I wish Frank Miller’s Holy Terror didn’t have to exist, but it does. With that said, we should all thank our lucky stars that guys like him are willing to tell the story.

Frank Miller’s Holy Terror came out a decade after 9/11. For those who don’t know Frank by his artwork, you might recognize him by the celluloid adaptations: 300 and Sin City. If you’re fan of the grittier, darker portrayals of Batman, you can also thank Miller. In short, he’s an artist with a body of work that can claim to have reached the rarefied air of genius.

What really makes Frank Miller an interesting case study is his epiphanic eye opener to the “existential menace” that is radical Islam. His NPR piece, This Old Cloth, is beautiful and touching and sad:

Then came that sunny September morning when airplanes crashed into towers a very few miles from my home and thousands of my neighbors were ruthlessly incinerated — reduced to ash. Now, I draw and write comic books. One thing my job involves is making up bad guys. Imagining human villainy in all its forms. Now the real thing had shown up. The real thing murdered my neighbors. In my city. In my country. Breathing in that awful, chalky crap that filled up the lungs of every New Yorker, then coughing it right out, not knowing what I was coughing up.

For the first time in my life, I know how it feels to face an existential menace. They want us to die. All of a sudden I realize what my parents were talking about all those years.

Patriotism, I now believe, isn’t some sentimental, old conceit. It’s self-preservation. I believe patriotism is central to a nation’s survival. Ben Franklin said it: If we don’t all hang together, we all hang separately. Just like you have to fight to protect your friends and family, and you count on them to watch your own back.

So you’ve got to do what you can to help your country survive. That’s if you think your country is worth a damn. Warts and all.

The last pages of Holy Terror turn to Dan Donegal. “A hard man. A tough cop.” Interesting thing about Dan: he sports “a cough that comes out of nowhere, no telling when, making the most body-proud health nut sound like a chain smoker.” Funny thing is, when some of us see “Dan Donegal” on the page our minds read “Frank Miller”…and it’s with that lens customers should look through as they approach the book. Some reviewers haven’t done that, and as a result their analysis has been unfair.

The plot to Holy Terror is pretty cut-and-dry, as it should be. “The Fixer” and his sidekick, Natalie Stack, must weather a storm of suicide bombers and stop a larger terrorist plot from unfolding in Empire City. It’s that simple (mainly because the nuances are almost exclusively in the artwork). Readers who are upset over the mostly black and white (and red) presentation, or the storyline that lacks intricacy, miss the point entirely, which is to highlight the distinction between “us” and “them.” Dangerous? Yes. But Frank Miller should be commended for being one of the very few artists out there with guts to do it. Holy Terror isn’t just a comic — it’s a story about how 9/11 affected an artist who was there in New York — who had friends die in the terrorist attack. That is an aspect of the book Frank had no control over.

The Comics Alliance review by David Brothers asserts that the work is bigoted, the artwork at times incoherent in indecipherable. He complains about a panel of oblivious Transformers-watching American teens juxtaposed against the stoning of a woman in the Middle East.

Dear David,

The artwork is incoherent and sloppy at times (and at times truly touching) because it reflects the confused and complex feelings of the artist. It’s in black and white, but it’s still difficult to follow — just like the subject of 9/11 and Islamic terrorism! Detached, clueless teenagers who say “Kewl” and “Awesome” in Holy Terror are propped up against a stoning because Americans are clueless and detached from the very real stonings and state-sponsored murders that go on today in places like Iran.

For the first time in a comic book, someone had the guts to shed light on the barbaric practices going on, in 2011, in the Middle East. Bravo. (This too sickens David Brothers.)

Holy Terror is at times raw, confusing, and poignant. Sometimes it angers (do you think that might be intentional, David Brothers?). It also makes anyone who reads it wonder why it had to be written in the first place. Fans of Holy Terror know why, and some of us aren’t afraid to talk about it. Critics of the book liken any frank (no pun intended) discussion of Islamic terrorism to an attempt to make it synonymous with Islam as a whole. Again, whose fault is that? Perhaps we should ask Theo Van Gogh, the Dutch film director to whom Frank Miller dedicates the book. Or not…because he’s dead, slain by Islamic radicals.

Perhaps we should ask another comic book writer and movie director, Kevin Smith. Or not…because he’s busy writing horror movies about Christians.

Frank Miller is a brave man who wrote a bold book. Go out and buy it, and then tell a friend.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

18 comments

  1. Would you say there’s a difference between Political Correctness and tact? Tact is criticism leveled against it, but I think its veiled Political Correctness taking the veil of tact.

    1. “Tact” has little to do with the vitriol the comic received. It has to do with politically correct dolts like Brothers who (along with his fellow writers at the internet tabloid Comics Alliance) being unable to accept that Islamist terrorists pose a legitimate threat to this country and try to paint the fight against them as a fight against all Muslims, which is not the case. I’ve seen other reviews where the dolts at Comics Alliance gave negative reviews to conservative-themed comics such as “The Blackwater Chronicles” but positive reviews to comics that bash America and promote their brand of loony leftism. The same can be said of other comic-review sites like The Beat, CBR and Newsarama (Doug was banned from the latter… on an article that was written about him), to name just three examples. They weren’t exactly kind of “Holy Terror,” either.

      Another example of Comics Alliance’s moonbattery: Avi at Four Color Media Monitor was once called a “racist’ by one of their writers because he questioned DC’s decision to include a Muslim Batman of France and asked whether or not they going to address any hard questions about Islam in France as opposed to the usual blame the white man stuff.

    2. Linkara of Atop the Fourth Wall recently did his review of “Holy Terror,” and boy, was that review lame. He went for the usual “it’s racist, Islamophobic and xenophobic” nonsense and then went on some bizarre rant about why Camelot was his favorite movie, which had little if anything to do with the actual comic. Linkara is also so consumed by a hatred of Frank Miller that he is incapable of giving the comic a fair shake. I haven’t watched the show since then. Couple with his radical feminism, his liberal politics (in one episode last year, he hilariously claimed to be a conservative, even though the views he espouses on screen and elsewhere are anything but) drove me away from watching the show every Monday.

    3. I believe the only videos I watched of his were the OMD Spider-Man reviews. I’m not familiar with his politics, but I’d almost like to give the “Holy Terror” review a watch in my spare time just to see how off target it is. Heck, if I had known about it earlier I may have even dedicated a blog post to the episode…

      Perhaps I’ll revisit “Holy Terror” in light of recent developments in the Middle East…

    4. Yeah, it is off-target. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me, as far as watching At4W was concerned. The show had been extremely stale for a while, to the point where I basically forced myself to watch it in the hope that would improve, but it hasn’t and then this review came along.

      If you do dedicate a blog post to it, be careful. He does have quite a following and huge presence on the internet, although he doesn’t strike me as the person who would pull Slott-like stunts. It’s his fans that are more likely to go nuts.

    5. Interesting comments in this trailer for Miller’s “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” in which someone who has actually read Holy Terror calls out some liberal idiot who does the usual “Frank Miller is a sexistbigotracisthomophobeIslamphobe” (one word) meme;

      The commenter also calls out Linkara, too, for his unobjective reviews of Miller’s stuff.

  2. So this is Frank Miller’s big project in the making. Just like I thought, still the same old grouch without any taste.

    1. He’s so tasteless that the Batman the world sees on screen these days is in many respects thanks to him, and he’s so tasteless that Sin City and 300 were translated into successful Hollywood films. He’s also so tasteless that the Netflix Daredevil series was inspired on multiple levels by his run on the book. Got it, “Dragolord09.”

    2. You mean all those shitty live-action films and TV shows? (And I’m not just talking about the ones inspired by Frank Miller, and speaking of him, between him and Mark Miller, it makes me feels ashamed to be a Miller)

    3. Let me know when you publish something that makes you proud to be a Miller. I’d be interested in checking it out and comparing it to Frank Miller’s work.

  3. I’m just an average person who has the unfortunate luck to share his last name with two of the most polarizing names in comics. Speaking of which and getting back to the subject topic, so the only reason you can hate this is if you don’t like giving Muslims a bad name and not because it feels like you’re swimming in molasses as you turn the page trying to reach the meat of the story, for example?

    1. So the only reason you can hate this is if you don’t like giving Muslims a bad name and not because it feels like you’re swimming in molasses as you turn the page trying to reach the meat of the story, for example?

      That’s a pretty bizarre thing to say given that I have never made such an argument. Let’s revisit your first comment, shall we?

      Just like I thought, still the same old grouch without any taste.

      Interesting. A personal attack on the man. No substantive discussion about the comic or references to “swimming in molasses” while reading it. Telling.

    2. Well, if you really want a blunt opinion on the book itself, I think having actual Muslims and hatred against real Muslims inside it would actually improve the quality of the book, not degrade it. It is also full of recycled characters from previous Frank Miller stories, has a very warped definition on what it considers to be “artwork”, and the villains and plot ideas used are seemingly lifted from the reject pile of the average James Bond film. If he had managed to publish it back in 2006 instead of 2011 (with or without Batman), then it could’ve been a roaring flame invigorating people, instead it’s just a burned-out story created by a burned-out man. Perhaps it is an exact portrait of a man’s emotions after a catastrophe, but an approach like that only gives out short, conflicting bursts of emotional output, no lasting power behind it.

  4. To be honest, I had forgotten all about you and this site after all this time, you’re not an easy personality to remember. You don’t really stand out among the crowd, if you get my drift.

    1. You don’t really stand out among the crowd, if you get my drift.

      And yet…you came back again and again over the course of months. Heh. I give you an ‘A’ for effort on the comeback.

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