COMICS: Frank Miller

Frank Miller
Sin City: That Yellow Bastard
Darkhorse Comics

From his radical slant on traditional superheroes in the '80s Daredevil comics to the grim edge of his critically acclaimed Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller has been the very definition of comic-book noir. The Stephen King of his medium, Miller has regularly exhibited a conceptual daring that has paved the way for subsequent superstar writers such as Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore.

Nowhere is Miller's storytelling genius more evident than in the Sin City series. The titular town is 100 percent seamy underbelly, a place that makes Gotham City look like...well, Minneapolis. It's a city where everything is conspiratorial and no one is to be trusted. In past installments of the series, readers have been introduced to violent Marv and pussy-whipped Dwight, two tragic "heroes" whose only thing in common is the sleazy strip club where they both hang out. In That Yellow Bastard, the anti-hero is John Hartigan, a fiftysomething cop who gets sent to jail after being falsely accused of raping an 11 year-old girl. In truth, Hartigan saved the girl from being attacked by the psychopathic son of a U.S. senator. Miller renders Hartigan's fight for redemption in beautifully illustrated black and white, the only trace of color being the yellow used to display the enigmatic character after whom this episode is named.

The ballet of violence in this Bastard is trademark Miller, complete with gunfire, dismemberment, torture, hangings, and various other emasculations. Like other bards of ultraviolence (e.g. John Woo), Miller transforms his gory content into true poetry. In fact, That Yellow Bastard combines story, dialogue, and art in a way that any comic reader will appreciate, provided he's willing to sift through the pile of severed limbs and ravaged organs to find the book's dark heart.

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