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Sin City Volume 4: That Yellow Bastard by Frank Miller (1997-04-15) Hardcover – 1833
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A lot of Sin City's stories end up focusing on corrupted institutions such as the Catholic church or the police, but this one goes a bit traditional and focuses on a mob hit. Dwight investigates a drive-by shooting at a diner accompanied by his murderous guardian angel watching from shadows and rooftops. He turns down a randy female cop, says hello to two of Sin City's quirky regulars, and settles on charming the details of the incident out of a run-down, worn-out old barfly. Soon, his inquiries bring the perpetrators down on him and the fun begins. Now, one could argue that this entire story was just an excuse for Miller to draw his favorite ninja girl kicking a$z on roller blades. I would concur with that argument. But it is a righteous endeavor. Miho is always a welcome face, and Miho on roller blades is somehow even cooler. At one point a hood refers to her as a "Jap slut" and gets her special undivided attention, which crescendos with her using a swastika-shaped shuriken to slice halfway through his neck so she can speed at him and kick his head off with both skates. Nice. Whether or not it was necessary for her to fall out of her kimono in multiple panels I will leave up to you. My favorite bit has to be when Miho is dragging a mob guard down a flight of stairs with a kusarigama (handheld sickle) through his head as Dwight confides with his hostage that she's actually a very nice girl once you get to know her.
I think what really makes "Family Values" great aside from the usual Sin City coolness plus roller-blading ninja girl is the "moral of the story" as it were. As Dwight reaches his final target and lectures him on the reason he is to die, Miller offers a bit of personal commentary on the meaning of the book's title and the twisting of the term as it is applied by ivory tower politicians and businessmen as though they have some sort of claim on it while they are living their own deviant fantasies out. Indeed, there are all sorts of families out there and it is nobody's place to put a value on which loving relationships are right and which are wrong and which are to be valued over others. I want the guy who wrote this back instead of the guy who wrote The Spirit.
The only flaws in this book are it's brevity and the usual slightly misogynistic exploitative nature of the series. I personally let this slide because, like the James Bond films, I consider this to be nothing more then an adolescent kind of escapist fantasy free of PC constraints that is meant to be enjoyed for style over substance. I mean, what guy doesn't want his own sexy little assassin who curls up against you and sleeps until you give the word to kill? Patriarchal, yes, but kind of cool in a purely fictional sense too. Either way you look at it, "Family Values" is a fun little trek through Basin City that entertains from cover to cover and is a very light read making it good for those who may not have time to dive into some of the larger graphic novels out there. Miller's art is typically solid, his dialogue is clever, the story is fun, and the slice of philosophy is much appreciated.
4 1/2 stars rounded up for brutality's sake.
If Sin City ever produced an honest-to-god hero, it is Hartigan. He's not a thug like Marv, and he's not a criminal like Dwight. His faults aren't faults at all, but obstacles placed before him because of his greatest strengths. He suffers immeasurably for wanting to help someone. He suffers even more for wanting to help her again.
If Dwight is the one that gets away, it's because he is no better than the world he inhabits. Hartigan is the one that pays, because the world can not endure a hero as pure as Hartigan. That Yellow Bastard is the proof that Frank Miller gives as to why the enduring heroes in Sin City such as Marv, Dwight, and Miho aren't heroes at all, but merely grim reflections of the city that they live in. They have made the necessary adaptations to exist in an ugly place like Sin City. They aren't necessarily bad people, but they do bad things. Sin City isn't necessarily a bad town, but bad things happen there. But Hartigan is a good person that does good things. Sin City is not a place for a man like Hartigan to exist on the same terms as a man like Dwight. It is not fair, but it is the truth.
That Yellow Bastard is the greatest of the Sin City books because in it we see Sin City in all of its awful glory; a place where hope doesn't come in its simple, most beautiful form, but instead as a hideous mutation that is disarming and unpleasant.
Frank Miller reinvented the quintessential comic book superheroes Batman and Daredevil, and he even created the enduring character Elektra in the Daredevil books. But Hartigan is his greatest invention, because Hartigan is everything that makes superheroes great, placed inside a man with no special powers, but just a relentless determination to do what he feels is right.