Written by Frank Miller
Art by Frank Miller
Release Date: September 28, 2011
Cover Price: $29.99
To say that Frank Miller‘s Holy Terror is offensive would be an understatement. It’s certainly not for the weak at heart, nor is it for those that would prefer not to read a comic laced with profanity and innuendo. But when you read a Frank Miller comic, you pretty much know what you’re getting in to. Considering the history behind the comic and its creator, Holy Terror is certainly a comic book written and drawn by Frank Miller.
For those that don’t know the history of the book, let me shed some light on it for a moment. Holy Terror was originally going to be called Holy Terror, Batman! and was going to feature The Caped Crusader exacting his revenge on Al-Queda for the September 11, 2001 attacks on The United States and New York City, specifically.
Frank Miller’s rage towards the perpetrators of the attacks caused his writing to take Batman far beyond what would be suitable for one of DC Comics’ most popular characters. So, when former DC editor Bob Schreck, the man responsible for having Miller’s All Star Batman and Robin: The Boy Wonder and Holy Terror, Batman! at DC, was appointed as one of the heads of Legendary Comics, Holy Terror and Frank Miller followed suit. This move to the new film studio-backed comic publisher gave Miller the ability to create analogs of Batman, Catwoman, and Commissioner Gordon and turn them into murdering, torturing, rage-aholics with a limited vocabulary. And when I say analogs, I mean the most obvious analogs that someone could ever come up with. Sure, the names are changed, but if you’ve read Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns or The Dark Knight Strikes Again, then you can tell the obvious similarities between the characters. The analogs for Batman and Catwoman look exactly like a Miller-drawn Batman and Catwoman with the ears erased. So, as a result of this, it’s extremely difficult to strip away the fact that this is a Batman story. So, a lot of the character work in this plays as such. The story, on the other hand, does not. Not one bit.
Frank Miller wrote and drew this comic as a result of the September 11 attacks on the United States, and at the time, the United States was very angry. And honestly, a lot of our popular media was filled with ignorant and racist portrayals of Muslims and all middle easterners. And, well, Holy Terror fits with that line of thinking. This book could basically be described as the graphic novel adaptation of the song “Courtesy of The Red, White, and Blue” by Toby Keith. And y’know, at the time, it was understandable. I’m not saying it was okay, because it absolutely wasn’t. Every time anything like this came out, it pissed me off to no end. But The United States was in a time of unrest, mourning, and anger, so it’s completely understandable that our popular culture would reflect those feelings. But the only problem is, we’ve grown substantially since then. And since Frank Miller’s book took basically a decade to be completed, those reflections of the time period cause this book to fall completely flat because that was this book’s main goal.
Holy Terror is simple. Extremely simple. It starts off with the Batman analog, The Fixer, chasing after a cat burglar named Natalie Stack, who is basically Catwoman. The Fixer catches her, they beat each other up, and then we see what is best described as a blood-filled make-out section. This introduction to the story is Frank Miller at his finest. It boasts the Miller-specific style that I am a huge fan of and is shown in a wonderful example of sequential art. After this, though, terror strikes. Both figurative and literal. A bomb of nails explodes in Empire City, a mirror Gotham City and New York City. After the bomb we are greeted into a descent into the propaganda story. The Fixer and Stack go on a mission fueled by rage and revenge upon those responsible for the attack. In this, the back 75 percent of the comic we see an all-out bloodbath filled with murder and torture perpetrated by the “heroes” of this story. But again, the problem with this as propaganda fiction is that it’s about a decade too late. As I said above, we’ve grown away from this kind of media.
Aside from our growth as a country, the book is tackling an extremely important and serious matter, and it does so terribly. The majority of the book is filled with tragedy and horrible actions, but as of Frank Miller’s recent work, it almost feels like satire. For example, after the nail bomb, which is as insane as it sounds, Natalie Stack gets hit in the leg with a nail. When she realizes this she says, “A nail. A Goddamn nail. What the Hell’s a Goddamn nail doing stuck in my Goddamn leg? What’s with that?” Which again, plays out as ridiculously as it sounds it would. After this, a razorblade bomb goes off in Empire City. Again, insane. This is only a tiny example of the insanity in this book. So, with good reason, when you read this, you’re probably going to laugh at the insanity because it feels like satire. But, if you’ve read any interviews or know anything at all about Frank Miller, you know that this is the furthest thing from satire, which makes the book not only offensive, but possibly damaging. If there is one person out there that feels a thrill from this book’s rage-fueled murder and torture party, I fear for that person.
The book, though, is not without its merits. Frank Miller’s art style is unlike anyone else’s, and it’s at its best in this book. It also is unfortunately at its worst as certain parts of the book appear almost as a marker-drawn rush job. But overall, the dynamic uses of ink and colors splashes in a predominately black and white comic are beautiful, and if you’re a fan of Miller’s, you should definitely buy it. I got a digital review copy of Holy Terror, but I’ll still probably buy the physical copy because the presentation of the art is done so well. I mean, I own copies of Alan Moore’s Lost Girls, and Frank Miller’s Absolute Dark Knight collection for the presentation of the work alone. So, this book will fit in on that bookshelf. I can see myself flipping through the pages and admiring the art, but I can never picture myself reading the book’s narrative again.
If you’re reading this review, I’m pretty sure that you’ve already made up your mind whether or not you’re going to read this. And honestly, as bad and damaging as it might be, I encourage you do pick this up. It’s important. It’s important to see that a book like this can exist and what it represents. It’s a work of a certain time period when the world was confused and angry, but unfortunately for it, that time has passed. So, to me, this book makes me really happy and excited as it reminds me how far we’ve gotten as a culture, and that’s a very good thing that this book does. I hope we never revisit a time that encourages the tone and voice of Holy Terror.