HOLY TERROR, BATMAN!
Comic Book maestro Frank Miller has produced some of the medium’s finest works of art. The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City, Batman: Year One, Hard Boiled, Ronin, Martha Washington, and Big Guy & Rusty the Boy Robot. Each one of these books is a punch to the back of the skull. Wake Up Comic Nerds! It’s not all spandex and secret identities! Miller doesn’t deal in subtlety; his inherent charm is that he’s everything but subtle. He’s angry. He’s brutal. He’s over-the-top machismo. He’s a brick through a window, smashing your expectations of superheroics and grinding your face in the wreckage left behind. Or at least that’s what he was.
Something’s happened to Frank Miller of late. He’s become a characterture of his former self. I suppose it started with the ridiculous “This Is Sparta!” bravado of 300, but his insane ink work and the beautiful splash colors of Lynn Varley made it easy to accept the violent revelry, and who really cares if it’s historically inaccurate (well, Alan Moore certainly did)? And with the release of All Star Batman (aka The God Damn Batman) and Robin the Boy Wonder in 2001, comic book fanboys definitely seemed ready to strip the knight of his title. I guess a Caped Crusader who spouts as much gravely terror and vitriol as Sin City’s Marv has no place in the current world of the DC Universe…And I start to wonder, has Frank Miller changed since The Dark Knight Returns or have we?
The latest release from the director of The Spirit (low blow? No, I actually love that Loony Tunes/Sin City mashup) is an insane piece of work that has already caused a mini sensation across the internet. Holy Terror, released from Legendary Pictures’ new comic brand offshoot, was originally conceived as yet another saga for The Dark Knight, “Holy Terror, Batman!” A title that would have filled at least this Burt Ward enthusiast with great giddy glee. But I guess someone over at DC or Miller himself got cold feet and Holy Terror was reworked into an original story involving a Bats stand-in called The Fixer (cape & cowl minus ears) taking on Al Qaeda after an attack on the Gotham City stand-in Empire City.
As is, Holy Terror is a train wreck of a book. The story opens with The Fixer chasing the Cat Burglar (uh, Catwoman) over Empire City’s rainy rooftops, her Sin City noir inner monologue setting the tone for this eye-roller, “He’s Right On My Ass. Right. On. My. Ass. What is His Goddamn Problem? All I Did Was Steal A Lousy Diamond Bracelet. And Now He’s Right On My Ass.” They FUDD, KONCH, and POW across 16 pages before they stumble into an embrace and they punch and make-out for another four pages until an explosion interrupts their lovemaking. A series of nail bombs have ignited across the city; The Fixer immediately knows that Al Qaeda is to blame and the two begin their own holy war of torture and death against the terrorists.
And it’s painful. We have the POV of a female suicide bomber just before she pops in a club. We have three pages of victims fading from existence. We have representations of Michael Moore, Barack Obama, George W Bush, and Dick Cheney sneering. We have Cat Burglar screaming about a nail stuck in her leg, “What the Hell’s A Goddamn nail doing stuck in my goddamn leg?” The Fixer’s response, “It’s war, Darling. It’s War.” Gah, painful.
The last third of the book is comprised of The Fixer and Cat Burglar taking the fight to Al Qaeda. After consulting with the ex-Mossad agent known as David (he has the Star of David tattooed over his face), the two super heroes gather lots and lots of guns and infiltrate Empire City’s largest Mosque where Al Qeada is hiding in their massive underground fortress. Some bondage here, some shadowy overlord philosophy there, and oodles and boodles of machine gun fire, stabbings, and toxic gas everywhere. Can we take Holy Terror seriously? Are we meant to?
So, anything positive to say about Holy Terror? Yeah, there’s some pretty art on display. The book opens with that Sin City scratch rain that hits the right spots of my film noir brain. And there are plenty of other great splash page moments in the book; the Statue of Lady Justice (aka the Statue of Liberty) exploding, the smoky nail bomb aftermath. Unfortunately, there are also huge chunks of the book in which the art is incredibly simplistic. Rushed. As The Fixer and Cat Burglar are mowing down terrorist after terrorist backgrounds fade away, detail disappears, and there is barely an impression of action at work.
Frank Miller has been working on this book for nearly ten years, it’s obviously his very angry response to 9/11 and I’m glad he got it out of his system. He may have once meant it to be a piece of propaganda in the same vein of Captain America punching out Hitler, but it’s too late for that. I want him to move on, I want us to move on. Who knows how I would have responded to this book if it had been released several years earlier, a touch closer to that tragedy and maybe I would be cheering along with Batm-uh, The Fixer’s brutal beatdown on the terrorists. As is…I feel like Sam Jackson in Jackie Brown after he’s fired a round in Robert De Niro’s gut, “You used to be beautiful, man.”
IT’S BIG BOOTAY!
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