Monday, 10 October 2011

Issue #6: The burger with "a goddamn nail" stuck in it.

I've had a mini break from this blog this week.  Having torn through and reviewed fifty two comics I've been taking a back seat and reading old Daredevil at a leisurely pace.  I also read Holy Terror, and have been holding back for a few days before writing about it.  Unlike my other reviews which I usually write within five minutes of reading the last page, I really wanted to chew this one over a little more carefully.

Frank Miller’s Holy Terror   Frank Miller’s Sin City was a masterpiece, an iconic slice of pulp, stained with sleaze, violence, and unique visual style.  It’s a huge favourite of mine, so when I saw Frank Miller had something new out I picked it up without hesitation.  The thing is, I’m still not sure what to make of Holy Terror.

The story begins with cat burglar Natalie Stack being pursued over rooftops by a man called The Fixer.  Her capture bizarrely culminating in a lustful embrace, the moment is shattered by a massive terrorist nailbomb.  What follows is a total orgy of revenge and over-the-top violence as The Fixer and Natalie torture, shoot and kill their way into the heart of the terrorist’s lair.
Firstly, a little background:  Holy Terror began as a Batman / Catwoman story, but without DC’s blessing some changes had to be made.  The problem is that apart from The Fixer being Batman with guns there is little to discern these two characters from their DC counterparts, in fact the similarities are glaringly obvious to the point where it becomes difficult to accept the story for what it is.  Natalie has sharp claws.  The Fixer has a cape.  Try not just mentally drawing pointy ears on their costumes as you flip through.

The whole war on terror theme can be somewhat confronting, with one particular torture scene blurring who the good guys really are, and the book is culturally insensitive at the best of times: “Jihad!” screams an attacker strapped with explosives, “Gesundheit”  replies The Fixer as he kicks him over the side of a building.  Still, they’re suicide bombing teenage hangouts and blowing up statues of liberty, so fuck ‘em, right?  Having seen Bush’s relentless pro-“War On Terror” propaganda on every news channel for years after the September 11 attacks, I’m not really convinced.

But this is Frank Miller.  It should be bold and brash, we should expect bad attitude, and there shouldn’t really be any good guys, right?  Is Holy Terror the conservative viewpoint gone wild, or a commentary on that very viewpoint itself?  Represented are voiceless faces of politicians and media personalities like a flashback of every moment TV had to say about that surreal day, as if all that opinion had no consequence after all.  This was probably my favourite part of the book.

Politics and controversy aside, this is a visual feast for fans of Miller’s artwork.  Silhouetted bomb shrapnel in the form of nails and razor blades rain on the reader from the pages.  Sharp stroked shards of ink add intensity, pain or speed to scenes, every jump death-defying, every punch a jawbreaker.  Ultimately you’ll get the most out of this if you pick it up for the visuals and treat the content as an interesting side-point.

- Jem

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