Writer(s): Frank Miller
Artist(s): Frank Miller
US Publisher: Legendary Publishing
When terrorist group Al-Qaeda attack Empire City, it is up to the masked vigilante The Fixer and the anonymous Cat-chick to avenge the city!!
It took me a while to get to review this album put out by Frank Miller’s, Holy Terror.
Mainly because I perused it in the bookstore but the art didn’t motivated me to buy it.
So, a friend offered to lend it to me for reviewing, and (I am not kidding) he added “Don’t hurry bringing it back. It’s not a gift, but I don’t think I’m gonna re-read it anytime soon.”
After reading it twice, I kind of understood why.
The book is interesting, but not brilliant.
Is a reflection on a glorified comic auteur, who now is trying something more stylized, and who ends up with this book with mixed result.
As the majority of you may now (and for those who don’t, here is the quick summary) after the September 11th attacks in NYC, Frank Miller wanted to do a book of Batman VS. Al-Qaeda.
A few P.C. artists criticize him for thinking about it, but Miller pursued the idea. Somewhere in 2011, between brakes in films and other projects, he dignified his old fans of the medium with this book, Holy Terror, but DC pulled out of the project, so he had to change the character of Batman and Catwoman with The Fixer and Cat chick, and Gotham for Empire City.
End of the two-penny background history lesson.
The book sustains the format Frank Miller pioneered in 300, of telling the story in landscape format. Unfortunely, the paper is not as good quality as it was in the 300, in my hands it felt kinda flimsy.
The fact that the story opens with a chase is pretty standard fair in comics. The inordinate amount of time the Fixer and the Catchick spend chasing each other has no justification on this story, except that Miller felt that it was building background. It doesn’t. Or should I say, it doesn’t do it well.
Page after page I am flipping through these panels and try to appreciate the black and white, the angles, trying to find something innovative… and is just… mediocre.
I mean, the drawing at times are so stylized that I can’t figure out what the characters are doing in the panels!! No joke!!
The scratch-white techniques, the panels per page (one or two at times)
And the rest of the artistic devices present point towards artistic onanism (an artist masturbates with his own art. Its a private thing. Shhh… Don’t startle him/her). The smudges between the panels, the red boots on catchick, the lack of innovative angles in the panels…
I am starting to realize that this would make a fine comic for any artists first graphic novel, first introduction into the market. From Frank Miller… we expect a little more.
By now I am scratching my head and thinking… “Why did we spent 30 plus pages on a chase?”
(DUDE FRANK!! What did I tell you about not handling the Originals with your fingers full of ink!! SHHEESS)
Was it full of amazing backgrounds that showcased the city landscape? No.
Was is full of amazing angles and devices that made me go” WOW I’ve never seen that before!” No.
Was it full of drama and pathos, and gave me insights onto the characters that I didn’t have before?” No. Catchick being chased by generic masked due#1
Again, artistic onanism. He had to submit clean and organized originals for publishing for the last 20 years, he felt like experimenting with doing dirty drawings. Should the readers have to pay for your experimentation? Mhhh not sure about that! Any amateur adolescent artists can make a mess of the originals before submitting it to the editor. The artist jerking off. It should be done, but that doesn’t mean there should be an audience watching it.
Again, I see a few panels more and at times I am confused about the body angles and what the panel is trying to portray. I mean, when your artistic stylization gets in the way of the reader appreciating the art, and becomes a hindrance.
More explosions ensue…and I am still asking.. what is up with those red boots on catchick???
Somewhere around page 50, catchick gets yet thrown around in another explosions. Mind you, these explosions are not happening after some plot in the middle or some filler. They seem to happen like a long explosion, from page 30 till page 60. She also looses one of the red boots. And falls with one book missing, her feet bare. Then in a page later, she lands on a roof, and both freaking red boots are on again!
Now, you have put up with 50 or so pages of so-so art, and nothing worthy of a comic master.
But here you get a few pages where Frank Miller fills them with boxes, of faces, and then fills the voids of victims with recognizable faces, and slowly the expressions and the faces that those expressions give life to, start fading , till we are left with empty panels. And afterwards even the panels get smaller and smaller. The threat of disappearing for ever.
Now that is powerful graphic storytelling. Shame I had to sit through 50 pages of uninspired crap to get here.
And the two main characters continue to run through this city represented as an ink blot on the pages of the comic. We are givne a few pages with famous characters, a theme that will repeat itself on more occasions, but I don’t understand the relevance. It is as if Frank Miller wants to say “Look the world is noticing” But I don’t know what they are thinking or how this is relevant to them, because we are not given a guidance, we are not presented a plot. They just appear as talking heads. Wait! Maybe that is it? Oh well…
We continue running through the city, and the city gets represented as blotches of ink, like before, for another 15 pages or so, till we encounter the interaction of the Fixer with the cop. This baffled me, and I wanted to think that Frank Miller wanted to pay homage to the old Dick Tracy strips, but found such a homage pretty out of place here. Even a descriptive arrow? Holy smokes! That is such a bad comic device as having a voice-over narrator on a movie! Frank Miller, you are loosing me here!!!
(ANNOYING RED BOOTS? Check! Dick Tracy Watch? Check! Out of place comic strip reference? Uncertain…)
Fixer and catchick shoot terrorists, and later we get some more panels with faces that look of middle-easter origen. Why? Like the panels with the faces of GW Bush and Michael Moor, I don’t know.
The next page, 80something brings one of the panels that stirs most controversy on comic forums. When the Fixer calls the captive terrorist, Mohammed. I didn’t even paid attention to this due to the awful script I was reading so far, but when I did my second round, I remembered the controversy, and went… “Meh”
At this point I am more concerned with the quantity of silhouette drawing that we get to see in the panels. Is like Frank Miller got too lazy to draw the detail and went…”Fuckit! Let me get out my thick brush, and they can imagine the details!”
In one page we get another or those “Famous people” panels. Sarah Palin is looking well rendered with big surprised eyes, like an ostrich caught by Willey Coyote, next to Vladimir Putin and Karzway. Underneath we have people watching transformers-like movie and saying “Epic, KEWL, AWOSEMO” while in the next panel , some silhouettes in black are stoning a woman buried in the ground calling her INFIDEL, SLUT WHORE.
I mean, I get the impact, but I find it forced and strangely out of narrative pacing. In other words… I don’t know why this is here or how it pertains to the story.
Then we get the shots of the Statue being demolished, and I found them pretty powerfull, and even when we got to the third page of famous faces, with Obama, Biden, Kim Yong Ill and Hillary in them, among others.
Be aware that the narrative mess doesn’t end here. The two main characters meet with some other characters, one with a star of david tattooed on his face, and two ninjettes, and after that meeting… we don’t see them again.
Lets add to the narrative pyre of doom. Obama seems to be speaking with his thumbs up (no caption or balloon, so who knows what he is saying) and then there are four panels of a man on a phone with a woman of a burka, and by the fourth panel he has beaten her bloody. Why? Something for the Miller Q&A I guess.
Now Miller fabricates an ancient city under Empire city, full of caves and adorns the panel with Greek helmets. And to show that he is not prejudiced against a single group of people, he makes an Irish man be an accomplice to the Al-Queada terrorists. I CAN”T WAIT TO READ THE OUTRAGE OF ALL THE IRISH-BORN AMERICANS WHO ARE GOING TO PROTEST THE STEREOTYPING.(End of ironic moment in the review)
The next 20 pages is going to show some of the most detail work on the book, so try to enjoy them, cause after that, the book is finished.
So, like I said before, this book may be a commendable effort by a new artist coming to the field of comics. It may be a bit thin on plot and the narrative may be all over the place, but for a newbie.. ok. With the body of work he has behind him, it is a pretty lamentable attempt at a comic by Frank Miller. The story is awkwardly paced and with deplorable voicing of the characters.
The art doesn’t do much to showcase anything new.
Miller may be new to the white-etching, but Enrique Breccia ,Alberto Breccia, Pepe Gonzalez, and Jose Ortiz have been doing it since the 1970’s. And even for some of them it got old quick. You have to use it scarcely.
So, on my Critic’s rating, Frank Miller’s Holy Terror gets
5 Stars out of 10
Needless to say, my friend will be getting this book back pretty quick, since space is a valuable commodity in NYC.
AS A POLITICAL COMMENTARY ON THIS COMIC:
Let me dispel with something off the bat: This book is being criticized as being offensive and being racist, and being a lot of things that resonate with people’s sense of political correctness and moral compass.
I don’t agree with the majority of those critics and don’t agree with the majority of the reason those said critics put forth.
I took the time to write to the article I found on http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/09/26/frank-millers-holy-terror-review/ (Written by David Brothers) and posted a response on this blog, https://comicwatcher.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/one-day-my-brain-will-explode-part-2-how-a-reviewer-of-holy-terror-got-me-riled-up/
I consider most of the critic’s who focus on the ideological side of it to be either automatic political correctness or just character cowardliness. (and no, I am not singling out David Brothers here at all, please)
Frank Miller and I were both in New York City when September 11th attacks took place. We were both lesser victims of those events and we both witnessed things that most normal people shouldn’t have to witness ever. Period.
Some individuals are inclined to think that because Miller chose to make a terrorist group of Islamic background the bad guys in this comic that makes him anti-muslim or racist.
In this book I found a story where Frank Miller uses a character that has no depth, The Fixer, and is inclined to oversimplification, think a stereotypical republican on ideological steroids! Miller’s character has flaws and his story lacks balance, but that doesn’t make this story about racism, or prejudicial.
Yes, he does call the terrorist Mohammed, and the character clarifies that he is likely to be statistically correct. Well, turns out that statistically, that name is more likely to be given to a member of Al_Queada, than Juan or Lui-Fan.
According to the sixth edition of The Columbia Encyclopedia (2000), Muhammad is the most common given name in the world, including variations. It is estimated that more than 150 million men and boys in the world bear the name Muhammad.
I had always been more concerned with the lack of emotion or action perceived by the muslim community after the September 11th attacks.
The muslim community did say that they were appalled.
They did say they condemned it.
But I never saw a fund set up for victims; I never saw advertisement of their activities to change the image they had in New York.
That is not to say they didn’t. I researched further and found lots of mosques and community groups taking part in initiatives for moral support and healing. But they never bothered to publicized them, and the image of the Muslim faith in NYC remains something of an outsider and not re-conciliatory. Even though most New Yorkers choose not to take issue with it. And that speaks to the nobility and amazing character of native New Yorkers.
That PERCEIVED lack of action on the part of the muslim community offended me to no end. The fact that there was no EVIDENT and CONSTANT rising of the muslim community to condemn the attacks, and show that they were actively combating Al-Qaeda in the city they chose to attack.
But I consider my self an US Citizen. A nation with an amazing Constitution and amazing Bill of Rights. I believe in pluralism of races and faith, and that’s why, when the time came, I voiced my protest AGAINST the people protesting against the mosque in downtown. I want the US to be the pluri-cultural multireligious nation it was designed to be. Contrary to popular belief, the US IS NOT A CHRISTIAN NATION, NOR WAS EVER INTENDED TO BE ONE. That’s why the funding fathers signed the Tripoli Treaty in November 4, 1796 and at Algiers, where it stipulates that “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”
I don’t change subway cars when a lady with a burka walks in, and I don’t refuse hiring anyone because said person have to pray to mecca.
I do have no tolerance for terrorists. Terrorist as in an assassin who would harm innocents to convey a belief system, whether is political or religious. Al-Qaeda is that.
So is E.T.A., so is the I.R.A. and many more.
I don’t have to find out why they are doing it, I don’t have to listen to their reasons, I don’t have to give them an iota of my time.
They chose violence, I chose to deny them my attention.
So I have no problem with Frank Miller using these new Nazis, the terrorist, as the oversimplification of the eternal war of good versus evil.
They make themselves fair game.
I found nothing patently offensive against good muslim people in this book.
Good people will always be good, no matter their religion, race or origins.