The Sheriff of Babylon, Vertigo DC Comics
Tom King and Mitch Gerads
Tom King really gets comics. He has an understanding of all the moving parts that hasn’t been seen with such superiority in a very long time. Like Jonathon Hickman, Tom King is destined to be one of the literati of the medium, a role kept sacred except for a very few – Kirby, Moore, Morrison. King just really gets it.
Be it the moral morass of diversity and integration in Vision; Social and political upheaval in times of war through the eyes of rebels in Omega Men; innate eroticism of the spy game in Grayson; the extreme variations in self-perceived and public acknowledged natures and demeanours in Batman. King weaves together stories that rely on the visual aspect of the comics, while infusing them with his own life experiences to create a superior storytelling experience. The best example of this is The Sheriff of Babylon which uses a mix of story = style = structure that is like beautiful jazz.
Bang. Bang. Bang. The simple title serves as a mantra that echoes throughout the story of a lawless land trying to lay down some semblance of law, from a wide variety of perspectives, and agendas. It’s used over and over, mixed among the beats of the story, the echo of firing guns punctuating every scene. King expresses character extremely well through tight and unique voices bringing the characters to life among details taken from his own background that just make it all click.
Set in the wake of the Iraqi War, 2003, Saddam is gone and America is in command, but chaos reigns. The story follows an American Sheriff, trying to establish a form of police in Baghdad. Unfolding like a Sergio Leone film, the story applies themes of heroism and order to the chilling reality of post war Middle East.
Artist Mitch Gerads brings the style and visual storytelling deftly merged with the story set structure, there’s a sense of continuity and subtly to his art that gives the entire thing a feel of a stylized big cable show. In particular are the facial expressions, which gracefully express the slightest shifts in tense lips and arched brows. Mixed with the masterfully structured story, the two craftsmen work well in tandem together.
I feel a special nod to letterers Nick J Napolitano and Travis Lanham is necessary, as the iconography is essential to the overall quality package of the book. This is really something that feels like every millimetre was thought about and given purpose.
This volume is available now. The second volume completing the first season is out the first week of February and the second seasoning monthly is expected in the future, um, sometime in the future.