Holy Terror

Batman The Fixer and Catwoman a hot cat burglar are fighting slash fucking on a rooftop in Gotham Empire City when an Al-Qaeda suicide bomber explodes all over the place and sets into motion a tremendously knuckleheaded chain of events. Even more knuckleheaded that one time Batman gratuitously napalmed a gang of thugs in All Star Batman & Robin.

Diplomacy, Frank Miller style. The most disappointing thing about Holy Terror is that those involved didn't stick with their guns and keep this a Batman project. The best way to read Holy Terror is just to pretend that it is Batman. It certainly looks like Batman. And sounds like (Frank Miller) Batman. Miller obviously doesn't keep any Tipp-Ex in his office, because Jim Gordon retains his signature moustache and glasses. He actually looks more like Gary Oldman in this than Commissioner Gordon in the official Batman Begins adaptation book. To re-iterate though, it's not Commissioner Gordon. It's not Batman either. Nor Catwoman, nor Gotham, honest.

Terrorists blow up Empire City, prompting The Fixer to wreak bloody revenge. Apparently Al-Quaeda have decided to take the whole city by force, which saves The Fixer from having to actually go anywhere. Because all Muslims are apparently terrorists, the final fight takes place in Empire City's oldest Mosque ("the Saudis spent a fortune on this place") which is also the terrorists' hiding place. But of course it is.

Anyone who reads modern Frank Miller will have been acutely aware of how Holy Terror was going to turn out. It does not disappoint. This is not the Frank Miller of Batman: Year One or The Dark Knight Returns, Daredevil or even Sin City. This is xenophobic Frank Miller, propagandist. Except propaganda is supposed to make your own country look good, and Holy Terror makes America look stupider than ever. This isn't Captain America punching Hitler on the jaw. This is someone claiming that you can solve all of the world's problems by shooting them. Or "postmodern diplomacy," as he calls it.

The art though, is good. It depends on how much to one's tastes Frank Miller's art is (and the art in Holy Terror is very Frank Miller-y) but it's vibrant, thrilling and expressive. Some of it isn't very clear, but there's that old Frank Miller inventiveness we've all come to know and love. The attack and its immediate aftermath is the best section of the book, before it has a chance to become all angry and self-righteous. Miller really gets across the sense of shock, terror, disbelief and confusion. The stark, black & white imagery is great, reminiscent of his work on Sin City.

Even the script shows occasional flashes of wit. A terrorist comes at The Fixer and shouts "Jihad!" Fixer grunts "gesundheit" and kicks him off a building. It's a cheap laugh, but I did laugh. The rest of it, sadly, reads like a Frank Miller parody. One could argue Holy Terror as a work of self-parody or winking irony (and the only way to enjoy it is ironically) but mostly it's just not-Batman going around shooting terrorists and blowing up Mosques whilst a complete lack of sympathetic Muslim characters proliferates. The word 'Islamophobia' is bandied around quite a lot on these Internets nowadays, but in the case of Holy Terror, it's apt.

Holy Terror is not for the easily offended nor for the discerning comic book fan. If you can take it with a pinch of salt and a disappointed shake of the head, there's some fun to be had.


  1. Sadly, "Holy Terror" is NOT self-parody.

    If anyone out there remembers Barry Blair's "Gun Fury," then that is what this book reminded me of. Only expected to be taken seriously and not as a spoof of violent comic book heroes.

    I'm trying to figure out whether Miller's talent has degraded over the years, or whether he was the beneficiary of intelligent and strong editorial guidance early in his career and that post-"Sin City" his ego became to big for anyone to manage. (I'm leaning toward the latter, given the similarities between Denny O'Neil-edited Batman and Moon Knight.)

  2. No, I don't think Miller is even capable of self-parody. Which is a shame, given the stature of his most famous works.

    Whether his talent has degraded or his ego increased (and others' ability to influence his output thereby decreased) it's a great loss.