Sin Cityis a comic book for grownups—specifically for grownups who appreciate film noir.

Film noir, as a genre, lacks a specific definition. Landmark noir films are characterized by a prevalent darkness, both visual and spiritual. The "heroes" find themselves in difficult situations, where they have to rebel against the system to achieve their goals; thus noir often focuses on criminals driven by necessity or do-gooders reluctantly employing desperate, violent, illegal methods. Authority figures are typically portrayed as corrupt. Most have a femme fatale—an exaggeratedly sensual woman who spells trouble for the conflicted protagonist. Villains often make an impression by exhibiting an air of amusement as they inflict cruel and unusual punishment. Innocent people are rarely involved, but when they are, they suffer greatly.

We're left with an abiding sense that film noir characters live in a godless world, alone to mete out their own messy justice. We wouldn't want to live in a noir world, but as an exercise in storytelling about what the world looks like to those without faith, it has its merits. For a thorough exploration of noir's history as a style and a genre, read this summary by Eddie Muller (GreenCine).

Chinatown is considered a masterpiece of film noir, and so is Blade Runner—the supreme work of sci-fi noir—but American film noir had its beginnings from the '30s to the '50s. Classics include Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon.

Sin City takes noir a step farther. It takes the conventions of the genre and exaggerates them to the edge of lunacy. A colleague of mine described it as "camp noir." Director Robert Rodriguez, creator of El Mariachi and the Spy Kids franchises, uses startling, ...

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