The Comics Journal, bless its heart, seems to always miss the point completely when it comes to Frank Miller. Its writers always get bogged down in the genre choices Frank makes from the outset. What a useless thing to discuss with an author! Did anyone ever sit down for an interview with Stanley Kubrick and spend the entire session berating him for choosing to work largely in horror and sci fi? Were there no valid artistic choices made in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Clockwork Orange and The Shining? Nothing to talk about beyond the initial creative impulse that generated the work, one which the reviewer somehow believes to be inherently flawed? Would we really give up all those meticulously crafted images that rely on the genre chosen and ask that Kubrick had limited himself to the more serious drawing room dramas? Frank loves Chandler-esque pulpy crime drama. The Journal does not. I do not either. Who cares! If that is what enables Miller to create sequences like the one below, I’ve become its biggest fan. I would read self-help comics starring kittens hanging off branches if Frank felt he had to devote his stellar command of the craft of comics to those. Find anyone else in comics who could create the movement of the sequence below, and tell me it’s not worth discussing! There’s a reason Frank got director credit for the movie version of Sin City, though I’d argue these pages actually have more force than seeing the live action.
art: Frank Miller book: Sin City publisher: Dark Horse Comics © Frank Miller
Miller’s command of time in this sequence is exquisite. Every page has its own pace. The first full page image builds suspense and manages to have the feel of one of his old patented Daredevil-appears-six-times-on-the-page-to-show-every-movement-of-his-flip trick, while the repetition of figures that leads to that feeling of movement is in fact the entire police unit. See Elektra Lives Again for more brilliant staircase shots. This one spirals you into the next page. The Kirby grid on the next page slows us down through closeups to give a mannered pause to the proceedings befitting a popped pill. Then the action explodes in the following pages with Miller choosing his shots so expertly to convey entire worlds of movement through merely two shots per page. This limited panel-count always speeds up the read. The pace is frantic. We dive down the same staircase with Marv with the two-panel pages coming to an abrupt halt at the exact instant Marv’s jaw does as well. Two thin panels on the penultimate page get us running again after that split second pause — a slight glance backwards, and then CRASH! A gorgeous still shot of broken glass and Marv hovering indefinitely before the inevitable four story plunge. The stillness of this is achieved through the brilliant combination of negative space on the page and the reversal of the direction of action. By making Marv jump to the left, the opposite direction of our learned reading motion, his leap is frozen in beauty rather than pushing us headlong into the following pages. Magical.