Review – The Sheriff of Babylon #12 (Vertigo Comics)

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Click to enlarge

Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Release Date: 2nd November, 2016

After a tense, emotionally fraught penultimate issue, Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ Sheriff of Babylon finally draws to a close here.  And this is a final chapter which is all about closure, about tying up loose ends and bringing this twisted, morally ambiguous tale full circle.

Honestly, I’m not going to talk much about the actual content of the issue in this review.  If you’ve made it this far into the series, you’ll understand by now that it’s probably better this way.  What I’ll talk about instead, however, is the characters – Sofia, Christopher and Hassan – and how they may be some of the most intriguing, morally complex creations I’ve read in the pages of a comic book for a long, long time.

Once again, the theme of coming full circle is prevalent throughout this issue.  All our characters wind up in what is ostensibly the same place they were when the story began, but each of them has lost something along the way that has changed them significantly.  It’s powerful stuff, and the strength and realism of King’s dialogue has made us care deeply about them and their struggles to make their way in the confusing and violent world of post-Saddam Baghdad from the very first issue.

Once again, Gerads uses his rigid, uniform panel structure throughout, stripping away any frills or tricks and letting the expressions of his characters drive the story forwards.  As always, there isn’t much in the way of action to be had here.  It’s not that kind of “war story”, after all.  This is a series that has always been about the smaller gestures, the slight adjustments in facial expression, the brief pauses between snippets of dialogue, and in that respect, Gerads has cemented himself as a true storytelling maestro, delivering King’s story with a remarkably understated confidence.

Once again, the narrative remains non-judgmental, never taking sides or painting any decisions or ideologies as merely black or white.  There are no real “good guys” or “bad guys”, just a collection of people making their own choices for their own personal reasons, then living with the consequences.  It would be easy to try and glamorise this turbulent period in world history into a chest-beating, flag-waving, yee-hawing action adventure series, but King and Gerads have thankfully opted for a more measured, more thoughtful, more realistic approach, resulting in one of the most gripping, thought-provoking books I’ve read in years.

Featuring religion, politics, war and both the good and bad sides of human nature, all blended together with care and respect by a creative team at the absolute top of their game, I have no problem saying that Sheriff of Babylon is hands down the best comic book series of 2016.

Rating: 5/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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