Title: The Sheriff of Babylon
Writer(s): Tom King
Illustrator(s): Mitch Gerads
Format: Hardcover – Deluxe Edition
Release Date: March 20th 2018
Genre(s): Comics, Thriller
My Overall Rating: ★★★★★
Way before Tom King got on board to write Batman for the Rebirth era of DC Comics, he was an ex-CIA operations officer in Iraq and racked up a couple of months of experience that he later translated into a phenomenal wartime crime thriller known as The Sheriff of Babylon. It was when Vertigo came in contact with him to write a series for them that the idea of drawing upon his time in Baghdad came to mind. What he ultimately conjured thanks to the help of artist Mitch Gerads is a 12 part story that reveals the twisted and dark post-invasion Iraq climate. Through impeccable characterization and stellar artwork, The Sheriff of Babylon envelops the reader into a depressing and complex reality that lingers on the edge of insanity and chaos.
Set in the year 2003, right after Saddam Hussein’s reign reached its end, this story follows military contractor Christopher Henry into the heart of the post-9/11 Middle East. When one of his trainees is found dead, he is forced into seeking help from the last policeman in Baghdad. His journey into finding the culprit behind that gruesome death brings him to traverse some of the loneliest and most bleak corners of the world. Added with the point of view of Sofia, an Iraqi-American woman who plays a dangerous game within various circles, The Sheriff of Babylon throws the readers into a whirlwind of violence, and softens it all with a poignant emotional cushion to fall back on.
This is an exquisite masterpiece by one of the greatest creative teams out there. With Tom King’s impeccable story-telling and Mitch Gerads unbelievable and realistic artwork, they were able to convey some of the most brutal and tragic moments through the comic book medium. Panels would constantly focus on the weight of each word and accentuate the intensity through the facial expressions and the cruelty of the events that unfolded. In all honesty, flipping through this volume was one of the most intensive experience ever. There are moments that effortlessly grabs you by the throat and forbids you the freedom to breath with ease. The intensity is never toned down and everything unravels in unimaginable ways. In fact, the artwork coupled with the dialogue controls the pace and assures to leave you feeling powerless and staggered more often than not. Tom King and Mitch Gerads portrayal of this time period was simply flawless.
The story isn’t told in a linear fashion and tends to highlight its complexity in many ways. Following the story through the eyes of three different characters helps extensively in accomplishing just that. With different backgrounds and different goals for each of these characters, the story easily puts everything into perspective and helps readers understand the reality that everyone is facing. In a world where everyone seem shook to their core by the war in which they bathe, it is the methods they all embrace to cope with it that truly sends a punch right to the gut. Whether it’s laughter or sadness, Tom King really knew how to develop it and make it feel authentic. He does a phenomenal job in portraying the complexity of the decisions that need to be made as well as putting emphasis on the grey area of every behaviour. In this world, anything could turn the kindest soul into the savagest demon.
The Sheriff of Babylon focuses on the intangible web that hides underneath Baghdad as the Americans attempt to control it fruitlessly. Without ever shying away from graphic content and continuously hammering readers with memorable and powerful scenes, this graphic novel packs a hell of a punch and demonstrates the complicated nature of human beings.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!