A Dame to Kill For is a comic book limited series first published by Dark Horse Comics in 1993. It is the second story in Frank Miller's Sin City series, and the first to be published in miniseries format. It was written and drawn by Frank Miller. It has since been reprinted in graphic novel format in four separate editions.
The 2014 film, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is partly based on the graphic novel along with Just Another Saturday Night and two original segments written by Miller for the film. The film received mixed reviews and was a box office failure compared to the positive reception and financial success of the first Sin City film in 2005.
The story begins as Dwight McCarthy, working as a photographer for a grossly overweight man named Agamemnon, saves one of the Old Town prostitutes, Sally, from one of her customers, whom Dwight was investigating on behalf of his wife; he then drives her back to Old Town. That night he receives a call from a woman named Ava Lord, asking him to meet her at a seedy bar called Kadie's Club Pecos. Dwight is suspicious of her, as Ava broke his heart four years ago by running off with another richer man, but the lure of seeing her again is too powerful and he agrees to meet her anyway.
Marv is also there and greets Dwight. Ava arrives late (as she often used to) and tries to persuade Dwight to take her back, claiming that her life is "a living Hell"; Dwight refuses to listen. Just then, Manute, Ava's husband's valet, arrives and takes Ava away. Dwight goes home, but cannot sleep. He decides to check up on Ava and her new husband, Damien Lord.
At Ava's estate, hops a fence and using his photography equipment spies on Ava swimming in the nude. He is discovered and claims that he is simply a Peeping Tom. Manute, who seemingly doesn't recognize him from the bar, beats him brutally before throwing him from a car into the street. Dwight calls Agamemnon for a ride home and they stop several times for fast food.
As Dwight arrives home, he finds his Ford Mustang returned and his door unlocked. In his bedroom he finds Ava nude. Following a heated argument, they eventually reconcile and make love. Ava talks about how her husband regularly charges Manute with abusing her physically and she needs a way out of her marriage. Manute arrives and violently beats Dwight. Dwight is knocked out of his upper story apartment window to the street below, where he blacks out momentarily. He awakens to see Manute driving off with Ava.
Determined to rescue her, Dwight arrives at Kadie’s, where Marv is in the middle of a squabble with some out-of-town punks. One of them pulls a gun on Marv, who knocks him flat; the rest quickly scatter. Dwight convinces Marv, over several drinks and whilst watching Nancy dance, to help him storm Damien's estate. As they approach the mansion, Dwight insists Marv leave the punk's gun, which Marv has procured, in the car. Marv tackles the guards as a distraction and eventually takes on Manute, ripping his right eye out and beating him savagely.
With Manute and the guards occupied, Dwight makes his way to Damien. When he finds him in his office, he beats him to death. As Dwight begins to realize what he has done, Ava appears, and explains how Dwight was all a part of her plan to get Damien murdered so she could inherit his estate. She shoots Dwight six times, including once in the head. Dwight once again falls out of a window and is picked up by Marv.
Upon Dwight's insistence, Marv drives him to Old Town, where Dwight has his old flame, Gail, help him. The girls of Old Town perform surgery on Dwight's multiple bullet wounds, then ask him to leave. He convinces Gail and Miho, a deadly assassin he saved three years prior, to let him stay, and they operate further on him.
Two detectives following up on Damien Lord's death, Mort and Bob, talk to Ava. She claims that Dwight was a stalker psychopath who killed Damien out of jealousy. They believe her story, and Mort starts sleeping with her. They interrogate Agamemnon, who tells how Dwight is an upright man who went clean after being a wild alcoholic with a short temper in his younger days. When they speak with Dwight's landlady, she tells about letting Ava in and the resulting loud noises of the fight the night of Damien's murder.
Bob doubts Ava considerably now, while Mort, who is still sleeping with her, becomes more on-edge towards his partner. This culminates with Mort killing Bob, then committing suicide. (On an unrelated note, during the scene in which Mort kills Bob, while they are driving in the car you can clearly see Wendy and Marv drive past them, presumably on their way to butcher Kevin.)
Meanwhile, Dwight is recovering from his near-fatal wounds and calls Ava to inform her he is coming for her soon. Ava, with her late husband's financial assets, is joining her corporation with the mob boss Wallenquist. Unaffected by Ava's flirting, he warns her not to underestimate him again and tells her to tie up her loose ends with Dwight; he has someone arriving from Phoenix soon to meet her about that.
Dwight (with his new face), accompanied by Gail and Miho, poses as Wallenquist's man from Phoenix. Inside Ava's estate, however, Manute sees past the new face and captures Dwight. Gail and Miho strike from Dwight's car, and Dwight shoots Manute with a hidden .25 he had up his left sleeve. Six bullets fail to kill him, and Manute aims shakily at Dwight as Ava grabs one of Manute's guns, shooting Manute in his shoulder.
Manute falls through a window and, upon landing, is stabbed in the arms by Miho, pinning him to the ground. Ava then tries to get Dwight to kill him, telling him that Manute had her under mind control to manipulate her and Damien and that it would be a cruel irony if he killed her now. Dwight finally sees through all the lies and kills Ava.
In his review for the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, James Blasingame said that even though A Dame To Kill For is a quick read, it has a complex story. He says, "All of the elements of a good novel are present, plot; beginning, middle, ending; dramatic crescendo; fully developed characters; complex constructions of narrative perspective; and, despite Miller’s graphic style, not so black-and-white socially troubling questions about the nature of good and evil, justice, and redemption."
The series won the 1995 Eisner Award for Best Limited Series.
The series has been collected into a trade paperback (ISBN 1-59307-294-5).