The fourth installment of A Dame To Kill For opens with a series of violent images. Dwight, now at Ava’s mercy, is forced to listen to her monologue about the weakness of men and her disgust with them. After she describes her lifeless coupling with Damien Lord, she performs a penetrative act of her own, firing her phallic gun repeatedly into the impotent Dwight.
At one point, Dwight describes her as insane. Ava responds that crazy people “push shopping carts down the streets and talk nonsense.” Clearly, they lack her ability to calculate, manipulate and triumph. She describes herself as evil. However, the reader is meant to feel a small degree of compassion for her.
Her monologue makes it clear that like Marv, there is no place for her in this modern world, especially one run by a weak and corrupt patriarchy. Therefore, to be true to her own strength, she is forced to become corrupt and beat the system at its own game. She is a debased goddess. Men refused to acknowledge her power on her terms so she was forced to exercise it on theirs. In this world, a woman such as her is defined either as crazy or evil. Therefore she takes the title of evil onto her shoulders.
“That’s why I’ve won,” she tells Dwight, her face sorrowful, “that’s why I always win.” The readers has a sense she is talking about more than her current victory. She is talking about the goddess itself, the female aspect that will always exist and triumph one way or another.
Her monologue concluded, she unloads her gun into Dwight, once more knocking him through a window. As we have seen before, windows are an often repeated visual motif in this story arc. They can be perceived as doorways or more accurately, representations of the vagina – the ultimate symbol of female power and therefore linked to the goddess.
In the comic, any men who pass through windows are inevitably changed.The first time Dwight was thrown out a window, he partially reverted to his wildman self. Manute was later pushed through a glass pane by Marv. He lost an eye – an irreversible physical transformation. Having fallen through another window, Dwight is about to undergo a final change.
He is rescued by Marv. Ava doesn’t seem overly perturbed by his escape. She is beginning her ascent to financial power and Dwight is nothing but a discarded tool. She believes she has used him up as she uses up all her consorts. There is a gruesome scene in which she calls the police. Clothed in a sheer and form-fitting dressing gown, she reclines beside her husband’s battered corpse as she makes the phone call.
This reinforces her position as the death incarnation of the goddess. Ava is not the sex aspect, as she first appears. She does not offer life and procreation – her embrace always leads to the symbolic castration and often the death of her mates. Once she hangs up the phone, she throws herself back on the blood-stained carpet laughing.
Her pose, filled with vitality, is echoed by that of her dead husband. The visual resonance makes it clear that they are united as a couple, the goddess and her consort. In many matriarchal societies of the past, the god was inevitably sacrificed to ensure a harvest while the goddess continued on without him. Damien has been sacrificed and his riches are the harvest which Ava will reap.
However, traditionally the death of the god-consort was to ensure a bountiful harvest for the multitudes. It is a sign of Ava’s corruption that only she will reap the benefits of Damien’s death. Although she clearly embodies an aspect of the goddess, she is an unfit vessel. Through her greed, she has created the instrument of her own destruction.
The comic then cuts to a wounded Dwight been driven to Old Town by Marv. Marv driving the car is a clear indication that Dwight’s wildman is back in control; literally in the driving seat. Under Dwight’s instruction, Marv is taking him to Old Town, a haven of female power.
The narrative describes Dwight’s warmth as squirting out of him.On one hand, the description is that of bleeding wounds but there is a deeper meaning to his words. Squirting warmth could be used to describe ejaculation. Dwight has wasted his potential to bring life on a barren and corrupt aspect of the goddess, Ava. His only hope is to travel to Old Town and hope the working girls there can heal him.
The women there are all prostitutes. But in the world of Sin City, they are capable of defending their territory and their sexuality empowers rather than degrades them. They are the heirs to the role of temple prostitutes – their sexuality doesn’t serve man but rather the goddess. Marv offers to take Dwight to a guy he knows, someone who can stitch him up. But Dwight insists he be taken to Old Town. He knows that male power cannot heal him now. He has been struck down, drained and nearly killed by an aspect of the goddess. Only another aspect, that embodied in the warm female heart of Old Town, can save him.
Frank Miller employs a number of visual tricks to conceal the extent of Dwight’s injuries from the readers. They are only revealed when he insists he be taken to Old Town. Dwight has become a monster – his face is nearly destroyed, an entire eye bulging manically from the socket. He tells Marv he won’t die – he has too much to do.
His Lancelot persona has vanished completely and yet, he is more than just the embodiment of his wildman self. Dwight is about to be forged into a weapon of the goddess and sent out to strike down Ava who is unworthy of the power which she possesses.
Ava’s scene with the police is juxtapositioned against Dwight and Marv entering Old Town. Unaware of their identity, the Old Town girls defend their territory. While Ava is interrogated by the police,a masculine power, the Old Town girls display their female power. They have no need to manipulate or corrupt men to protect themselves.
Unlike Ava, they have succeeded in creating a world of their own, one separate from the patriarchy. The only men who enter it do so on the working girls’ terms. Clients are allowed to enter Old Town as worshipers – they pay a fee to be there and once their business is concluded, they are expected to depart.
As Marv refuses to fight girls, it appears that Marv and Dwight are in real danger. Luckily the leader of Old Town, Gail recognizes Dwight. She cradles him to her in a panel that subtly echoes the Pieta.
Meanwhile, Ava is able to enchant and thus corrupt one of the investigating officers, Mort. The issue ends with him braving a stormy night to be with her. Mort might not know the penalty for bedding Ava but the readers do. No doubt he’ll soon join her other hapless consorts, either maimed or more likely, killed.