Holy Terror

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Cover for Holy Terror, with the badly drawn mummy thing wielding a knife that would make Crocodile Dundee blush.
Great and terrible
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Writer's block
Miller's Holy Terror is a screed against Islam, completely uninterested in any nuance or empathy toward 1.2 billion people he conflates with a few murderous conspiracy theorists. It's no accident that it's being released ten years after 9/11. This comic would be unthinkable during the unity that the U.S. felt after the attack. Instead, it's a perfect cultural artifact of this dark period in American life, when the FBI teaches its agents that "mainstream" Islam is indistinguishable from terrorism and a community center near Ground Zero gets labeled a "victory mosque." Call it the artwork of 9/11 decadence, when all that remains of a horror is a carefully nurtured grievance.
—"Frank Miller's Holy Terror Is Fodder for Anti-Islam Set" — Wired, 28 September 2011[1]

Holy Terror (ISBN 193727800X) is a 2011 graphic novel by Frank Miller (1957–) about a vigilante who is fighting against a group of Islamic terrorists. Originally intended as a BatmanWikipedia story,[2] this idea was thankfully abandoned.[3] The book is full of Islamophobia, basically acting like all Muslims are terrorists and that Islam is inherently violent. The book even opens with this:

Holy Terror 1.png

A basic Google search would have revealed to Miller that "Looking at the context of the verses, it becomes obvious that the commandment of this verse only relates to those tribes who continued hostilities against the Muslims even after they had migrated" in the words of one Muslim website.[4]

Terrorists are after you![edit]

Throughout the book, one thing it attempts to beat you over the head with is that Muslims are going to kill everybody. Around two-thirds of the way through the book, The Fixer, the Batman insert for the graphic novel, randomly screams out that the terrorists responsible for a recent suicide bombing have missiles:

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But this is only the beginning. While torturing a terrorist (long story), The Fixer declares — basically unpromoted — that Al-Qaeda, who at this point had done nothing more than detonate a few nail and razor bombs, was ramping up for something massive:

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While reviewing this comic for Atop The Fourth Wall, Linkara pointed out "that is exactly their style" in reference to Al-Qaeda.[5] They are a guerrilla force that engages in "scattered atrocities." Given we later learn even the high ranking officials of Al-Qaeda are unaware of the full extent of the actions of Islamic terrorists, torturing this random terrorist in hopes of getting information appears especially cruel given this person would be unable to answer the questions The Fixer asks. To put it another way, even if torture were a good means of getting information (it's not[6]), they still need to have the information in the first place, and we have no reason to believe this person does.

Engaging in small terrorist attacks before engaging in large ones is actually a rather bad idea for terrorists, as people would be put on high alert after terrorist attacks.

Miller seems to be under the impression that Al-Qaeda has, among other things, jets and missiles. Muslims also have what appears to be a full-blown underground city discovered by one of the protagonists, specifically Natalie Stacks, near the end of the book. They also have the ability to make a giant bomb; however, unfortunately for the terrorists, they decided to build the bomb upside down (no, really, this is an actual plot point):

Why does the wall have a mouth?

However, this is not all, because while in this small underground town, Natalie meets the leader of Al-Qaeda, a short guy covered head to toe in beads for some reason, who informs her that even he does not know the full size of the organization, or its "true purpose."

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This is really stupid. First off, Al-Qaeda translates to "the base" not "the cell."[7] Second off, what exactly about Al-Qaeda's true purpose is unknown in the mind of Miller?

One of the biggest issues with the depiction of terrorists in this book is that there isn't really a clear place where reality ends and fantasy starts. Although we can assume Miller does not actually believe in a secret underground city Muslims have taken over or that the head of Al-Qaeda is a short man wearing a bunch of beads, mentions of a secret Islamic terrorism organization that is both massive in scale and totally unknown are played totally straight and without any hint of irony or sarcasm. This is not helped by the fact that most of the book is actually rather serious, and it is only in the last quarter or so we finally get the insanity of the aforementioned segments. Nothing even slightly absurd is even hinted out until the book is around halfway done, and even then it comes out of nowhere.

Is this all supposed to be how Miller sees the world? Is the entire work a farce? If it is the first option, then Miller is showing us a world so insane that it would be nearly impossible for anybody outside of a handful of equally paranoid right-wingers to take this seriously. If this is comedic and intentionally absurd, then so much of the book is taken up by actually fairly realistic displays of terrorism (albeit terribly written and nonsensical) that it makes no attempt to communicate its true nature, instead blindsiding the reader with the insanity in the final pages.

It's rather hard to figure out what tone the book is going for when it includes both a serious scene about the damage terrorism does to people and a fight with an oddly realistically drawn T-rex for no reason:

Yes, the terrorists seem to have a dinosaur. This is never so much as mentioned by the characters or shown outside of this one panel. Nothing about this book makes any sense and we here at Rationalwiki encourage you to not attempt to figure it out if only because it might drive somebody mad.
This is how the book ends, by the way. Nothing about the various nonsensical aspects we were introduced to gets even the smallest explanation.

Protagonist centered morality[edit]

One of the most notable things about this book is how Miller does not seem to view any actions as good nor bad, but moreso thinks there are sides and the morality of their actions is determined by that. To give just one example, after some terrorists blow up an airplane, we get this somber scene about how the terrorists have no regard for human life. The Fixer, the main character of the book, sees this and declares "Let's get us some killing done" with no sense of irony or self-awareness.

Holy Terror 4.png
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None of this is even getting into how poorly explained The Fixer and his friends are as characters. Despite being a no-name vigilante in a city helpless against terrorism, The Fixer is able to talk to what's implied to be a high ranking government official who uses lasers in space that can be used against terrorists like this is fucking Shadow The Hedgehog.

Holy Terror 11.png
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This was after we learned that he has the power to ask people to murder local government officials, again, despite being some no-name in a costume.

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His friends aren't much better. The only one we meet by name throughout this entire book is a man named David, a person with a Star of David tattoo on his face. To give another example of how poorly written this book is, here is every panel with David in the entire comic:

Holy Terror 15.png

We find out later that he is an ex-Mossad agent kicked out of the organization for being overly extreme who The Fixer met while he was in Yemen for reasons that, again, are never explained. Given that this is the only appearance of a Jew in the book and the tattoo is without explanation, it makes one wonder due to the informal taboo on tattoos in Judaism[8] if this is an expression of the author's antisemitism.

Holy Terror 16.png

Given we just saw The Fixer torture somebody, even if the exact nature of David's actions are never explained, it appears he has done actions that it would be rather difficult for anybody except the most radical sectors of society to sympathize with him.

Other examples of bigotry[edit]

The book is filled with incredibly bigoted nonsense. One particularly strange example sees a woman named Amina, a foreign exchange student and a humanities major who later turns out to be a suicide bomber and contributes nothing to the book's narrative despite her story taking up multiple pages. Going back to Linkara, he took note of a specific line implying she was in some way against or impressed by skyscrapers despite the fact that some of the tallest buildings in the world are in Muslim countries.[9] We then get a small interlude to show her drinking alcohol (possibly a reference to how several of the 9/11 terrorists were caught doing such despite it going against Islam[10]) complete with this remark by the person who gives her said booze:

Holy Terror 10.png

More than a quarter of American adults don't drink alcohol for their own various reasons.[11] The idea of somebody not drinking, especially one who appears as young as she is, should not be this surprising to somebody.

Old shame?[edit]

In a 2018 interview with The Guardian, Miller expressed a dislike for this comic, saying he is "not capable of that book again" and is appalled by how there "are places where it is bloodthirsty beyond belief."[12]