Holy Terror by Frank Miller

Posted October 15, 2011 by Meoskop in Book Reviews, Graphic, Novels / 0 Comments

Against a backdrop of sand color and bloody red letters, a red superhero fights with a mummy clad villainI honestly can’t believe the asking price on Holy Terror. MSRP is $29.99 and I don’t think I’d buy it for a buck. Here’s everything you need to know. “Stunning art can’t save this reactionary rage tale lacking nuance or emotional engagement.” Also? Phantom Menace had smoother dialogue. This is a propaganda piece in the worst sense of the word.

By dehumanizing Al Qaeda’s soldiers Miller wants the reader to be comfortable with their slaughter. This version of Al Qaeda is one without explanation. A Muslim’s first sip of beer before blowing up a nightclub undermines even their zealotry. In Holy Terror’s construct your choices are between violent thugs on ‘our’ side and violent thugs on ‘their’ side. There is little difference between the two. I have long been a fan of Miller’s dramatic art style, his willingness to tackle dark, complex characters and his refusal to sanitize human motivation. Holy Terror is just bad. It fails on so many levels that I am disappointed in Miller for bringing it to market.

Holy Terror is a work that would have been better served sitting in a filing cabinet, unearthed postmortem to show how the author used art as a catharsis while his self editing eye recognized it’s failure. Put to that purpose, Holy Terror could have enhanced Miller’s legacy. Instead it serves as a disappointment to me and a cautionary tale to others. Without the self awareness he brought to the characters of Sin City or the pointed humor of Martha Washington, Miller offers a shallow work I’d expect to come from a propaganda department. Here, read my  Amazon version of this review.

This one’s bad kids, really bad. Visually, it’s as stunning as Miller’s best work but Holy Terror is an uninspiring fantasy lacking all nuance. While Al Qaeda retains it’s name, New York turns into Empire City and the attacks come from deep within it’s bowels. (Like a bad taco.) The wooden conversations appear inspired by 1950’s serials (or the recent work of George Lucas), the villains ramble on to prove their lack of motivations or redemptions and our heros are too sadistically drawn to root for. Without the charm or self awareness of Sin City’s denizens they slash and slaughter their way through the gossamer thin plot.

In tone Holy Terror reminded me of an anti-semitic screed with a different ethnic focus. Miller is capable of much, much more than this. Had he put his rage aside, Miller could have offered the definitive book on terror and our need for those who fight it. Instead readers are treated to an outpouring of anger with a side of contempt. His therapy, our cash.

The Batman clone is a man who orders Americans killed as easily as he does terrorists. He is somewhere past vigilante. If this were my first Miller book it would also be my last. I’d think, nice artist, too bad about the text. The art is fantastic. Miller’s distinct style is put to excellent use in several panels, his anger fueled sketches of elected leaders as ineffective talking heads are among his best work. His signature three color art style is beautifully deployed throughout Holy Terror. Sadly, the story is abysmal. It’s tedious, it’s repetitive, it’s predictable and it’s ultimately unenjoyable. Bogged down by it’s own strident fury, Holy Terror simply isn’t worth owning.”

Frank, what happened to us? Remember in the 90’s when it was all love letters and puppy baskets? I can defend your use of sexually aggressive impossibly proportioned women, I can defend the belief that “Sometimes standing up for your friends means killing a whole lot of people” but The Fixer is no Dwight. I can’t defend what is essentially hate speech, even if that hate has solid roots. To emotionally engage with The Fixer you have to accept that his way is the only way, that there is no future beyond slaughter, that sadistic torture and murder are a sane answer to horror. Evil is eternal. There will always be madmen with new and inventive ways to terrorize the innocent. What defines a people is their reaction to it, their recognition of what is and is not decent. There is no depth to The Fixer, no brighter day. His is a world of perpetual war. It’s also really boring.