Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Release Date: 6th April, 2016
As I seem to be saying pretty much every week these days, Vertigo Comics are truly knocking it out of the park lately, with a stable of innovative, dynamic creators and a crop of fantastic titles which hark back to the publisher’s glory days of Swamp Thing, Sandman, Fables et al.
Right at the top of that list – the ‘tip of the spear’, if you will – is Sheriff of Babylon from Tom King and Mitch Gerads. Superficially a war story set in a post-Saddam Iraq, the series digs deep into the well publicised conflict, and is packed with twists, turns, philosophy, action, and some of the most scintillating dialogue you’re ever likely to read.
While the overall story isn’t advanced all that much – if at all – over the course this issue, what we have instead is a powerfully nuanced bout of character development as Chris and Fatima swipe some vodka and proceed to get more and more drunk during a rambling, quasi-philosophical conversation.
In less competent hands this could potentially feel like a flat, unrewarding issue. Indeed, opting to take a side-step away from what has been an utterly gripping series in order to essentially watch two characters have a drunken chat could easily derail – if not completely destroy – many lesser titles. Thankfully, with Tom King at the helm, things remain utterly riveting throughout as Chris and Fatima share their different perspectives on the events of 9/11 during a conversation layered with subtext.
Mitch Gerads also deserves additional praise for keeping this issue as engaging as it is. There are no RPG attacks or violent shootings to be had within these pages, but the way Gerads plays with the subtle expressions on his characters’ faces adds a whole new layer of intrigue to their exchange. Ranging from flirtatious attraction to despondent sadness to helpless frustration, the pair run the whole gamut of emotions here, making for a truly entertaining read.
Ultimately, while the story itself may not progress too much here, the characters themselves most certainly do, and for a title which is all about providing different perspectives on the same harrowing events, this may actually be the strongest issue of the series so far. King and Gerads have crafted something truly special here; a tense, gut-wrenchingly realistic military thriller based around a trio of utterly compelling characters. Highly, highly recommended.
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