A Dame to Kill For has me oscillating between two and three stars. I go for two after writing my review and seeing how frustrated I currently am withA Dame to Kill For has me oscillating between two and three stars. I go for two after writing my review and seeing how frustrated I currently am with this volume. There are good things here, but right now the annoyances are winning. For starters, the whole thing is far too familiar, with this story told so many times that anyone with a sophomore knowledge of noir could predict the whole thing. And herein is the big problem.
Miller's world is pretty cool and his black and white visual style excellent. The visuals are where most of the comic's power comes from. The writing, deliberately pulpy, is often clunky and cumbersome, though there are moments when Miller pulls out a good phrase (pulp can be wielded well, though it mostly isnt'). But the whole way through I feel like we're gliding across surfaces rather than digging into anything meaningful. It's a classic noir that thinks it's a neo-noir (as if the latter held inherent quality, which is another thing altogether). It's a limp bag of familiar tropes believing it's cutting-edge. The darkness and the grit is playing at the hard-boiled, rather than really going there. Miller's too enamored with noir's past to ever really bring it into the present and inject some real poison and sense of present cultural urgency. Even the sexism and misogyny feel blandly familiar. His figures illustrate longstanding problems in comics' physical representations of women and men. The ladies feel as flat as the men, but maintain second-tier status through the story always relegating them dependent upon the men around them. The situations and the world haven't changed since the 40s and 50s noir heyday. The "tough chicks" might owe some thanks to the 70s. And that's about as far as we've progressed. But it's all surfaces and caricatures passing as "stylization." I never felt I was reading an authentic character. They all felt like they were playing an expected role (which authentic characters do too, but in dynamic, organic ways rather than as props and plot points required of formulas). The decisions followed familiar patterns and the conclusion obvious from the outset. So nothing is ever really at stake, making the tale a mildly nice, and unpleasant, nostalgia fest.
Why the series has received such praise and attention kind of baffles me. I don't see the appeal, except for nostalgic revivalism, which doesn't super interest me. Noir is cool and Miller's city has some compelling aspects. The non-linear style is a good choice, offering great possibility. The light and shadow, the movement and lines, are often superb. But these merits never lead anywhere new, instead cycling back to something kind of dumb, like yet another voluptuous naked female body, ogled by some dude(s). He never really digs in and goes for unfamiliar territory, instead opting to use a couple new tools and build a structure that already tiredly peppers the popular landscape. It's the most aggravating kind of retreading. Miller has talent, and he isn't stupid. But this comic ended where it should have started....more
Bradbury's skill with words is still very fun to read. On a sentence and conversation level this is a pretty delightful book. The idea, the setting, aBradbury's skill with words is still very fun to read. On a sentence and conversation level this is a pretty delightful book. The idea, the setting, and the packed-to-bursting references and associations through literary and film history is also quite fun. He throws so much at you in such compressed space, creating post-modern chaotic overload that is as disorienting as it is exhilarating. His exuberance is wild and it looks like he's having a great time, which I always appreciate. This is uber-nerd enthusiasm cranked to 11.
The problem for me is that with all these great things, the story itself is pretty dull, and ultimately draws itself out way longer than necessary. The amassed raw materials are too great for the job, and Bradbury's love of film, books, history and unhinged imagination becomes the book's central strength and its undoing. The clever word associations and turns of phrase come too abundantly, where Bradbury will say basically everything twice, at least, written differently. He's got about four or five jokes in this story that he then recycles endlessly. The first couple times you hear it are good, but it all starts to wear thin and rather than hearing a new spin on the same clever Jesus joke, I just want him to get on with the story. Unfortunately, the core story isn't that interesting, the mystery lacking, and the payoff sub-par. All those creative, imaginative, and technical merits lead nowhere.
In short, A Graveyard for Lunatics (a marvelous title, with a sweet cover from Bantam) has great flourishes of delightful language and imagery, paired to an amusing and nostalgic romp through film history, with some mild critiques of power, all smothered by an overabundance of source material never sculpted into a compelling narrative. I began delighted, became impatient, then just gritted my teeth to the lackluster finish. ...more
It's easy to notice Herzog's interest in depravity and individual/societal collapse. What's more challenging is seeing the more hopeful components toIt's easy to notice Herzog's interest in depravity and individual/societal collapse. What's more challenging is seeing the more hopeful components to his complicated life philosophy. It's in there though. He's not a nihilist, as key moments in Bad Lieutenant screenplay indicate. But he does understand how difficult it is to break bad habits; how easy it is to slide into chaotic moral bankruptcy. That his work so often shows that very breakdown should never be confused as endorsement of such actions. Quite the opposite. Herzog detests drugs, violence and warfare, while understanding that due to the structure of our world, these things happen and people are inevitably drawn into conflict they otherwise shouldn't be party to--we're all corruptible and always already corrupted. The goal then is to move through our own failings, seeking moments of respite and mercy, both for ourselves and others, where our humanity peeks through.
Lena Herzog's photos work along side the film, as other unseen aspects of these characters and the story told in Finkelstein's script as well as Herzog's revisions and the the final film. Seeing these photos and reading the screenplay divide the narrative, becoming separate entities to the finished film--each one offering a unique perspective that stands on its own, but is better served when joined to other parts. As the photos don't recreate the action of the script, they become quasi-impressionistic details we wouldn't have if we read only the script, or only watched the film. Similarly, people's lives are layered and complicated, where only looking at one aspect leaves us ignorant to others. We become aware of what we aren't seeing and what we don't know, and Herzog isn't interested in explaining those gaps to us.
The script, photos, and film won't tell us exactly why Terrence is such a bad dude (while being a pretty sharp detective), nor does it construct a more cliched quandary of Terrence being a bad human being, but a good cop. The closest we might get is his admission: "sometimes I have bad days." It's a pretty banal thing to say, while also completely honest; deeply enlightening, while opaque. Terrence embodies the tensions within as well as the tensions between people and the cultural and institutional structures they must inhabit and navigate. Terrence does so both admirably and detestably. That's not only complex characterization and storytelling, it's also just fairly honest and straightforward.
This is a lean and mean noir tale, offering valuable questions and insights into the human and cultural condition. It doesn't answer cosmic questions, but instead re-frames the questions to a more day-to-day variety, suggesting that those more ordinary inquiries might aid us more substantially than the supposed Big Questions. The future is uncertain, and the present difficult to manage. We're both the beta fish in the glass and Terrence looking through the glass. But that makes our lot neither meaningless or futile. It's a balance between chaotic order and total collapse. Somehow we've kept it together despite a sense of cultural slippage that is constant and unrelenting. That might be the best we can hope for, and it might be enough.
Initially I gave this book two stars, but now, months later, I've decided that it doesn't deserve two stars. It wasn't/isn't ok. It's just stupid - aInitially I gave this book two stars, but now, months later, I've decided that it doesn't deserve two stars. It wasn't/isn't ok. It's just stupid - a bloated slog that did everything wrong, especially in respect to its core subject: violence against women. I won't say more about it.
Luckyshirt's review rather accurately and eloquently sums up my thoughts: