Underrated: Frank Miller’s Holy Terror

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Frank Miller’s Holy Terror

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For those who haven’t heard of this book, I’ll give you a little background before we get started. Written and drawn by Frank Miller, and published by Legendary in 2011, Holy Terror follows a superhero called The Fixer as he battles against an Al Qaeda cell who are intent on destroying Empire City. Originally slated as a Batman book, Miller changed direction during the creation process to establish a new hero who, according to the writer, is “much more well adjusted in committing terrible acts of violence on very evil people.” Although depending on the source, DC pulled the plug on the project… (which is what  I had heard prior to researching  a little).  Reviews at the time weren’t kind to the work, with criticisms of extreme xenophobia, racism, and labelled the book a gross simplification of matters that ignores any nuance or empathetic slant as Miller lumps all of Islam into a single pot and calls them terrorists.

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This is a book that cultivates anger, and although at the time Miller defended his work with claims it’s a piece of propaganda, in a 2018 interview with the Guardian, he had this to say about the book; “When I look at Holy Terror, which I really don’t do all that often, I can really feel the anger ripple out of the pages… I don’t want to wipe out chapters of my own biography. But I’m not capable of that book again.”

If that wasn’t reason enough to turn away from the book, the story itself is incredibly simplistic; the Fixer sees an explosion, goes to fight those responsible for it in an increasingly excessive and violent display of force along with a cat burglar that he was at one point chasing across rooftops and having some kind of sexual encounter with prior to the explosion. At least, I think that’s what was going on. It’s kind of tough to tell with the art that looks like at times like a drunk parody of Miller’s Sin City.

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At this point you might be asking why it’s the subject of this week’s Underrated. Well, I picked this up for $1.30 at a thrift shop with the intention of covering it a column, thinking to myself that there’s no way that Holy Terror could be as bad as I’d heard it was. And it wasn’t. It was, inconceivably, worse. After talking with the Blogger-in-Chief Brett and my Those Two Geeks cohost Joe about the book, I was determined to find some redeeming features of the book so that I didn’t waste my time reading it. There had to be some, right?

There wasn’t. The story,(most of the) the art and the dialogue were awful. However, I’m nothing if not stubborn…

  • Holy Terror is frankly the worst book you will ever read (if you find a book worse than this, let me know). This means that every other comic will be better in some way.
  • Holy Terror makes Dark Knight III: The Master Race look good.
  • With this book, Frank Miller hit rock bottom hard enough to crack the ground and fall into the cracks. Nothing else he does will be as bad as this – of course he may still never create another masterpiece, but that’s not the point.
  • Holy Terror makes you appreciate the creators who are still producing consistently good work late into their careers.
  • The hardcover book itself was well put together. Shame about the content.
  • The book could keep you warm when camping if you run out of firewood – but I wouldn’t use it to cook with.
  • If you pay what I did for the book, then somebody will pay you more for it (in my case a non-local comic book shop. I don’t feel guilty).
  • It provides a somewhat amusing subject for a column, and hopefully one you get a laugh from.
  • Holy Terror is the kind of book you’ll never forget. But is that a good thing…?

Just to be clear, I am not recommending you read this unless you want to see how bad the book is. And even then, it’ll be easier to just believe the reviews and move on knowing that you’ve saved yourself half an hour of your life.

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Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.