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“I take his weapons away from him… Both of them.” – John Hartigan
“THAT YELLOW BASTARD”
This has got to be one of the most disturbing tales in the entire series…
Originally released as a six-part mini-series, and inspired by the “Dirty Harry” movies, Frank Miller’s fourth story arc in the “Sin City” saga is “That Yellow Bastard”. While the book is still in black and white, this one’s notable as being the first in the series to include color in it’s dark and grimy pages: the Yellow bastard himself is – you guessed it – yellow. And not just any yellow, it’s a gross, sickly, yellow. And when he shows up, it’s jarring as all hell, something’s just not right about him.
So yeah, this one follows John Hartigan, a Basin City cop with a bum ticker. The story starts with his final day on the job before retirement. Hartigan tracks down a perverted serial killer, in order to save an 11 year old girl, Nancy. Turns out that the sadistic sonofabitch is none other than Senator Roark’s son, Junior. Well, his partner turns out to be a corrupt cop on Roark’s payroll, and attempts to stop him from getting involved, but Hartigan’s not the kinda guy that can just step aside and let this creep get away with it, no matter who he is.
Unlike our previous protagonists, John Hartigan is a man of honor, led by his moral compass, an underlying sense of justice. He will stop at nothing to save Nancy, even if it’s the last thing he does. During the incident, he starts having a heart attack, but pushes through, determined to protect the girl. He manages to corner the perp at the docks, and nearly kills him, blowing his dick off in the process. But then, his partner shows up and puts a bullet in his back.
Next thing he knows, Hartigan wakes up in a hospital bed, where he’s being monologued to by the villainous Senator Roark. Roark vows revenge for what he did to his boy, and lays it all out for him, explaining that he’s going to be convicted of molesting the girl, and attacking Roark Junior. He then threatens to kill his loved ones if he tries to tell them the truth. Knowing that Nancy’s life depends on his silence, he keeps quiet.
They lock him away for 8 long years, in a tiny cell, with no connection to the outside world, except for Nancy’s letters to keep him going. Then one day, the letters stop coming, and Hartigan begins to panic. Next he gets an envelope with a girl’s finger in it! Worried for Nancy’s safety, Hartigan realizes he has to get out of there, so swallows his pride and confesses to the crimes, just like Roark wanted, in exchange for a plea deal to get out of prison, and save the girl.
Hartigan is surprised to find out that Nancy is a high-class stripper at Kadie’s Bar. Turns out though, it was all a set up, and Hartigan accidentally led Junior right to her. Nancy and Hartigan have an emotional reunion as they’re on the run from the Yellow Bastard (Junior), and at one point, Nancy reveals that she’s developed feelings for him, which makes things very awkward for the old man, who has to come to terms with the fact that she’s no longer the innocent little girl he once knew.
“She’s counting on you old man, prove you’re still worth a damn!” As always, Miller’s minimalist art and gritty narration throughout the story are awe inspiring. The scenes towards the end in the snow are particularly haunting. Eventually, after a few close calls, Hartigan gets the upper hand on the bastard, and puts him out of his misery for good. “After a while, all I’m doing is pounding wet chunks of bone into the floor boards, so I stop.”
Unfortunately, Hartigan comes to the realization that Nancy’s life will be in danger as long as he’s alive, as long as Senator Roark is out there looking for him, seeking payback for what he did to his son. So instead, Hartigan decides the only way to truly keep her safe is to take his own life. “An old man dies, a young woman lives. Fair trade.”
Basin City Connections
One of the things I love about “Sin City” is all the connections and crossovers. In Vol 2, Marv showed up halfway through the story to wreak havoc. Vol 3 was a continuation of Dwight’s story, and brought back several characters including Miho, and Gail. What’s brilliant about Vol 4 though is that each of these stories has a connection to Kadie’s Bar. What we don’t realize until this book however is that Nancy Callahan was featured very prominently in the first three stories, without us even realizing it!
We get a few other cool nods to “A Dame to Kill For” with Dwight talking to Shellie, not long after Ava left him for her ill-fated rich husband, and the cop that Ava later manipulates also makes a cameo appearance!
Comic vs Movie (Vol 4)
This was the third and final main storyline in Robert Rodriguez’s first “Sin City” film. Once again, it’s extremely faithful to the comics, the big difference here though is that the story is split up, bookending the movie. The opening taking place towards the beginning (after the cold open), before cutting to Marv’s story, then Dwight’s, and then we circle back to the last half of Hartigan’s tale at the end, which fits nicely, considering there’s a big time jump.
John Hartigan is played to *perfection* by Bruce Willis, while Nancy Callahan is portrayed by Jessica Alba, and Powers Booth plays Senator Roark. The way they managed to recreate the iconic shots of Hartigan in silhouette with his scar and tie standing out, is outstanding, but the way they deliver that moment where Hartigan escapes his hanging, is easily one of the best scenes in the movie. The Yellow Bastard himself (Nick Stahl) is just downright creepy, possibly even creepier than he was in the comics. And the way the movie lingers on certain moments is especially unnerving.
Next Time: Vol 5 – “Family Values”
If you’re a fan of neo-noir, check out my latest book “2299”!
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