Sin City: "Booze, Broads, & Bullets" (1998)
Collects The Babe Wore Red and Other Stories, Silent Night, Lost, Lonely, and Lethal, Just Another Saturday Night, Sex and Violence, and Daddy's Little Girl. Story and art: Frank Miller, Cover Colours: Lynn Varley. Published by Dark Horse Comics originally in 1994, 1996-97, collected in 1998.
As the cover of the trade paperback states, Booze, Broads, & Bullets isn't a story in of itself, but rather a collection of 11 short stories (or "yarns" as Frank Miller likes to call them) of the Sin City world. Some of the stories were originally published in Dark Horse compilations and Previews magazine, then collected in smaller trades, which were then collected into this bigger trade. They all deal with the same themes of violence, betrayal, and crime as the major Sin City stories deal with, many featuring Miller's first forays into colour (always used just as an accent, the books are all still primarily black and white). The 11 yarns, which range in size from 24 pages to 3 pages long, featured in the trade are:
- Just Another Saturday Night (from Sin City #1/2 and Just Another Saturday Night)
- Silent Night (from Silent Night)
- Blue Eyes (from Lost, Lonely, & Lethal)
- Wrong Turn (from Sex and Violence)
- Wrong Track (from Sex and Violence)
- The Babe Wore Red (from The Babe Wore Red and Other Stories)
- And Behind Door Number Three? (from The Babe Wore Red and Other Stories)
- The Customer is Always Right (from The Babe Wore Red and Other Stories)
- Daddy's Little Girl (from A Decade of Dark Horse #1 and reprinted in Tales to Offend #1)
- Fat Man and Little Boy (from Lost, Lonely, & Lethal)
- Rats (from Lost, Lonely, & Lethal)
From what I can tell (and have researched) the chronology of the series is as follows: the earliest tale in the series is That Yellow Bastard, featuring the tale of John Hartigan and Nancy Callahan. That's followed by the short story Just Another Saturday Night, a story featuring Marv stopping some punks from setting fire to whinos (which Marv will later allude to in the original series). Silent Night, another Marv tale, probably takes place around this time as well, either before or after Just Another Saturday Night, but definitely before The Hard Goodbye. A Dame To Kill For is next, introducing Dwight McCarthy, showing his sordid past with Ava Lord and Gail. Seemingly during or shortly after this time, Blue Eyes introduces the character of Delia. The Hard Goodbye begins in the middle of A Dame To Kill For, around the same time as Blue Eyes. Wrong Turn and Wrong Track come some time after that, following Delia. Dwight returns in The Babe Wore Red having a run-in with Mr. Shlubb and Mr. Klump, the fall-out of which is shown in Fat Man and Little Boy. Dwight McCarthy returns again in The Big Fat Kill, returning to Gail to help save Old Town.
The rest of the stories either feature characters not in the main narratives of Sin City, or are so brief and inconsequential as to not upset the main narratives. Thus, there's no need to place them chronologically. The publishing order for the stories in Booze, Broads, & Bullets is: The Babe Wore Red and Other Stories and Silent Night followed Sin City (AKA The Hard Goodbye) and A Dame To Kill For. They were followed by The Big Fat Kill and That Yellow Bastard. Next came Daddy's Little Girl, Lost, Lonely, & Lethal, Sex & Violence, and Just Another Saturday Night. They were then followed by two full stories, Family Values and Hell and Back.
Alright, now that that's all settled, it's time to actually review Booze, Broads, & Bullets. The various stories contained within all vary in degrees in terms of quality and ability to create interest, but, for the most part, they're all too shallow and short to be anything more than filler. In some of them, Miller was obviously just playing around with colour (blue in Blue Eyes, Wrong Turn, and Wrong Track, red in The Babe Wore Red, pink in Daddy's Little Girl), others were a chance to capitalise on the popularity of Marv (Silent Night and Just Another Saturday Night), and others felt simply like advertisements for the world of Sin City (And Behind Door Number Three? and The Customer Is Always Right). The whole thing just feels like Frank Miller was screwing around in his little universe, which is fine since they probably weren't written with the intention of being much more than they were. Most of the stories are little more than experiments, a brief look into the sketchbook of Miller, giving him the opportunity to tell different types of stories (like with Rats, which someone made a independent short of, that you can view by clicking HERE).
The standout stories in the collection are The Babe Wore Red, an action tale featuring Dwight saving another damsel in distress (his specialty and weakness), Wrong Turn/Wrong Track which follows Delia in her new pursuit as a killer-for-hire, and The Customer is Always Right, the three page story that serves as the pre-title sequence of the Sin City movie, featuring Josh Hartnett and Marley Shelton. As with all Sin City stories, the entire set is brisk and reads very quickly. But, ultimately, it's a set for completists only, with no truly compelling, or truly important, narratives to make it a must buy. I suppose the short stories could provide a newcomer with a decent idea of what the series is like, but I think they'd read a bit of it, shrug and say "it looks cool, but who cares?". If you're looking to get the stories of Sin City, start with the original, and skip this unless you need to get them all.