Holy Terror

Holy TerrorSummary: There’s a deadly menace somewhere in Empire City, and The Fixer only has until dawn to save his town – and civilization as we know it! Legendary Comics presents an all-out, head-busting, bone-breaking, neck-snapping brawl of a tale from Frank Miller, one of the most celebrated storytellers of the medium. Years in the making, HOLY TERROR features the desperate and brutal quest of a hero as he is forced to run down an army of murderous zealots in order to stop a crime against humanity.

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Holy Terror, by Frank Miller 7.0

Holy polemic, Batman! I had read comments on the nerdternets about the once-revered Frank Miller going crazy, but I had no real sense of what these people were talking about. After reading ‘Holy Terror’, I can see why some people have completely dismissed him as the mad genius who lost his genius.

In this graphic novel, which was entirely penciled and penned by Miller, we are treated to a thinly-veiled Batman story that is analogous to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Miller has disingenuously claimed that it was not a Batman story, that it’s an entirely new hero that he’s made up, something closer to Dirty Harry.

It takes one quick glance to see through all his BS, especially if one has read Miller’s own Batman and Sin City books: instead of New York, this one takes place in Empire City (a.k.a. Gotham City), and it features our hero The Fixer (a.k.a The Batman), cat-burglar Natalie Stack (a.k.a Catwoman) and Captain Dan Donegal (a.k.a. Commissioner Jim Gordon).

The fact is that this book (once dubbed ‘Holy War, Batman!’) was originally designed as a Batman book, but DC Comics editor Bob Schreck moved on to Legendary Comics and Frank Miller followed him. Personally, I suspect that the DC crowd were likely uncomfortable with the project. That’s my theory. Either way, it’s clear that under the Legendary umbrella, Miller couldn’t use Batman.

Hence the “new” hero.

Anyway, this book has very little character development and only a sketchy story to it. Why it took five years to publish (it was originally announced in 2006) is beyond me, because it couldn’t have been especially challenging to put it together: given that it’s (not)Batman, we don’t need introductions, all Miller had to do was to pen a terrorist attack and (not)Batman’s response to it.

I may be stating the obvious, but, given the subject matter and Miller’s penchant for extremes, the end result is all venom and blood – for good or bad.

Unlike some people, I honestly have no issue with Miller expressing his anger in his book. The attacks of September 11th traumatized people aplenty and animosity can be a natural reaction. What bothers me is the simplistic expression of this anger and Miller’s extremely delayed reaction – what may be understandable in the shadows of 9/11 seems irrational a decade later.

Seriously, what has Miller been doing all this time? Seething silently, letting the fury eat away at his soul?

If only it were clever then maybe there would be a justification for the book’s existence – satire or allegory can be intelligent if not profound ways to discuss difficult subject matter. However, Miller imbues his books with a juvenile revenge fantasy replete with violence, stereotypes and superficial humour. This is not a work of literary art.

It is, however, a visual work of art in some fashion. For instance, the inking of ‘Holy Terror’ is phenomenal; I found the way that Miller renders the inky blackness of night, the city’s shadows and how he contrasts the elements in his books extremely pleasing to the eyes. I would love to see Miller ink other people’s work, even though I suspect that his style is better suited to his penciling style.

Beyond that aspect of the book, however, ‘Holy Terror’ has very little to offer and will likely offend many.

For my part, I take major objection to his inclusion of Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton in his list of “enemies”. Say what you will about them and their politics, but they weren’t in the picture when the attacks of September 11 took place – so including them is inappropriate. There may be others that I didn’t recognize, of course. Maybe there were some Republicans too.

But, quite frankly, Miller’s anger has obviously seen little release during Dubya’s years as president. So what gives? Why not blame him too? I mean, if you can take Dubya off the hook, then give his successor a chance for crissakes! He inherited the mess.

Another thing that annoys me about ‘Holy Terror’ is Miller’s self-righteous indignation about the way Muslims treat women. Obviously, being low-brow commentary, he makes a few perfunctory comments about the issue. Problem is that he himself dresses up his heroine, (not)Catwoman in bondage gear and later proceeds to have her tied up in something akin to Japanese rope bondage.

Um… yeah, you just proved just how evolved Westerners are compared to the Jihadists, Miller. Well done. *shakes head*

All of this would likely be okay and taken as satire if not for his public invectives and for the fact that he hasn’t done a companion book on the religious right – which, let’s face it, is filled with fanatics of its own. He also doesn’t put out graphic novels about the North American predilection for school shootings – which are predominantly caused by white males of Christian descent.

I’m not saying that commentary on terror (or even the so-called “War on Terror™”) is a terrible notion, it’s just that there needs to be balance. Miller doesn’t even know the meaning of the word, and has consequently crafted a book too unsubtle to be a work of art; it’s excessive, polarizing stuff and it could only play well with the Tea Party crowd.

The Frank Miller of ‘Holy Terror’ is to the Frank Miller of ”The Dark Knight Returns’ as the vigilante death squad from ‘Magnum Force‘ are to Dirty Harry. Miller once had edge, was controversial and highly-influential, but he has now edged over the line. Hopefully he hasn’t lost his way back and we will see the Miller of old anew.

Truth be told, ‘Holy Terror’ isn’t a horrible book – no less than ‘Triumph des Willens’ isn’t a terrible movie. At issue here is the spirit in which it was made and the position(s) that it takes.: thematically, it’s a narrow-minded approach to a complicated issue, one that could be labelled irresponsible. Still, the book has been crafted with relative skill.

In the end, the key question is whether one wants to subject themselves to Miller’s ‘Holy Terror’. For me, once was enough.

What do you think?

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