The Butcher of Paris #1 opens with a man being chased by Nazis through occupied Paris in 1944. He doesn’t make it very far before he’s captured, and told that, “By the end of the week, Dreyfus, you’ll be on a train to Germany, or… if God really hates you… Poland.” The scene also has the best line in the issue: “Innocent men don’t run and guilty men shouldn’t run so slowly.”
These particular Nazis are hunting for a “Resistance Network helping Jews escape to Argentina.” From there, series author Stephanie Phillips takes us to a meeting between two individuals begging Doctor Petiot to accept the money they have to get them out of France. But this Doctor, the focus of the series, isn’t the savior they think he is, which this issue reveals as he opens a drawer full of hypodermic needles, presumably to kill the desperate people in front of him.
Next, we meet our heroes, Detective Georges-Victor Massu and his son. They’ve got a warm relationship with the father inviting his son on the case by saying, “Every Sherlock needs his Watson.” His son quips back a few panels later, “Wait, do you think you’re Sherlock?” They provide some much needed levity in a dark comic.
The most disturbing part of Petiot’s story is that it’s true. Under the guise of being a French freedom fighter, he tricked Jewish people trying to escape the Holocaust into giving him money. Then he murdered them. Because it was during the Holocaust and they were trying to escape, no one was looking for them. As Phillips asks in her afterword, “How could someone see such horror and devastation as opportunity?”
This is Phillips fifth graphic novel, going back to October 2018. She and series artist Dean Kotz handle the medium well, making particularly good use of blank space. Much of the violence is implied rather than drawn, which is important for a true-crime comic. To draw out the gore would be exploitative, and Phillips and Kotz are approaching their material with respect.
If there is a fault in The Butcher of Paris, it’s with Kotz’s art. The cast is big and Kotz’s faces all blend together. It’s hard to tell who’s who from panel to panel, especially with the frequent jumping between storylines.
That aside, Phillips and Kotz are doing a good job telling an important story.
Dark Horse Comics’ The Butcher of Paris #1 is on shelves now.
Wicked Rating – 7/10