Monday, 28 August 2017

The Sheriff of Babylon

Tom King & Mitch Gerads The Sheriff of Babylon volume one (2016)
Tom King once worked for the CIA, and as such his CV seems fairly atypical for a comic book writer, although it could also be argued that the sheer quality of his writing also makes him fairly atypical. This one, set in Iraq in the immediate wake of the fall of Saddam, may not be directly autobiographical but is clearly drawn from experience. You can really tell that he was there and that he knows what he's talking about.

The story follows the hunt for the killer of a young Iraqi undergoing training as a provisional cop, one death in the middle of a city which remains a warzone. However, that The Sheriff of Babylon is more or less a whodunnit is easily overlooked, such is the raw force of the environment and the circumstances of its creation. I suppose you might even argue that Baghdad itself is the main character.

The art is astonishing, as are the dialogue and characterisation, and so much so as to leave you wondering if you'll ever be able to go back to reading a regular comic book. This is how people actually talk, and King and Gerads make us feel as though we're there in the room. It's a story told about a situation so shitty that you simply can't tell stories about it, and yet it's happening here with a breathtaking lightness of touch, and even jokes - just like real life.

Considering all the horrible bullshit spouted over Iraq, the Middle East, and Islam with no actual experience or qualification to inform those most visibly engaged with the spouting, I'd suggest that everybody needs to read this book.

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