Comics: Babylon Berlin - Reviewed

Babylon Berlin is a new historical crime graphic novel from Titan Comics that is an adaptation of Der nasse Fisch, the first entry in author Volker Kutscher’s series of novels about detective Gereon Rath. The novel was also adapted into a German television series, first airing on Sky 1 and now currently available to stream on Netflix. The series is the most expensive non-English television drama ever made, costing around $40 million to produce. Having not read the original novel or seen the television series, the graphic novel is a gripping noir tale that combines elements of classic American noir and hard boiled detective novels with the historical setting of 1920’s Germany.

Set in 1929 Berlin during the Weimar Republic, detective Gereon Rath transfers from Cologne to Berlin to escape the publicity from a trial in which he was found not guilty. He is assigned to the Vice Squad, with ambitions to move over to the prestigious homicide division. His ambitions have him secretly investigating a murder and the disappearance of two individuals, leading him down a treacherous path of drugs, prostitution, police corruption, political power struggles, murder, and a rumored treasure of gold.

The graphic novel was adapted and drawn by Arne Jysch. I cannot say how much has been altered between the original source material and the graphic novel adaptation, however it still makes for an interesting read and will have you wanting to actually read the book and watch the television series. It is similar to the film noir and pulp detective novels that were made famous by authors such as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, with the main differences being a shift in location from California to Germany and Gerreon Rath being a police detective as opposed to a private eye. He stills acts very much like a private eye and gets put through the ringer, while making his way around all of the seedy undergrounds of Berlin. Like a classic noir, Rath provides narration detailing the events that are occurring around him.

The art perfectly matches the film noir style, being presented in black and white just as those original films from the ‘40s and ‘50s. It’s beautiful art with heavy black shadows and varying grey shading, looking like an ink wash or perhaps watercolor. The city environments are intricately detailed and feature grand buildings, locations, and vehicles that represent that specific time in Berlin.

Babylon Berlin is highly recommended for fans of film noir and pulp detective novels. It’s a dark and gritty tale of crime and corruption that will have you seeking out more of the character and his other stories, either by way of Kutscher’s novels or the TV series.