Holy Terror, Miller’s long, long, long-awaited statement on 9/11 and counterterrorism, hit comic book stores Wednesday. Longtime Miller watchers have viewed it with apprehension, hoping that his dark views about the source of that national trauma wouldn’t turn the comic into a vulgar, one-dimensional revenge fantasy. They were wrong. It’s even worse than that.
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.
Holy Terror, the inaugural offering from Legendary Comics, starts out with the Fixer, an ersatz Batman, enjoying a tryst with an ersatz Catwoman when they’re interrupted by a nail bomb. The culprit: a “humanities major” named Amina, an Islamist version of the psychopathic Rorschach from Watchmen, who sneers that the “haughty” skyline of Empire City is like “sharpened sticks aimed at the eyes of God.”
The Fixer’s response is to go to war — indiscriminately. “We give them what they want, minus the innocent victims,” the Fixer thinks as he opens fire. To bring the point home Miller draws 14 stereotypical Muslim faces around the righteous anti-hero. Naturally, the only way to learn more about the next attack is to torture a surviving terrorist — which Miller illustrates pornographically — even though the Scary Muslim says “pain means nothing to me,” so it’s not like the Fixer is torturing, you know, a human being.
“So Mohammed,” the Fixer says, “Pardon me for guessing your name, but you’ve got to admit the odds are pretty good that it’s Mohammed.” Naturally, the terrorists are amassing an army in a mosque, against whose walls “the night winds blow away seven centuries.” That’s the tenor of the book, though I won’t spoil the ending.
The tragedy is that Miller is no hack. Throughout his 35-year career, he’s been one of comics’ few undisputed geniuses. Check the resume: from Daredevil to Ronin to Sin City, Miller excels at exploring the dark side of humanity without reducing his characters to simplistic killing machines. His Dark Knight Returns was one of the game-changing comics of the 1980s, the greatest Batman story ever told, a book that rivals Watchmen in its ability to prove that comics are literature. As an artist, Miller’s forte is in stark black-and-white color schemes, yet he creates worlds where the morality is a subtle gray.