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The Sheriff of Babylon: “Pow. Pow. Pow.” (Vertigo, 2015; #7-12)

2016 might as well have been the year of Tom King in comics, and the second trade of his creator-owned The Sheriff of Babylon came out recently. So guess what today’s entry covers?

That’s right, it is the original run of Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love! How did you know?

Zag! It’s The Sheriff of Babylon. Good guess, though.

The story follows a former police officer who has become a military consultant, training soldiers in 2003 Baghdad. When one of his trainees turns up dead, he investigates the soldier’s death, allying himself with a former Iraqi cop and a well-connected Iraqi woman who brokers information and power. As they investigate, the trio discovers that the soldier’s death was not petty crime or a simple accident.

The first “season”—which spans from issue #1 through #12—is a dark thriller. King balances pacing, narrative structure, and character voice to build tension and establish personal stakes as his leads investigate their mystery. Its most tense moments are not when bombs explode or shots ring out; they are conversations. Knowledge is the most dangerous weapon in this world. (Appropriately, the CIA actually has to sign off on King’s Sheriff of Babylon scripts because of his background in intelligence.)

Mitch Gerads tackles art duties from pencils to colors. His line-work is clean, precise, and architectural. Characters’ faces are particularly expressive, as well. King often intercuts extended speech over scenes from another point in time, and Gerads’s faces can communicate the bittersweetness of a family’s partial reunion, for example, without a word of text belonging to the scene itself. His colors, by contrast, are muted and convey erosion, decay, and dilapidation. No matter how clean anything is structurally, Gerads can make it look ravaged.

I’m not usually one for war stories. The Sheriff of Babylon, however, hooked me with each trade. It seems inevitable that this will someday be an HBO series, given its quality and pacing; and King has already teased an upcoming second “season” of the series. If you’re interested, now’s the best time to jump in.

Collected in

  • The Sheriff of Babylon, Vol. 2: Pow. Pow. Pow. (#7-12)


Writer: Tom King | Artist/Colorist: Mitch Gerads | Letterer: Travis Lanham | Covers: John Paul Leon

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