Graphic Novel Review: Malvin Malai-Harrison

The graphic novel that I read was “Sin City: The Hard Goodbye” by Frank Miller. This graphic novel is the first in a whole series of Sin City books. The story follows protagonist named Marvin through throughout the city as he investigates the death of his lover “Goldie” that was mysteriously murdered in the middle of the night while he was laying next to her. He awakes and finds her lifeless body next to him. Very soon after, he hears dozens of policemen heading up the stairs to arrest him. Barely having enough time get dressed, he bursts out of the window while dodging bullets that fly right past him. He lands on a nearby building and escapes. The whole time, he’s narrating to himself trying to put the pieces together as he scales building after building. He realizes that he’s been set-up by unknown forces for the crime and vows to find whoever is behind Goldie’s death. Finding her mysterious murderer becomes his resolve for doing whatever it takes to uncover the truth; and by his future actions, he truly meant it. Determined to find her killer, he uncovers an elaborate, disturbing scheme full of corruption, crime, and death. He uncovers the truth about some of the biggest players in Sin City.

In Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics”, his chapter “living in line” he discusses the importance of emotion and sensual response and how comic artists can invoke these types of responses within the reader. Frank Miller relies heavily on this principle throughout the entirety of the book and he does this in multiple ways. First, is his stylistic choice of composing the entirety of the story in purely black and white. Black and white is the greatest contrast that exists. When used effectively, it can produce various emotions such as hope, isolation, loneliness, tension, etc. and Frank Miller continuously found ways to explore this throughout his novel.

His use of background, line type, alignment, and contrast can be seen in these different scenes to invoke different emotional responses within the reader:

The important thing to note is that while the entire story is depicted in black and white, it’s still able to capture the feel and atmosphere of Sin City. Miller is never afraid to take up an entire page, full-bleed just to get the point/feel of the environment across. Marvin is a lonely character that struggles with his own mental health. Many people are afraid of him–for good reason, of course. This coupled with his violent history and complex character qualities can be very challenging to illustrate and Miller does it perfectly. As Marvin traverses through various obstacles and uncovers more from the story, it feels as if we the reader are glimpsing into his life and what it feel like to be in his shoes.

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