The Sheriff of Babylon Volume 1: Bang. Bang. Bang. by Tom King and Mitch Gerads. Vertigo, 2016. 9781401264666.
The Sheriff of Babylon is a gritty graphic novel set during the American occupation of Iraq in 2004. It opens with two American soldiers cleaning up “garbage” from the middle of the street — the bloody corpse of an Iraqi police trainee. Turn the page and there’s a huge, two-page spread, at the bottom are the two soldiers, in the distance, dragging the body away, oblivious to the bloody smear they’re leaving in their wake. They’ve depersonalized, dissociated, and the image is the perfect way of letting us know. The horror of the scene is only apparent to us, the readers, and only if we can magnify it with our imaginations. Apparently no one in the story is going to feel anything.
But that’s not true. On the next page we meet Chris Henry, a former cop who blames himself for 9-11 who is in Iraq to train its new police force. When told there’s a girl in a Green Zone restaurant with a suicide bomb he goes in to talk to her, to offer her chocolate. It doesn’t end well. Bang. Bang. Bang. This incident doesn’t keep him from trying to do some good. He’s supposed to take care of the body of his dead trainee. He calls his lover, Sofia, an Iraqi woman who has returned to her family’s country for revenge and power. She introduces him to Nassir, a local policeman who may be able to help investigate the murder, or to at least help return the trainee’s body to his family. But violence is everywhere, and whoever killed the man doesn’t want anyone looking into the matter.
The entire story was heartbreaking in the best way possible. It showed both the futility and heroism of trying to do the right thing in an impossible situation, and the end of the book broke my heart.