Holy Terror by Frank Miller

Holy Terror
by Frank Miller
Legendary, 2011

This would never have been published if it weren’t for Miller’s past genius, but it’s been years since any of his work has been enjoyable. The Dark Knight Returns is in many ways the ultimate superhero comic, and it should’ve been the last word on Batman. Unfortunately, things didn’t end there. The legacy of his brilliant, original “gritty reboot” concept (along with Watchmen) was a world full of nothing but gritty reboots, giving a violent, childish, misogynist genre enough of a kick to keep it sputtering along for another quarter of a century. Comic books “grew up” with more sex, more violence, more nihilism, more hypermasculinity, and the comics medium (and, subsequently, cinema) is poorer for it.

Sin City was also fantastic, a noir-inspired crime comic opus, unapologetically unpleasant and sexist, but still damn entertaining. After that it becomes increasingly harder to like or justify Miller’s work. 300 was jingoistic and racist – but that’s okay, because that’s how the story was presented by the narrator. The Dark Knight Strikes Again was disappointing, poorly-drawn nonsense – but that’s okay, because… it was satire? Funny, TDKR satirized the machismo and banality of Reagan’s Cold War America, and it was brilliant. All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder is basically extremely unpleasant rubbish, and demonstrated that Miller’s unforgettable characterization of the Caped Crusader as a retired Dirty Harry psychopath is ludicrous when applied to the prime of his career. “Goddamn Batman“, indeed.

The less said about his dreadful debasement of Will Eisner’s magnificent The Spirit, the better.

Anyway, Holy Terror was originally Holy Terror, Batman!, until DC comics had a rare spasm of taste and dropped the project. So Miller lopped the little ears off Batman’s costume and turned him into “The Fixer” and lopped the little ears off Catwoman (but kept her big dumb rollerblades) and made her ‘Natalie Stack: Cat Burglar”. He didn’t, as you can tell, try very hard.

It’s a shame that the excellence of the artwork (huge panels, scratches, scrapes and slabs of black on white, the best thing he’s drawn in years and an indictment of the laziness of the art in TDKSA) is utterly overshadowed by the banal dialogue, ludicrous story (Bat- I mean, The Fixer takes on Al-Qaeda, basically) and unsubtle hostility towards Islam. It begins with an out-of context quote from the Koran, and doesn’t improve. There’s a fine tradition of war propaganda in comics, but this is just fucking terrible.

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