Robot 6

The Middle Ground #71 | Holy Terrible

There’s no way to get around it: Even in its reworked form, Holy Terror is a goddamn Batman story. Frank Miller’s long-awaited superhero vs. terrorist graphic novel finally emerges this week, and it’s everything you’d think it would be … including “visually impressive,” “disturbingly simplistic” and, to be honest, proof that terrorism seems to have worked in Miller’s case.

Oddly enough, for a book that starts out as an almost comically obvious reworking of Batman pages — there’s no way to avoid groaning at how phoned-in Miller’s revisions are to the beginning of the book — Holy Terror ends up feeling less like a Batman book than the work of someone who was profoundly affected by the events of September 11th, to the point where fear took over from whatever artistic drive used to push Miller’s work. This isn’t a story as much as a revenge fantasy from someone who is clearly terrified of the world that he’s found himself living in, and closed himself off from reality as a result; not only are the terrorist villains of the book ridiculously simplistic, but so is the “war” that the Fixer carries out against them. The terrorist characters that appear fulfill almost every single stereotype imaginable about them, including an apparent ability to be wherever they need to be to destroy a helicopter just because the plot demands it, and because it makes the “enemy” more unknowable and scary, and yet they can easily be defeated with guns and bombs, because, you know, more violence is always the answer.

It’s a willfully stupid book, I think; pitched as a mix of parody and propaganda — something that could be used to describe most of Miller’s superhero work, arguably — there’s a sense that it’s so painfully unfunny because the jokes are all old and weren’t that good to begin with. With the exception of a genuinely beautifully illustrated, kinetic opening sequence (ignore the dialogue, admittedly), the book feels almost unfailingly tired and desperate, as if trying to convince itself of its own relevance as much as the reader, and failing throughout. Everything in here feels dated, cliched in the worst possible ways (“Not all of us around here have a problem with english, my curvy young infidel,” says the leader of the terrorist cell, while “Natalie Stark,” Catwoman-in-all-but-name, kneels in bondage at the forefront of the panel, trussed up in rope that, of course, emphasizes her breasts) and profoundly unnecessary. Even more so than Miller’s other work, the writing here is reductive to the point of offensiveness — David Brothers makes a great point here about Miller’s mistaking faith for jihad — and the entire book reads like the fantasy of an old man who wishes things were easy like the stories of earlier wars that he grew up on, refusing to complicate his world view with nuance or facts.

There’s little to recommend this, beyond Miller’s name recognition. It’s easy to imagine DC Comics’ editorial recoiling in horror upon reading whatever he’d completed back when he wanted it to be a Batman book, and it’s depressing to see it become the first book from Legendary Comics, if only because it really is just a crappy comic, even if you ignore the problematic propaganda and politics behind it (The art is completely uneven, going from spectacular to scratchy, simply-inked angular work that looks like it’s come from a different artist altogether; the dialogue never reaches above sub-noir cliche, the plot mechanics are laughable). As a comic that’s likely to get a lot of attention outside the comic press purely because of Miller’s involvement, this is an ugly advertisement for the worst comics has to offer, and an embarrassment all round.

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11 Comments

Enjoyed alot of Mr Millers older stuff. The god damn Batman upset me to the point where I wouldn’t walk across the street to get a pound of his books for free. If you can’t finish what you start it’s not professional. If you think you can just puke out trash because of your name, shame on you.

>the dialogue never reaches above sub-noir cliche

Was this a surprise?

Finally a review that mentions the “pitched as a mix of parody and propaganda” thing. The last paragraph of this review is what I was waiting for. It seems like most people are just focused on the cliches about Islam, when that should have been expected going in.

And this is worse than sin city how?

“it really is just a crappy comic, even if you ignore the problematic propaganda and politics behind it”

It’s hard to make art when you’re peeing your pants.

— MrJM

“And this is worse than sin city how?”

That any evidence Frank Miller may have demonstrated of any skill as a draftsman and storyteller between 1991 and 1999 (and even before that), is now completely obliterated?

You couldn’t tell what was going on in the story because of the incessant spattering of Liquid Paper on every page. The coloring to highlight individual character details came off as unformed splotches. I couldn’t figure out who half the caricatures Miller was doing, and thought the other half were weak. Miller thinks “Al-Qaeda” translated to English is “The Cell”, and goes on a bit of a comparison to a biological cell — but the translation of “Al-Qaeda” is “The Base” not “The Cell”. He can’t even go back to re-letter that sequence replacing “Cell” with “Base” in a second-printing, without eliminating an entire word-balloon. Just shoddy fact-checking. The paper stock on the book itself was as thin as tracing-paper, so you could see thru to the other side of the page — just incredibly poor production values all around. If anyone can dare to call this “good”, I would probably hit them.

I said it once before, but Frank Miller is a tired, old horse that’s ready for the glue factory. I feel sorry for whatever has eaten his mind. If he’s actually lost someone (someone *specific* — and not just the vague “3000 of my neighbors” he spouts on about in every interview) in the tragedy of September 11, 2001, then I might start to understand what’s happened to him. But after a decade, he’s not come clean on whether he suffered a genuine, identifiable loss that day, so I can only conclude that of all the people in the world, Frank Miller has processed the events of September 11, 2001, in the absolute worst way possible. This isn’t some anti-conservative screed, either — Frank Miller is plainly mentally ill and needs help in the worst way.

Just out of curiosity, we’re all certain this isn’t just a misunderstood parody? Miller really believes all this?

Haven’t had a chance to pick up the book yet. I had fully intended on it, but this review has turned me off pretty quickly.

I read his book with Eisner and it just breaks my heart to think the man who did such a beautiful interview about the medium could have been reduced to this.

I look forward to the book where a Frank Miller character solves unemployment by punching it in the face.

“Just out of curiosity, we’re all certain this isn’t just a misunderstood parody? Miller really believes all this?”

Frank Miller’s Legion of Apologists and Uncanny Yes-Men have been trotting out the “parody” excuse for well over a decade now to gloss over the fact that their hero has lost it. You can’t keep excusing a decade of poorly conceived and poorly executed comics by chalking it up to an artist taking the piss. Eventually anyone with any critical faculties at all has to concede that this stuff is not good by any standard.

@comicfan

you don’t like Sin City?? HA HA HAHA. Every comment you ever make in life is irrelevant then

I think you’re being unfair to subnoir, curvy infidel.

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