The shorter a story is, the less room it has to sag. At four issues, The Butcher of Paris is going to be about as short as limited comic series get. Unfortunately, the second issue, “The Reign of Beasts,” doesn’t do much to advance the plot or help readers better understand the characters.
“The Reign of Beasts” opens like an episode of Law and Order. Three children, playing in the river Seine, find what they think is a treasure chest. When they dredge it up, what they find is as far from gold as it can get. From there, the story hops to the coroner, who’s trying to reconstruct the mess of limbs discovered last issue. Dr. Petiot is nowhere to be seen, and while our protagonist—father and son detectives Massu and Massu—are still chasing him, the Nazis occupying Paris are less interested. One commander, distracted by a sex worker, agrees, “You can have ten men if it’ll get you to leave me and this woman in peace.”
The theme of this issue, and maybe The Butcher of Paris as a whole, seems to be that the Nazis didn’t care much if someone else was killing Jews. Writer Stephanie Phillips and artist Dean Kotz do a good job showing how a serial murderer slipped through the bureaucratic cogs, which is all the more chilling knowing the series is based on a true story. There’s an especially poignant scene early on where the coroner puts the systemic apathy into words: “It’s a convenience.”
Outside of that emotional highlight, Phillips and Kotz also make good use of color while the elder Massu is having a flashback to one of his previous investigation. The setting disappears, and the panel bleeds red behind him. It’s a quick, effective way to communicate his mental state.
Of course, none of this really advances the story. “Reign of Beasts” slips into a holding pattern, but The Butcher of Paris is an important story. Phillips and Kotz are shedding light onto a tragedy that could have and should have been stopped.
The Butcher of Paris #2, “Reign of Beasts” from Dark Horse Comics will hit shelves January 8, 2020.
Wicked Rating – 6/10
See our coverage of previous issues here – Issue 1