Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Release Date: 3rd February, 2016
With one of the finest debut issues in recent memory, Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ Sheriff of Babylon exploded like a roadside IED into the comic book world just a few short months ago. Painting a multi-layered picture of a conflicted, troubled and brutally violent post-Saddam Baghdad, the series introduced us to three distinct protagonists who found their lives intertwining following the discovery of the body of a murdered would-be policemen. Since then, the story has gradually dragged us deeper and deeper into this complicated and chillingly realistic world as layer upon layer of scheming and machinations have played out in these beautifully illustrated pages.
While the murder mystery and ever-present sense of tension make for truly gripping reading, it’s the characters themselves who really sink the hooks in here, with King presenting all three in a truly realistic manner. Each defies stereotyping, possessing their own unique traits, histories and ideologies, and it’s an absolute pleasure to watch them interact as this tangled web of intrigue is gradually spun. Sure, the pacing may be a little slower in this latest issue, something which may not necessarily appeal to every reader, but this is a story which is in absolutely no hurry to be told, with King and Gerads taking their time and letting us immerse ourselves into this world piece by intriguing piece.
The characters themselves continue to unfold before us, with each turn of the page revealing a new wrinkle to their personalities, from Sofia’s chillingly matter-of-fact manipulation to Nassir’s unflappable demeanor as he continues to puff away on his cigarette even while handcuffed and interrogated. King’s dialogue has been fantastic thus far, filled with pointed remarks, subtly hidden meanings and deftly handled exposition. He also keeps the story flowing smoothly forwards, in spite of – as I mentioned before – the slight dip in pace.
Gerads’ artwork is perfectly suited to a title like this, a story where the characters and their subtle facial expressions are the main driving force. This issue gives him a brief moment to showcase his flair for action sequences, but by and large it’s the expressiveness of his characters that really shines here. His colour work should also not be understated, as while browns and dark greens are definitely the palette of choice here, he also does a skillful job of adjusting his tones to reflect the time of day, or to highlight the contrast between interior and exterior scenes.
Overall, while it may have taken its foot off the gas ever so slightly following that first issue, The Sheriff of Babylon remains a gripping, immersive read. Rather than your run of the mill gung-ho war story, King and Gerads have created something altogether more cerebral; a complex, fascinating and shockingly brutal look at a troubled chapter in history through the eyes of three flawed yet utterly fascinating protagonists. Highly recommended.
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