Friday, October 21, 2011

Frank Miller's "Holy Terror" (You're Fired)

Holy Terror was a massive let down that I saw coming well before I parted with 30+ dollars of my hard-earned cash.  I was just too optimistic and stupid to pay attention to foresight and rational thought.

Maybe it's the complete-ist in me.  Maybe it's overzealous veneration for an already celebrated writer.  Maybe it's the fact that I know this was meant to be a Batman story, but *for one reason or another* Miller shifted to a brand new, generic protagonist named 'The Fixer' to vent his anti-Islamist terrorism propaganda.  It's likely part all of those things...

Yes, that's 'anti-Islamist terrorism propaganda.'  Miller makes no apologies on this, a fact that made the text much more compelling, and the 30+ dollar cost a little easier to swallow.  See this link for Miller's rationale, but the semi-short version (quote, really) is this:

"So when I say that my new book, HOLY TERROR, is propaganda, I mean so in all the ways that the virtuous works of Thomas Paine practiced it, through to the ways that the current, shameless MSNBC practice it. I employ propaganda in HOLY TERROR as such. Without apology. 
Let’s keep in mind that, back in the forties, Superman punched out Adolf Hitler. Or that the O’Neil/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow series in the seventies was a left-wing screed that climaxed with Jesus strung up on the head of a jumbo jet. Subtle stuff, all of it.
Come on. Propaganda is rampant. News objectivity is a twentieth-century myth. We only complain about propaganda when we don’t agree with it."

After reading a few soft/negative reviews, I had decided not to bother, or maybe pick it up in publisher's overstock at BMV a few years down the road for pennies a glass.  A chance happening on Miller's site (linked above) led me to this quote and justification, and I just *had* to read Holy Terror to see for myself. 

If it's meant to be clever, it fails.  If it's meant to be subtle, it actually approaches the issues with a mallet.  The basic premise is this: 
- Whilst fighting/flirting with a generic female cat burgler (NOT Catwoman), a generic caped crusader-vigilante (NOT Batman) stumbles upon an Al Qaeda plot to destroy the statue of liberty.
- Generic crusader-vigilante and female catburgler love interest combat caricature terrorists while a sympathetic, gruff generic police commissioner (NOT Commissioner Gordon) provides support.

This is not a Miller drawing of Batman and Catwoman.
No!  It's 'The Fixer' and a generic female cat burgler.

The idea that Miller originally conceived this as a Batman story, pitched it as a Batman story, and started to write/draw it as a Batman story, but subsequently *decided that this wasn't a Batman story after all* makes this execution a farce, really.  The overlap is so overt and distracting, to suggest it's anything other than a lazy port is a tired and desperate lie.

In the end, politics and positionality are not the problem with Holy Terror.  Lack of originality, lack of depth, and a sublimated cowardice or impotence to write this as a Batman story drag this down much, much further.  It's these interrelated issues that are the primary failing here.  

A close and almost equal second is the often lazy and insulting art.  Several *sparse* pages seem nothing more than that.  Not artful, not minimalist, just lazy.  Full stop.

This is actually a page spread.
More lazy than meaningful, I say...
We can be thankful that this effort didn't drag the Batman franchise down with it, if nothing else.  With Xerxes confirmed as a prequel to 300, it casts doubt and anticipation on this otherwise long-awaited release as well.

Still, looks pretty effing cool...

I can't believe a Frank Miller just rated a 'You're Fired'... heavy sigh...

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