Jack Hartigan is a cop one hour away from retirement. Senior citizen aged, he's got a bad heart and is being forced to retire. There's one loose end he wants to tie up before that day comes; bring a kiddie raper to justice. His partner, Bob, tries to dissuade him from pursuing the raper, but Jack can't let a helpless child become another victim, so he knocks out Bob and goes after the molester alone. According to his informant the child's name is Nancy Callahan (who we recognize from the first Sin City story). The "drooling lunatic" he's after is the son of Senator Roark, and Bob fears taking on such a powerful person.
On his way to where his informant says Nancy Callahan is imprisoned, Jack encounters "Fat Man and Little Boy", two thugs that appeared previously in the "Babe Wore Red" story. He incapacitates them, but blacks out in the process, and almost dies. He wills himself back to life, and once again pursues the predator who has captured young Nancy Callahan. This will to live will have great implications for the ending of the story.
In a standoff between Roark and Hartigan, Hartigan shoots off the junior Roark's ear, hand, and privates. He saves Nancy from any harm, but unfortunately, he is shot in the back by his partner. Bob shoots him several more times before Jack hears approaching sirens. He fears Bob will kill little Nancy to prevent her from testifying against Senator Roark's son.
They rush Hartigan to a hospital, and when he regains consciousness he finds the Senator standing over him. Roark vows to keep Jack alive, in fact to fix his heart condition, so he will have to suffer being blamed as being a child raper himself. The Senator how enough political power to make this happen. Hartigan's wife leaves him. His lawyer is helpless. He's outcast by the hospital staff. Only Nancy Callahan, who knows the truth, comforts him and expresses her love for him. He is finally judged and imprisoned, and beaten numerously to confess to molesting Nancy. Apparently Roark can't be satisfied by convicting Hartigan with simply circumstantial evidence.
Year's pass, but Nancy writes him faithfully once a week using an alias. One day, the letters stop. Hartigan becomes worried. After they don't arrive for several weeks he comes to the conclusion that now, at age nineteen, Nancy probably has outgrown her infatuation with him. He feels alone for the first time since his imprisonment. He awakens one morning to find yellow colored man that stinks "like rotten meat" in his cell, who beats him. When Jack regains consciousness, there's a finger of a nineteen year old girl left in his cell. Hartigan fears it is Nancy's.
He calls Luicille (again from the original Sin City) to help him get out. He confesses to his "crimes", and searches for Nancy Callahan. Unbeknownst to him, he is being followed by his yellow assailant. Jack finds Nancy, now a dancer at The Saloon, and is surprised to find her "grown up and filled out." He spots (or rather smells) the man following him and tries to leave the bar before Nancy notices him, but she sees him and rushes to greet him. In the car on the way to Nancy's apartment "that yellow bastard" attacks them, and they narrowly escape. At home Nancy once again confesses her love for Jack, but he can't accept it. He takes a shower to "cool down", and is once again attacked by the yellow man, who Hartigan recognizes as Roark's son. The elder Roark had enough wealth and power to keep his son alive, although his son is now a freak of nature.
Roark Junior leaves Jack to die by hanging and takes Nancy to finish the job he started all those years ago. Hartigan dies once again, and once again wills himself to life to save Nancy. He escapes, and confronts Junior once again, this time killing him for good. Jack tells Nancy friends are on the way to collect evidence to but Senator Roark and his goons away for good. He convinces her to leave so as not to be implicated in Junior's death.
Of course, Hartigan has lied to her. Hartigan knows nothing will stop Senator Roark from finding and killing the murderers of his son, so he leaves himself as the killer, and protects Nancy's identity. He shoots himself thinking, "An old man dies, a young woman lives. Fair trade. I love you Nancy." It's this self sacrifice that makes That Yellow Bastard so interesting. The scar above Hartigan's right eye looks like a cross that's fallen over. Is Hartigan Nancy's savior? Is the scar a symbol of this? His act of will to kill himself in order to keep Nancy safe from harm has many Christian overtones. That fact that he has the willpower to overcome death does as well. Also, he seems to be one of the few honest cops in the Sin City universe. Jack Hartigan, modern day messiah? You decide.
The story also makes several self-references beyond those previously mentioned. Dwight and Shellie from The Big Fat Kill are in the background. The Farm from the first Sin City is where the final confrontation takes place. Mort, the cop from A Dame to Kill For makes a couple of appearances as well. That Yellow Bastard unifies the Sin City universe in a way none of the previous graphic novels did, which makes it such an important episode in the continuing saga of the "town without pity."
Text (c) LCB 2000
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