[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers.]
Writer: Tom King
Art and Inks: Mitch Gerads
One month after the action of the previous 11 issues, we finally get a conclusion. What has happened? Chris leaves San Diego to come to Baghdad to train Iraqi soldiers. Saffiya has been trying to play all sides of the conflict. Nassir, who is trying to make as much money as he can and stay ahead of the game, loses his wife and is on a murderous killing spree. Chris and Saffiya help him. In this, the final issue of The Sheriff of Babylon, justice may or may not be served.
Where to begin? It is hard to look at this book without taking in the full year, but I will try. The good news is Chris, Saffiya and Nassir all survived. The bad news is they all have to keep living. They all have to keep facing the reality of the war in Iraq. They have to be a few of the first people who understand what is happening. They have been torn apart and have not been put back together. King has not pulled one punch in this book and he does not do that here. Brutal reality is what happens in this book. Is it for everyone? No. It is good, realistic writing? Absolutely.
Gerads’ contribution to this tale can not be undersold. He was tasked with drawing a desert hellscape that is not some apocalyptic wasteland created by science fiction writers. He had to show dust, blood, tears. He had to show anguish and smugness. He had to show pain and misery. I can not imagine sitting down every day for a year and thinking about drawing scars or bullet holes. There is little in this book that is not grim. Gerads owns it. He does not shy away from it or protect his reader. He forces us to deal with the ugliness of war. He does it with dignity.
Sorry, nothing to report. This book is nearly flawless. This is the only ending that could have worked.
The invasion of Iraq was based on false information and fear. In 2003, when the invasion first happened, we did not know that. Fear, we all understood the fear, but the lies and the BS? That was not clear. The characters in this book are still in the place where fear reigns supreme and ignorance is everywhere. This book is really not a stand alone book. One could not pick up issue 12 and have a clue what was going on. This is the conclusion to a story to which we now, in 2016, know the ending. This book is about war in Iraq. It is about pain. It is about the senselessness of death. King and Gerads need to be applauded for writing a story that is honest; that highlights humanity in the face of the inhumane; who argue that justice and vengeance are sometimes the same thing and sometimes they are worlds apart. If you did not read this book, go to the bookstore or comic shop and get the TPB of the first six issues and then get the last six. Read them all in one sitting and try not to be shaken. There is still a place for honest story-telling at Vertigo Comics. Mr. King and Mr. Gerads, I tip my hat.