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4.2 out of 5 stars
Sin City Volume 7: Hell and Back (3rd Edition)
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
Yes, it's a Frank Miller/Sin City joint. It's a graphic novel about Wallace, a painter who is very very good at hurting people, and Esther, an aspiring actress who has just been targeted by a vast conspiracy of white slavers. She ends up kidnapped, and Wallace ends up on a quest to rescue her, by any means. Like any distillation of a Frank Miller graphic novel, that doesn't do it justice in any way, shape, or form.

We meet a lot of tangential Sin City characters in here--most notably Delia, the assassin in blue, and the leopard-print Mariah who works for the notorious Wallenquist. Miller seems to excel at portraying dangerous, dangerous women with breasts that make Pamela Anderson green with envy. But it's in his heroes that Miller really shines, heroes with serious honor complexes and hair-trigger reflexes. Heroes seemingly just designed for a punk babe's heart.

I'm always a sucker for a love story, and Wallace, with his Converse high-tops and habit of being very dangerous (as well as sensitive, let's not forget sensitive) seems expressly designed for honorable-antihero status. The impetus for his war against Sin City's worst flesh merchants is Esther, who for some reason Miller drew with a distinct resemblance to Rick James. But that's okay, because it works, even if for half the story the reader can't figure out what Wallace sees in this aspiring actress.

This is the longest of the Sin City novels, and in a way the most difficult, since it slides away from the territory of grit and pulp the other Sin City books cover with such devastating grace. It works best as a retelling of a fairy tale: princess kidnapped by dastardly orcs, the prince surmounting obstacles to rescue his lady love with bullets, brains, brawn, and sheer sickening endurance. Prince and princess ride off into the sunset, having escaped the stronghold of the orcs.

Who knew Miller, the master of black-and-white had it in him to write what is at heart a rather gentle romance?

Of all the Sin City stories, this one is my favorite. It seems that people either love it or hate it, and I'm firmly on the "love it" side of the spectrum. Yummy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
As with most Sin City stories, I give this one a solid four stars. I find it hard to actually pick favorites among the series since they are all unique and beautiful in thier own way, and each one represents something different. Dame to Kill For is the most "classic style" crime noir book, while Hard Goodbye has some of the best action and narration. Family Values is like poetry and Yellow Bastard showcases everything a Sin City comic should be.

Hell and Back is called "A Sin City Love Story", and for a good reason too. All Sin City's are love stories, but Hell and Back is different. The lead character, Wallace, is a tough guy ex-marine turned starving artist with a heart of gold. He saves a beautiful woman named Esther from killing herself and falls in love with her, only to have her kidnapped and taken from him. Wallace becomes a man possessed, focused only on finding his lost love and keeping her safe. On the way he deals with crooked cops, beautiful assassins, and finds himself deep in a conspiracy that involves the slave trade.

The plot of Hell and Back is something to be in awe of, as it twists and turns and keeps you on your seat till the very end. Despite this books massive size, most likely you will want to read it all in one sitting. As the epic story unflows, you keep wanted more and more and find yourself really connecting with the character. Wallace is a true hero that is unique in Sin City. Not to say that Hartigan or Dwight aren't heroic. It's just that Wallace is different. He's a nice guy who's polite and goes out of his way not to kill.

Wallace's nice guy attitude can be either good or bad thing depending on what type of story you like. Some people like a shockingly violent anti-hero like Marv, and they might be dissapointed that Wallace doesn't exactly cut loose the way Marv does. I personally think Wallace is a much needed change of pace in the Sin City world.

Hell and Back is filled with all kinds of cool characters besides Wallace. The most notable is Deliah, or "Blue Eyes", a beautiful and deadly assassin who has a habit of making love to her targets before killing them. Blue Eye's was introduced in Booze Broods and Bullets and makes a strong showing in this book. Manute also makes a small appearance (and gets his face kicked in by Wallace).

The book isn't all good however. It's easily the longest and most expensive in the Sin City series, and to be honest, alot of the book fills like filler. Some scenes drag on far too long while others are not long enough. A pointless scene showing a teenager and his troubles with girls (don't ask) drags on for far too many pages of this book. I found myself engulfed by the first half of the book, but the 2nd half dragged in some parts. Miller could have paced the book a bit better in my opinion.

To end on a positve note, I think the book was overall a good read and worthy of adding to any comic fans collection. If you got the money, and you love Sin City (or just crime noir in geneal) don't think twice about buying this book.

SPOILERS AHEAD:

The ending of the book was a nice touch in my opinion, Esther attempting suicide because she was lonely, and Wallace driving off with her away from Sin City forever. "This rotten town..." I can't help but wonder if that is what Frank Miller felt about Sin City at this point. His 7th book in the series and this time he wrote it as a "love story" with less violence and a happy ending. As the characters drive off thinking about how rotten the town is, does Miller actually feel the same way? Could be, but most likely not. I have a feeling Miller has a few more Sin City books left in him. Or so I would hope...
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
Don't be expecting any reveltations in plot here, but this is really
great entertainment, beautifully ink-drawn scenes and a storyline that
doesn't drag. It's all violence and hot chicks all the time here,
baby.
In the "Hell and Back" book of the Sin City
series, our loveable and lonesome hero Wallace meets the girl of his
dreams just as she tries to committ suicide. She is, of course, the
girl of everyone's dreams: all boobs and bottom, and seems to have
everything she needs even in this run-down town. Unfortunately for
the new lovebirds, she is kidnapped later that night. After just a
few hours of knowing this woman, Wallace (who we learn is an ex-Navy
Seal) is obsessed with finding her, and will do absolutely anything it
takes to get her back. This includes killing dozens of people; anyone
who stands in his way. What he learns about why she was kidnapped is
unexpected and unnerving.
In all, I would say the series is
probably more enjoyable taken in the small monthly doses of a serial
so that each scene can end with a cliffhanger. And really, the story
does move fast enough and with enough twists and turns to keep you
interested without becoming entangled or confusing. This entire story
is in black and white except for one episode, the wildly imaginative
hallucinations scene, which I felt was truly impressive in both its
asthtetic quality and attention to detail as well as the sheer genious
of it. Truly one of the best scenes in the history of graphic novels,
in my opinion.
My only real complaint was that I didn't feel even a
smidgen of realism in the comic, and it wasn't really otherworldly
enough to be believable on the opposite level. I thought most of the
characters were flat and two-dimensional. Many elements of the plot
had the depth of a mid-eighties action flick, with everything from the
crooked cop to the boozy barfly chick to the long-suffering vet who's
tried to play it straight for years but finally gets pushed over the
edge by a super-evil-not-so-good-very-bad-guy/organization. However,
the heros are easy to like and the bad guys easy to hate. There's
even a few black widow type females thrown in to ensure enough
gratuitous nudity for even the most demanding of spandex superhero
connesieurs. It's fun, and you'll enjoy reading it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Frank Miller's seventh, and for now final, volume in his highly influential Sin City library, is the most ambitious and epic story in the series. Hell and Back stars Wallace, a decorated war veteran and struggling artist who, on a chance encounter, saves an actress named Esther from killing herself. Once romance starts to bloom between the two, Wallace finds himself in over his head in a conspiracy that goes well beyond Basin City, and he'll do anything to get her back. There's more to the story than just that brief synopsis, as Miller attempts to reach new heights with his storytelling, but it doesn't reach the heights of some of Miller's previous Sin City stories. Hard Goodbye and That Yellow Bastard were undoubtadly the best Sin City stories (and some of Miller's best stories period), but we never feel for Wallace the way we did for Marv and Hartigan, and we never really pull for the relationship between Wallace and Esther the way we did for Marv and Goldie/Wendy and Hartigan and Nancy. That being said, Hell and Back features plenty of memorable moments, including Miller's usual cinematic artwork, and the tripped out halucination scenes (featuring cameos aplenty from characters you wouldn't expect, including Captain America, Elektra, Big Guy & Rusty the Robot, the ED-209, and Hellboy) are worth the price of admission alone. All in all, Hell and Back is a more than worthy title in the Sin City saga, but you can't help but get the feeling that Miller was reaching too far. Despite that though, you can do far, far worse than Hell and Back.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
I wasn't ever going to buy Hell and Back because the Sin City volume before it, Family Values (Sin City, Book 5: Second Edition), was such a disappointment. If that was/is your stance, rest assured that Hell and Back fully redeems any missteps Frank Miller has taken with Sin City. I saw this at a used bookstore with a good price, and I'm so glad I took the leap of faith to buy it. Where Family Values (Sin City, Book 5: Second Edition) was uncharacteristically crueler, while maintaining the exact same dialogue as previous Sin City books, Hell and Back is more positive, and actually brings something new to the Sin City template. For one, the protagonist Wallace (who looks like Jesus [and knowing Frank Miller, there's no way that was unintentional]) has hardly any inner dialogue, which shrouds the kind, polite, and expertly-brutal hero in mystery. Wallace's motivations are pure, and his actions are simply products of his willingness to do good. The only other Sin City protagonist that meets these moral standards is Hartigan from That Yellow Bastard (Sin City, Book 4: Second Edition).

This is a good one, don't miss it! And of course, the drug-trip scene is stunning and hilarious, with cameos galore.

writing: [7/10]
art: [8/10]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
Set in Frank Miller's dark world of "Sin City", his latest epic, Hell And Back, is to graphic novels what film noire is to the cinema. The dialogue is terse, the artwork is as powerful as it is gritty, the story is of an ex-soldier who aspires to be an artist becoming tangled up in the nightmare of a beautiful woman he saves from suicide only to discover that she is the target of an immense, powerful, and corruptive conspiracy populated by a pantheon of memorable (and sometimes surprising) villains. Forcefully illustrated in black and white, Hell And Back, is enhanced by a vividly colored segment totally appropriate to the story line involving a drug induced hallucination. Of special interest at the end of this outstanding, highly recommended graphic novel dedicated is a gallery of Frank Miller's work inspired by this particular story, and a second gallery showcasing the art of a number of artists inspired by, and in tribute to, Miller's "Sin City" world of death and desire, the horrific and the heroic.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
Hell & Back is Frank Miller's latest addition to his Sin City series of black & white comics, and unfortunately his most disappointing. Frank shakes things up and takes a few chances with this particular Sin City yarn and for that I applaud him. However, not every gamble pays off and such is the case with Hell & Back.

Miller's Sin City is renowned for packing so much onto a plain white page with just black ink. He changed things up by adding splashes of color in a few short stories (Book 6), then again with his infamous Yellow Bastard character from the great story That Yellow Bastard (Book 5). Miller adds a lot of colors here with the forgettable female German assassin in leopard print and neon hair. Also Miller altered the way he drew the characters in this book-they became more angular, "blocky" and disproportionate. His style in this book is much closer to his style in DK2 than his other Sin City stuff. So basically Miller altered the way he drew Sin City and rather than being fresh it was off-putting. The look just ain't Sin City enough to be Sin City.

Another mistake is length. Hell & Back is Miller's longest yarn yet-over 100 pages longer than the usual Sin City tale. Miller tries to make this story epic, prolific even. But instead he comes up with 100 pages too much. Part of what makes a Sin City story so great is Miller's sense of editing. Director Robert Rodriguez said one of the main reasons he wanted to make Sin City into a movie with Miller is because it would be so simple because Miller already did the hard work of editing the stories so well on the page.

And the last big mistake I think Miller made is plot. All Sin City tales have good guys doing bad things for nasty reasons-usually for revenge-with the protagonists facing real consequences for their actions. Without giving the ending away, Hell & Back doesn't really live up to the Sin City standard Miller set with the other books. He subtitled this "A Sin City Love Story," but the thing is EVERY Sin City story is a love story! Marv & Goldie, Hartigan & Nancy, Dwight & Ava & Gail-all great love stories.

Basically I think Miller tried (and failed) to reinvent the wheel with this tale. Sin City wasn't broke and it didn't need fixing. That being said, a mediocre Sin City yarn is better than none at all and the die-hards should scoop this one up, but the new or casual reader could easily give this one a pass.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
Basin City, aka "Sin City," serves as Frank Miller's Gotham City or Metropolis -- his canvas to spin his freakishly-noir tales of villains, supervillains, and the occasional hero. Given the uber-violence of Miller's stories, one wonders how long Sin City can survive before a wrecking ball of a character brings the whole city crashing down around its ears. Thank God for the graphic novel's infinite capacity for regeneration!

One also has to wonder how long Miller can keep cranking out new characters -- many of Miller's stories end with the death of the protagonist (not to mention several others). In "Hell and Back,"

Miller introduces us to Wallace, a former Marine and Medal of Honor winner who apparently spent a few years doing some of the same ninja training that Bruce Waynde undertook to become the Batman. Wallace opens the novel as a talented artist struggling with the moral issues of using his talents to satisfy the less-than-elevated artistic "tastes" of Sin City's collectors.

Then Wallace meets Esther by saving her from dire consequences. A turbo-charged tender moment gets sidelined as Esther is kidnapped by some of Sin City's most depraved citizens . . . who just happen to run a sinister slavery ring.

Drugged (his hallucinations are worthy of Heironymous Bosch) and desperate, Wallace begins his quest to find Esther and save her once again. Along the way, he meets several corrupt cops, lethal hit-men, and even more dangerous characters, but Wallace also has some unusually violent allies who play vital roles. Thanks to Miller's previous tales, which rarely end on a happy note, the outcome of this dark tale is very, very uncertain. Wallace may not be as revolutionary a character as Marv, but he's definitely a man worthy of Miller's den of vipers.

By far the most colorful of Miller's "Sin City" series, "Hell and Back" is still dominated by Miller's use of stark black-and-white. The use of color isn't quite as powerful as in his "That Yellow Bastard," since the color is more pervasive (and therefore less striking). But Miller still knows how to shock and amaze with his visual talents. Thanks to the hallucination scenes, "Hell and Back" is also the most humorous tale in the series, as well.

If you are new to "Sin City," I strongly suggest that you hold off on reading "Hell and Back" until you've read the earlier volumes. "Hell and Back" represents a tangent off of the main series (this one also doesn't have as many sidebars showing Miller's other characters like Marv or Dwight hanging around in the background), and as such is better appreciated after you're familiar with the "rules" of Sin City.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
The latest addition to Frank Miller's acclaimed comics-noir series, Hell and Back is not quite up to the standards of the classic early Sin City stories. It's in pretty much the same vein, but is a bit too long, the story not quite in focus; the lead character, Wallace, is a violent anti-hero like all of Miller's protagonists, but isn't quite as compelling as classic characters like Marv, Dwight and Hartigan, and the villains and the Damsel in Distress are also somewhat anemic, when compared to characters from the first four Sin City books. The dark sense of humor is also sparse compared to the classic stories, and all that makes Hell and Back a bit tiring. All of that, though, doesn't make it any less entertaining, dazzling and fresh; Miller writes and draws an action scene (as well as a sex scene, for that matter) with more energy and strength than any other artist in the field, and Hell and Back is no exception in that sense. He turns sex and violence into poetry, and his dark vision of corruption, death and despair is sickening and irresistibly beautiful at once.

And even if the story isn't quite up there with Miller's best, his artwork never ceases to innovate and amaze, and like with every one of the previous Sin City novels, Hell and Back breaks new ground and stands out clearly from everything done in the medium before. Miller's style is all his own and is immediately recognizable, and yet he is never completely satisfied and continually challenges himself in order to improve himself, which is the mark of a great artist. Each and every frame and each and every page spread in Hell and Back is a masterpiece by its own right, and you can easily sit for hours and gawk at Miller's amazing work without even reading the story. The hallucination scene - the only scene in the Sin City series to be in full color - is by itself worth the entire book, as it is one of Miller's most astounding and imaginative creations.

The Sin City novels are best read at chronological order (though because of the many protagonists, it's not necessary; for instance, That Yellow Bastard (vol. 4) can be read before vol. 2 and 3), and if you read and enjoyed the first six, then by all means, go on and grab Hell and Back. It's not Miller's best, but it's better than almost anything else being made in the medium today, and it's a book well worth having on your coffee-table for people to glimpse at and gasp. Now it's just a matter of sitting back and guessing who will play Wallace in Sin City 3.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
After buying this book, I now own the entire Sin City series and i have to say that Hell and Back is among my favourites. I heard that the sequel to the Sin City movie will be based on book 2: A Dame to Kill For, which is very cool, but if they make a third film it should definitely be of this one as it is one of Frank Miller's more epic tales.

The main character, Wallace, is an awesome protagonist and, in my opinion, cooler than Dwight and Hartigan though not quite as hardcore as Marv but that's understandable. The plot involves the usual combination of mystery, suspense, action and of course deadly gorgeous women. What this one has that others don't is a creative colour section in which Wallace is drugged and tripping out on some wacky imagery. Don't get me wrong, i love the black and white artistry that makes Sin City what it is, but this part was quite refreshing, plus Miller has some fun by throwing in a whole lot of cameos by pop culture icons.

Another great thing about Sin City is that while there are often links between them, each story stands alone. So even if you have not read any of the others, Hell and Back is thoroughly enjoyable and will probably leave you thirsty for more.
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