REVIEW: Holy Terror

 Holy Terror

by Frank Miller

$29.99 / Black & White / 120 pages

Legendary Comics

The only thing surprising about Holy Terror is that it came out at all.

This is not to say that the book seems too controversial to be published, or that its subject matter is such a hot-button issue that no publisher was likely to touch it. The amazement of holding the finished book stems mainly from the fact that Frank Miller announced it at WonderCon in 2006, and it had long passed the point when it became one of those “lost” books people reference and chuckle about, assuming it would never see completion.

Beyond the fact that it exists, unfortunately, Miller’s latest has nothing new to offer.

No matter where you land on the wide political spectrum that makes this country such a delight every day, no matter what you think Holy Terror is going to be, that’s exactly what it is. No one else here at iFanboy has volunteered to read the book, but had you asked one of them to try reviewing it anyway the end result would have been roughly 80% identical to actual analysis, the 20% difference accounted for by their barely concealed anger at having paid for a copy of it. If you think you’re going to be outraged by it, you will be, for all of the reasons you anticipate. If it sounds like a vicarious thrill to you, it will be; it has all the stuff in it you think it’s going to have, all the righteous bloodletting, and nothing else. It adds nothing new to the conversation or the medium. It provokes no thought other than “I hope Frank Miller is okay. Maybe this made him feel better.” It does not add to your understanding of anyone else’s way of thinking, even Miller’s. It barely entertains. The familiar art– Frank Miller, Frank Millering around– combines with the layout to coalesce into something the reader can scarcely remember two days later, which all things considered is probably for the best. The most shocking thing about it is how boring its attempt to shock is.

The plot and its execution bring to mind Dennis Miller as much as Frank Miller; they show us an artist who reacted to 9/11 by giving rage the steering wheel and tying reason up in the trunk. The opening pages are the most effective, depicting a terrorist attack with all the suddenness, chaos, pain and horror it carries, interspersed with wordless panels depicting the faces of the victims that have even more impact.

Unfortunately, the promise of the first few pages immediately gives way to predictable revenge porn and scapegoating. If you had any doubt where the author stands politically, his caricatures of figures like Michael Moore and Nancy Pelosi will quickly clear things up. If you feel like you would get off on seeing an al Qaeda operative tortured, good news: that scene looks like it was plagiarized from an S&M fetish video. The terrorists have all the depth of targets in a first person shooter, giving rise to dialogue that’s more painful than their injuries and makes you wonder if Schwarzennegger has optioned the rights yet. (“JIHAD!” “Gesundheit.” [Punch.]) The leader of the evildoers is such a cartoon of an Islamic radical that he looks like a mummy, which was its own kind of disappointment: we came all this way, and the hero’s not even going to punch out bin Laden?

This slender volume’s biggest crime is how slight it is, in all senses of the word. After five years, it is a scant 120 pages, and the “widescreen” art has more splashes than a day at SeaWorld. No matter how much one tries to slow down and savor the art, the book is a twenty-minute read, at best. You can’t help it; half the pages have a lone panel on them. Moreover, it doesn’t really have any characters in it. Those who have followed its development know that Holy Terror started as a Batman story, and Miller has made no attempt to disguise the fact; the hero is a warrior in a cape and cowl just shy of a couple of pointy ears, and his nemesis/sidekick is a masked female cat burglar he is attracted to but resists. It is well established, then, who these characters aren’t, but Holy Terror never takes even a moment to tell us who they are. It’s just not that kind of book (a “story”). Breezing through it is like hearing your significant other talk all day about slaving away in the kitchen over a special dinner, then finally arriving at the table to find microwave popcorn and toast, both burned.

I would also like to give a special shout-out to one sentence spoken by the always brilliant, one-step-ahead hero– “They know where each other is!”– which was written down by someone who writes for a living, and then published.

I can think of one ideal way to enjoy the book. If you pretend it was penned by the Simpsons writers’ room and the Fixer is McBain under his mask, Holy Terror instantly becomes the sharpest satire you’ve read all year. If only that had been the intent.


Story: 1 / Art: 3 / Overall: 2

(Out of 5 Stars)


  1. I’ve been saying it for years, Miller is a closet fascist and a borderline racist. Read Dark Knight Strikes Back and prove me wrong! I don’t know if some of the more extreme aspects of his work are just him playing the comic game, but so much of his work seems so disturbingly FAR FAR right wing…

    • I thought everyone knew that about Miller?

      Anywho, glad I decided to just simply download this. Even more glad I decided to not even bother reading it.

  2. Was there any doubt to this prior to reading the book?

    The days of automatically thinking anything Miller does is gold are over. It sort of started with his Batman & Robin run.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love some Frank Miller works… all the usual suspects from The Dark Knight to Sin City to 300… I do like The Dark Knight Strikes Back as well. But after 300… he’s sort of lost me.

    I know some may say its his ‘signature’, but he needs to deconstruct himself and get back to basics, especially with his art. Nothing makes a comic reader feel more ripped off than paying for a book that’s 50 pages only to find it with zero dialog and practically 20 pages of splash pages. Its almost as if Miller’s style is passe. He needs to pull back now and really go for something different. This book SOUNDS like something Miller would do which is exactly what’s wrong with it.

  3. this is a bummer…we get so much well written and beautifully constructed liberal propaganda in comic books, I was really hoping for a legitimate conservative perspective, not the foray into ignorance and intolerance this book seems to be promising. I will promptly remove this title from Amazon wish list (even if I do vote Republican for most elections).

    But in response to Kamilo… part of the beauty of the Dark Knight series is the Fascist undertones: those books were designed to portray a more fanatical and un-relatable Batman character. If you picked up a pseudo-racist vibe from the stories, good: Frank Miller accomplished his mission. But I think those sentiments were intended to make you feel less comfortable with the character, not the creator.
    Of course I’m saying this in defense of a man who apparently just penned an even less palatable rendition of Mein Kemp, so maybe I should reconsider my interpretation and praise of those texts.

    Great Review btw.

  4. Remember when Frank Miller was such a fresh, revolutionary force in comics? It’s amazing how some people can have these amazingly high success then just come crashing down in a spiral of disappointment. There was a time when a new Frank Miller book was a cause for celebration. Now, it has reached the point where this was solicited in Previews, I saw it, had ero interest, and actually forgot it was coming out until i saw this review.

    • if you look at the history of art, most great artists only get one or two truly great ideas during their lifetime. (PIcasso had like 20) The rest of the time is spent copying their own success over and over again to make money…or they just quit and play chess with girls. (Ducahamp)

  5. I saw a copy at a bookstore and flipped through it. I thought the art was great, and i can see how some might have a problem with the positive/negative space thing and sparse content on some pages, especially when you are used to mainstream comics.

    I heard so much about this book, that i don’t want to read it. I’m sure the story will piss me off. I might consider getting it just for the art, but only if i can find it used or on remainder for less than 10 bucks. (highly likely)

    • I agree. I think the art isgood as well. If we’re using the old artist metaphor to describe his work, I would suggest this piece is like a successful band using rougher production techniques for a rawer sound. it’s valid choice

    • wallythegreenmonster wrote
      “how some might have a problem with the positive/negative space thing and sparse content on some pages, especially when you are used to mainstream comics”

      First off..Frank Miller “is” and in fact defined what we accept as “mainstream” today. His style (post Sin City) and use of negative space has been equivocally celebrated in the industry and fandom. The problem arises when this style is used lazily, poorly and to pad out the number of pages to disguise lack of substance.

  6. Well the good thing for me is there is plenty of classic Miller work that I have yet to get to, so this can sit firmly at the bottom of the list of books to check out.

    What’s fun is that that big bolded 2 out of 5 rating sits right next to an ad banner for said book. Juxtaposition.

  7. Miller is a shadow of his former self. It eventually happens to the best of artists and writers, more often than not.

  8. I understand the Miller hate, I really do. He’s really not for everyone. But the fact is, he pretty well admitted to not knowing ANYTHING about the subject matter. To me, that’s worth something. And the cold hard truth is, he will keep getting work, because people will buy what he makes, just like Jeph Loeb. But hey, I think that at this point Frank Miller has really embraced his place in the comic book world, he gives a buncha money to the CBLDF, and has enough money left over to Write specifically for his extremely devoted fanbase.

  9. I’d like to think that the real Frank Miller was kidnapped by the same people who kidnapped the real George Lucas.

  10. @ Vumbo. To say that he doesn’t know anything about the culture is about the worst statement Miller could make because from his rhetoric he comes off like an authority on the matter. And judging from this GN its quite the opposite. Very lazy storytelling and art that at times is simple cut and paste over what was once a Batman story. I can’t believe this is the same guy who wrote Give Me Liberty.

  11. I’m SHOCKED that this wasn’t a wonderfully open-minded, well-reasoned, thought-provoking book. SHOCKED. I’ll probably still check it out at our local library. Just because it’s there.

  12. I guess he never read a manga called Barefoot Gen. Forget a building, THAT COMIC WAS ALL ABOUT THE HARSH DEVASTATION OF HIROSHIMA, now THAT induces rage.

    The man needs some perspective on life is all I’m sayin.

    • That you for mentioning that book. I am gonna check it out!!

    • woops, I meant thank you!

    • There’s a HUGE difference between this and Barefoot Gen. This was pure exploitation, whereas Barefoot Gen was an actual emotional piece about a child survivor of Hiroshima. Apples and oranges, in the BIGGEST way.

    • The thousands of lives lost on 9/11/01 and its following weeks shouldn’t be any less rage inducing than the manga you mention, and no amount of “perspective on life” should be able to change that. Just because Miller expresses himself with a ham-fisted story doesn’t mean his anger is any less valid, whether we agree with his methods of expression or not. Look up September 11 Attacks on Wikipedia and read the stats–if you need a reminder of how tragic that day was, this will do it. No, the scale was not the same as Hiroshima. And no, I would never try to convince the surviving families of 9-11 that they should have some “perspective on life” and consider the loses of Hiroshima versus their own. Tragedy is tragedy, any way you slice it.

  13. I think the review said it best–first fifty pages or so of Fixer and Not-Catwoman doing their usual thing and then suddenly getting rocked by this terrorist attack was really striking and solid work–and if Miller kept to that, it would have been a solid work…but then it turns into a bland revenge flick.

    I just hope that now that Miller has this out of his system, we can now maybe get that Nancy Sin City story he’s been talking about.

  14. oooo…harsh. I think you assume too much that we adhere to your exact opinion. I liked it. Didn’t love it, but it was worth the $20 I spent. The story and dialogue was atrocious, but the art sucked me in and I get a feeling of being in its world when I remember back on it. I read it twice and liked it better the second time. It also took me 45 minutes to read, savoring the art.

    Okay, so Miller is dead and zombie-Miller has taken his place. Who cares. At least its still different. Can’t wait for whatever’s next.

  15. Kinda sad that the work of a creator I used to gleefully plunk down hard earned money for has devolved into something about as exciting as my morning dump.

  16. well, I wasn’t disappointed when I read the book as it was exactly the story I knew it would be. I bought it for the art, and I’m afraid I still love his style, always have. I do miss the old Janson inked days, which I feel were more positively influenced by manga and cinema, but I do admire the boldness of the new stuff, the dirtiness and the immediacy.

    The story and script, however, were unbelievably offensive. More worrying though was how childish and immature it was, how lacking in global awareness. And just to make matters worse I was reading it in the view of the man’s great works, the Batmans, the Daredevil run, Elektra Lives Again, Martha Washington et al. Works of originality that also often carried a great line in (often leftist) satire. However fascistic his Batman sometimes behaved, DKR actually portrays him as a rebel set against an incredibly right wing, conservative government. And as for the anti-war stance of Martha Washington…

    Luckily it wasn’t the most expensive book, and it certainly had me hooked in that car crash way. I’ll keep reading the man’s work in hope that he’ll rediscover the talent he shared in books like Year One and Man Without Fear. I just won’t ever be holding my breath.

  17. Not much left to say. Everything about this book feels geriatric. From the subject matter to the artist’s hands and mind. It’s all old news.

    I will always be a diehard FM fan. I own everything (and I mean everything) the guy has ever published in at least one hardcover edition. That collection ends with this one. I read it in my LCS (thank Christ), and it literally hurt my heart.

    If you’re at all curious, just imagine someone tracing any early Sin City using only a pen in their mouth. Even then, ya might not grasp how ugly this is in every sense of the word. What a joke.

  18. What is the deal with the art here? It sounds like, from the review and comments that the art is pretty good, but if those floating heads are any indication it seems like the art was pretty terrible. Maybe this is a taste issue, but it sounds like folks are looking for a way to forgive a beloved creator for this thing.

  19. If nothing else, the art seems like it’ll provide endless reaction images.

  20. strange to think the same person who wrote this also wrote batman year one.

  21. From the pages shown, i feel like he is just trying to come up with rage comic memes. unfortunate, (removed from my amazon wishlist).

  22. I really want to read this….But this review, along with the dozens of others, have pretty much said what you said Jim. It’s boring, out-dated, and really offensive at points. The art looks good, but it does look messy too so it’s not as perfect as it could be.

    It really sounds like Miller should have just kept this story dead once Batman wasn’t going to happen. Hell, I can imagine why DC didn’t want this thing to be a Batman book at all considering the amount of racism I’ve heard going into this.

  23. If you had told the 12 year old me, my life changed forever by the masterpiece that was the Dark Knight Returns, that one day Frank Miller comics would be so bad I wouldn’t be caught dead reading them, twelve year old me would have thought you were clinically insane!
    And yet, here we are! Everything Miller has done since 300 has been nothing short of a travesty. He is pissing all over a medium he claims to love by cranking out unreadable, sloppy crap that looks like it was drawn by a five year old with an Etch-A-Sketch. This is the man whose Daredevil comics have, on more than one occasion, moved me to tears. A man whose every word used to be sheer poetry.
    Sorry, Frank. I won’t be buying this book. I’ve had enough of being ripped off by a creator I once held on the highest possible regard. It’s about time someone told you that this shit isn’t good enough. If you want any more of my hard earned cash, you have to at least look like you’re making some effort to earn it.

  24. I was kinda hoping Miller would make the bad guy at the end look like Grant Morrison because of that horrible thrashing Morrison gave Miller about this concept a few years ago. That and I always like seeing Grant Morrison within the pages of a comic book.

  25. Yay, a bad review. Not saying I want to see you guys always ripping on books or saying stuff sucks. But sometimes it feels like the only reviews on the sight are glowing endorsements. I totally get why that is mostly the case. Makes sense to keep good with the creators and publishers. But it is refreshing to see some unbiased, well earned criticism every now and again.

    And yeah. I haven’t read this book. But I have entirely zero desire to. Everything Jimski said is exactly what I imagined/feared. Thanks Jim, for reading this see the rest of us didn’t have to.

    • Mostly positive reviews doesn’t imply any sucking up to the “Powers That Be” – given the choice, why would you waste time & effort on something you don’t like? And Holy Terror is a steaming turd.

    • It’s not really about staying in anyone’s good graces (as anyone following the recent Fear Itself saga will attest). It’s more about an attitude or point of view. I’d usually rather turn someone on to something good they might have otherwise missed than spend a lot of time talking about something I didn’t like. I’m more inclined, if I don’t like something, to starve it of attention and not dwell on it at all. This one just seemed too big to ignore.

    • I think the positivity is one of the reasons I love this site, so many internet websites are just a bunch of men sitting around bitching about stuff they hate. I’d much rather here people embracing their hobby, rather then condemming it constantly.

      Has anyone ever watched Linkara? If not its someone who posts videos on the web ripping apart the really bad comics. I think the guys funny and all, but it strikes me as a really poor way to promote the medium. Why put all that time and energy promoting the awful stuff? I know its just a joke, but you can do comedy about the good stuff to, it’d be harder, but it’d also help people check out some really good comics.

      Point I’m trying to make, I love Ifanboy because thats what the website does, listening to people talk about the comics their passionate about makes me feel more enthused with the art form. Listening to people bitch all day about bad comics just gets me tired.

  26. I remember being asked by a clerk at my local comic store a couple years ago “has Frank Miller written anything great since the 80s?” After a moment’s reflection, I couldn’t think of an answer. Honeslty, Miller has always been a mixed bag for me: loved Year One, was disappointed with Dark Knight. The art in Sin City was lovely, but, for me, the story was boring, warmed over noir cliches. Similarly, there is some fantastic art in 300, yet the story is not only bad, but the violence rather exploitative. Batman & Robin started out promising but had lost me by the time that new issues stopped staggering out. I’ll confess that I never read the Daredevil stuff, but would like to someday.

    As a huge Will Eisner fan, I like to pretend that Miller’s Spirit movie doesn’t exist, becuase, if I do, then I just get sad . . .

    So, based on all that, I don’t really have much in the way of positive expectations for this book. Doesn’t sound like my cup o’ tea at all.

    Oh, and if you’ve had ten years to refine your opus, Miller, please at least get your verb tenses in agreement. I tried reading that quote to someone who is a professional proofreader & neither of us could get through it without descending into uncontrolable laughter . . .

  27. I’ve read it and i really don’t know how i feel about the book.

    Firstly, the comic itself is not entirely without merit and enjoyability. Miller produced some quality cartooning with exaggerated figures, layouts and graphic elements. It’s rough but it does include the same iconographic (in terms of icons or symbols signifying people and actions) art as cartoonist like Darwyn Cooke or Skottie Young.

    The story, pretty frenetic but pretty simple. i.e., this happened, now we get satisfaction.

    The politics? No idea. it is what it is. All i can say on the subject is why is it ok to see Nazis murdered in comic books each week but not Al-Qaeda?

    • Im going to just guess on a reason. Maybe because the Nazi’s were responsible for 20 million or more dead people and Al Qaeda’s death toll is probably hovering somewhere between 5 and 50 thousand. Maybe also Nazi’s have uniforms and Al qaeda members dont. Al Queda wishes they were as competent as the Nazi’s .. lets not give them that contempt or respect.
      I see your point though.

    • yeah, but i think you made the mistake of confusing Al-Qaeda and Islam. In this fictional world, there’s no moral ambiguity. The hero is straight up attacking Al-Qaeda terrorists, not Muslims.

      I think about the last decade. the paranoia, the constant basic common denominator point scoring that politics devolved into with Bush Jr’s re-election due to fear after his first election was a vote rigging farce, In Australia, a conservative prime minster was re-elected after a scandal called children over board due to fear. Impact on everyday life like air travel. 8 years in Afghanistan, 7 in Iraq.

      I think of these things and know 9/11 was the main factor in all of them. I think about what the decade could have been. And personally, I would like to enjoy some escapist entertainment about revenge on the people responsible. (again, Al-Qaeda, not Islam)

    • Ya i havent read Holy Terror.
      Please dont even mention baby Bush. Ha… I was depressed for a few months after he got reelected. Ill just pretend that never happened.
      Yes all that stuff is annoying.. and I dont mind seeing graphic depictions of violence against AlQueda .. but im an Ennis punisher fan… so.. i may be slightly morally corrupted.. Ha…

  28. Got this one from my library and wish I could burn it instead of return it, so as not to inflict it on another reader.

    Only thing of benefit is the caricatures of Clinton, Pelosi, and Kim Jong Il.