in the same sentence.

    Umm… okay, so I liked the film a little. Stop looking at me like I’m a freak! :::runs away to hide behind my box of comic books:::

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