Sin City vol. 4: That Yellow Bastard (2005)
By: Michael McQueen on August 20, 2007  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Cover Art
Publisher: Dark Horse Books, Canada
Writers: Frank Miller
Art: Frank Miller
Frank Miller's series of Sin City graphic novels are enjoying a new-found audience and some well-deserved exposure thanks to his 2005 film project with Robert Rodriguez, a big-screen adaptation of three Sin City narrative arcs. That Yellow Bastard was one of them. For those of you who've been living under a rock since 2005, don't expect trash; there's nothing hip or ironic about Miller's style which forges harder-than-hard-boiled noir narratives shot through with sex, violence and bloody vengeance. The graphics are relentless, arresting and rock-solid: ubiquitously rendered in grim black and white punctuated with scant splashes of colour. The layout is haphazard, sometimes anarchic and obstinately eye-catching; even full-page break-out panels are hand-drawn with alarming fluidity and accuracy. The detail is eye-popping; the violence is jaw-dropping; the dialogue's street-savvy and razor-sharp, loaded with pathos and tough-as-nails attitude. There's not an ounce of flab on Sin City – it's lean, mean and not afraid of getting dirty.

Detective John Hartigan is one hour away from retirement, but he's got one final case to wrap up: save 11 year-old Nancy Callahan from the clutches of drooling paedophile-serial rapist and child murderer Roark Junior; a spoilt Senator's son who's got the connections and the clout to get away with whatever his twisted malignant mind can manufacture. Only Hartigan's got the steel-lined guts and iron-plated balls to come between Nancy and Roark's demented clutches: "I've seen his victims and their twisted little faces, all wide-mouthed and bug-eyed, frozen in their last horrible moment of living…Junior likes to hear them scream" Battling a corrupt partner, an army of hired hoods and gangsters - plus his own ailing health - Hartigan catches up with Junior and Nancy and blows Roark's equipment clean off, rendering him a "brain-damaged dickless freak" in a coma. Betrayed by his partner and (literally) shot in the back, Hartigan goes down, believing he's died to save Nancy.

But life and death in Sin City is never that easy: Senator Roark's pockets are deep and lined with power and affluence. Hartigan is resurrected and put on trial for the rape of Nancy Callahan by daddy Roark, out to exact cold, hard, callous revenge on the man that crippled his son and turned him into a comatose eunuch. Palms are greased, a mountain of evidence is forged, the conspiracy piles high and truth gets buried. Hartigan takes the fall for eight years, rotting away in prison to protect Nancy from Roark's campaign of twisted retribution, stubbornly refusing to tell the truth and exonerate himself. But Roark's not ready to relent: Hartigan is paid a visit by a foul-smelling yellow-skinned mystery man bearing a severed finger. Convinced that his enemies have found Nancy, Hartgan signs a confession in exchange for his freedom, severing the last string of his pride; the ultimate humiliation.

Hartigan wastes no time tracking Nancy down, but all is not as it seems. Why is Roark so hell-bent on getting Hartigan's confession? Is Nancy still alive? Is Hartigan unwittingly falling into a trap to ensnare both of them? And who is that stinky yellow bastard who's following them around? There are no simple answers, no predictable twists and no happy resolutions at the end of this tunnel; only sex, death and violent, bloody pay-back. You know you want it.

Miller's Sin City series is probably the hottest thing in graphic novels at the moment, and these paperbacks are an essential investment for those dedicated to all things pop cult. Nearly all of Miller's original Sin City arcs are now available in trade paperbacks for roughly $30 a piece. These are self-contained narratives, so drop-ins can buy a single trade paperback and get a full start-to-finish arc without major commitment or expenditure, which is an attractive option for non-collectors. There are quite a few volumes available currently and, at the time of writing, a second Rodriguez-Miller directed film is in pre-production stages. Now is the time to start reading.
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