Frank Miller vs. Al Qaeda

My earlier announcement of an eagerly anticipated summer recess notwithstanding, today’s release of a YouTube trailer for Frank Miller’s graphic novel Holy Terror prompts me to scribble just one more update before shutting down the laptop. This preview (embedded after the bump) publicizes a new comic book from the author of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, 300, and Sin City that was originally titled Holy War, Batman!, and which was conceived as a post-9/11 battle between Miller’s version of the Caped Crusader and the well-known terrorist organization. Described by the author at one point as a book that was “bound to offend just about everyone,” the project has since moved away from the Batman character, and now features a newly conceived superhero figure called The Fixer, who is -in Miller’s words- “much closer to Dirty Harry than Batman.” Given the fact that Miller’s celebrated 1980s take on the classic superhero was already often compared to Clint Eastwood’s vigilante cop, this further step towards right-wing extremism does raise some obvious concerns.

Frank Miller is obviously a figure who’s impossible to get around in comics studies, and his oeuvre includes some fascinating work that has certainly taken the medium in new and exciting directions. Personally, my taste seems to be moving further and further away from Miller’s typical aesthetic, that too frequently seems too close for comfort to Susan Sontag’s famous description of fascist art as a form that “glorifies surrender, it exalts mindlessness, it glamorizes death.” My admiration for him -for what it’s worth- stems more from the sheer balls-out audacity than from the gender politics and ideology his work seems to expound; and I think it’s safe to say that Miller-apologists who once claimed that his work should be read as “deeply ironic” can now be silenced by the supreme arrogance displayed by the author in his interviews, and the burn-all-bridges insanity of his film adaptation of The Spirit.

But although all signs do seem to point towards an impending artistic failure of epic dimensions, it also wouldn’t be the first time for Miller to pull a fast one and come up with something truly impressive seemingly out of the blue: his contribution to the 9/11 comics anthology was perhaps the most starkly impressive short-form strip to appear in that volume, presenting a palpable sense of outrage combined with the anti-religious fervor that characterizes much of his work. So who knows? Although critics are already eager to jump on the anti-Miller bandwagon and denounce his new book in advance as a cheap and irrelevant contribution to the superhero canon, perhaps we should hold off judgment until this new book hits the shelves, and we can see for ourselves whether it’s really as bad as its trailer seems to promise…

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2 Responses to Frank Miller vs. Al Qaeda

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