Sin City (Vol. 7): Hell and Back by Frank Miller
Hell and Back is the seventh and final volume in Frank Miller’s SIN CITY series. The artwork is still dramatic, and the story and characters are hard-boiled, dark, and intense. The bad guys are nasty, and the femme fatales have curves that kill (literally, almost). Of course we have the loner anti-hero tough guy, a lethal weapon who isn’t looking for trouble, but trouble seeks him out. We’ve got all the familiar elements of a Frank Miller Sin City story. And that’s either great if you like this formula, or a bit tiresome if you were looking for something new.
Having read all seven volumes now, it’s clear what kind of story Miller likes to tell, and with the exception of the dreadful Vol 5: Family Values, he does it pretty well. His black-and-white artwork and noir style really was fresh and exciting when it first came out, but it hasn’t really evolved all that much. Much of Hell and Back retreads familiar ground, with the exception of a very vivid hallucinatory dream sequence that provides Miller an excuse to pay tribute to many of his favorite characters such as the Spartans from 300, Lone Wolf & Cub, Captain America, Rambo, Astro Boy, Dirty Harry, Moses, Robocop, even Dr. Seuss.
I enjoyed Hell and Back, but I think Miller has said all he needed to say in the first four volumes, The Hard Goodbye, A Dame to Kill For, The Big Fat Kill, and That Yellow Bastard. Booze, Broads, & Bullets was good because it was short vignettes, but again resembled earlier story elements. So I think you’d be fine just enjoying the first four volumes, as they also benefit from having been incorporated into the two Sin City films, because it’s a lot of fun to compare the artwork of the comics and the movies.
Hell and Back concerns a former Navy Seal named Wallace who is now a starving artist. One day he saves a woman named Esther who tries to throw herself off a cliff into the sea. When he rescues her, he discovers she is embroiled in a whole lot of weird underground criminal business, and he then encounters femme fatale number one, Delia the blue-clad sexy assassin. In case that isn’t enough, there is another skin-tight leopard-patterned lady named Maxine to make things more interesting. Then there are the usual thugs, crooked cops, and assassins to crank up the action, and Wallace goes from quiet slacker-guy with Converse shoes and long hair to invincible one-man killing machine. We’ve been here before, right? It’s all done fairly well, and this is the longest Sin City story, but it really doesn’t blaze any new trails, so I recommend it for die-hard fans and completists only.
I enjoyed all your reviews of Sin City! When I teach Sin City in my crime fiction course, we usually watch the first movie and then read Booze, Broads, and Bullets. It’s the quickest way to get a large dose of Sin City.