The Sheriff of Babylon by author Tom King, Illustrations Mitch Gerards
The Sheriff of Babylon is a book that only Tom King could write. As far as I know King is the only CIA operative turned best selling comic book writer on the planet. He’s translated some of his bleakest experiences in Iraq into The Sheriff of Babylon, this 12 isssue standalone series.
This is still a work of fiction, it’s not a biopic or documentary. But he discusses very real themes, emotions, and violence. Extreme violence. Real war zone violence.
In nearly every Tom King book I’ve read he uses a style that is instantly recognizable. He uses short panels, often a 9 square grid on the page. And he juxtaposes action and violence against almost mudane dialogue. It effectively splits a story between world consequences and personal consequences for the individual characters.
The Sheriff of Bablyon waxes a bit more philisophical than some of his other works, especially since the characters are just humans and not superheroes. These humans wonder out loud about what war could ever accomplish and whether or not they’ll live through it, or if they even want to.
Characters form unlikely bonds through these honest and open discussions while bombs and gunfire can be heard not too far away. The value of the book is in its heart. To sympathize with characters of all sorts and to see the war from more than one position.
King has likely placed himself in the shoes of Christopher, a military police trainer, the protagonist of the story. However, it is Sofia who really stole the show for me. She’s an Iraqi American, born and raised in America but now working in Iraq.
She is one of the most complex, bold, nuanced, and undeniably strong characters I’ve read in a long time. She faces some serious incidents, many involving physical scars as well as emotional, and she never backs down. The culture in Iraq does not respect her, but I sure as hell did.
The end of the book captures what all the best war books and movies do, that it’s never really concluded. War doesn’t just end one day. The consequences last for generations and nothing ever really gets solved. It’s not a satisfying ending but it is the ending that war always provides.
The Sheriff of Bablyon is not a light read. It’s heavy material from page one. But it is a story you wont get anywhere else, told by the one person who can tell it in this fashion. Read it, and then read something light afterwards.
5/5 futilities of war 😓😓😓😓😓
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Buy it here: The Sheriff of Babylon: The Deluxe Edition