Issue 5 of A Dame To Kill For begins in darkness. The first page is completely black with thought blocks. Dwight is recovering from his injuries, safe in Old Town. Essentially he is in the womb, waiting to be reborn. This page teases the readers. We eagerly await his inevitable rebirth. Will his final form be the Knight he tried to be or the Beast he once was?
We are shown little to none of his emotional fall-out from Ava’s betrayal. We mostly experience the extent of his injuries through the pov of Gail, a former flame and working girl. In a splash page, she is shown kneeling beside him as if in prayer.The visual is jarring. Until now, men have been shown as worshipers and women as the objects of worship.
Dwight partially recovers and decides to stay in Old Town so he can plot his revenge against Ava. This is when the themes of the story begin to break down. Until now, the story was about the concept of the Goddess and the Consort, embodied in different forms. Miller skillfully and subtly developed these themes through both visual storytelling techniques and through character narrative.
But sadly, he breaks away from developing this theme towards its natural conclusion. Instead, the theme takes second place as this issue devolves into an almost adolescent power fantasy.
Dwight, close to recovery, is told by working girls, Goldie and Wendy, that he needs to leave Old Town. He clarifies that he isn’t leaving, insisting that when he gives an order, he is to be obeyed. Instead of exploring the complex dance for dominance between male and female, Dwight is reduced to a near-emotionless tough guy dominating women without even standing up.
The first few pages of this issue read as slightly flat. In the past issues, we had a sense that Miller cleverly twisted Noir tropes to create a modern mythology supporting old archetypes, most notably that of the Goddess and The Consort. It would have been interesting if he now chose to invert this and explore the concept of Dwight as the God and the working girls as his worshipers. Instead, the story simply slips into Noir cliches.
The previously established archetypes are simply abandoned. The characters become cardboard cut-outs of the tough guy and prostitue. The working girls are treated without any reverence or respect, despite the threat they represent.
“I should fear for my life and I would — if I could just get the damn “Doublemint” jingle out of my head”, thinks Dwight.
Without artwork and narrative supporting a deeper theme, the comic simply covers old ground. The working girls are reduced to eye candy, Gail (portrayed as African American in the Sin City film) is subservient to her white boyfriend and the services of the Asian ninja can traded away like those of a sex slave.
“You’ll provide the services of Gail, Miho and Molly,” Dwight informs the working girls.
He is subsequently stabbed by Miho, the working girls’ protector. He ignores the pain and orders Gail to give Goldie and Wendy a breakdown of why they should help him. Because apparently, he killed a pack of white slavers. She then informs the other girls that she’s happy to die with Dwight as he is the only man she ever loved. Such a declaration doesn’t seem like it belongs in the world of Sin City. Perhaps this was intentional – her love for Dwight was meant to stand out as pure. Some readers might find her declaration, when expressed in language more suited to a romance story, unconvincing.
In past issues, Dwight existed as a Consort, protector or at least partner to the Goddess embodied in various females. Now he is elevated above them. It’s reveled that not only does Gail love him (despite the fact he doesn’t fully return her affections), he also took down white slavers and saved Miho many years ago.
Frank Miller is normally a masterful storyteller. He works symbolism and foreshadowing into his tales. However, the information about the white slavers and Dwight saving Miho was never set up in this Sin City installment. One can’t help but feel that Miller simply added it in here as motivation for the working girls to help Dwight. While it’s not utterly unbelievable, it’s emotionally unsatisfying.
Luckily, the story catches fire in the later pages. The readers are treated to what’s been happening in Sin City during Dwight’s absence.
Mort, the cop sleeping with Ava, has reason to suspect she may be corrupt. He doesn’t want to believe it. Mort confronts her about visiting Dwight shortly before he murdered her husband. Ava slips into her roles as damsel in distress, claiming Dwight tried to rape and murder her. She sobs in Mort’s arms, saying she fears that even now, Dwight will return and kill her. Mort comforts her, saying he’ll protect her.
It’s clear Ava is leading Mort down a similar path as the one she led Dwight. Mort has become her vassal, her temporary consort and she hopes to use him to dispose of Dwight. Just as she used Dwight to depose of her husband.
Later Mort and his partner visit the strip bar, looking for Shellie. Once again, the strip bar is portrayed as a temple to female sexuality.
“Look at that doll,” Mort’s partner breathes. He is talking about Nancy, her hair fanning out about her like a halo. In a following page, Nancy assumes a dance pose with her arms raised, her tassels like angel wings.
She is also posed above the men, as if on an altar. Her male audience is shown looking up at her, their expressions one of respect rather than lust.
Shellie feeds the cops information as instructed by Gail and Dwight. The issue ends with Dwight, wrapped in bandages, phoning Ava.
“I’ll be coming for you very soon,” he promises.