True crime succeeds or fails based on how well it avoids exploiting the real life murders it portrays. The best true crime tends to empathize with the victims or the investigators, while analyzing the killer with a sort of detachment. The killer is, and always will be, the most engrossing part because readers/listeners/viewers want to know what went wrong. The audience is asking primordial questions: How do I spot that kind of person? How do I make sure I’m not next? There needs to be a balance between the victims, the killers, and the investigators, which is where The Butcher of Paris #3 “Law of the Jungle” falls short.
The third installment of the Dark Horse comic series focuses on the same two major plotlines the series has been focusing on: the father and son investigation team and the Nazi investigation. The two are at odds, with the window to catch Petiot quickly closing as Allied Forces creep closer to Paris.
The first three pages of “Law of the Jungle,” following Petoit, are the most fascinating in the issue. He rants about colonialism in a trench during World War I, saying, “Morality was created by those who possess so you do not retake what they have already stolen from you.” What makes it so interesting is that I agreed with him, and before I realized it was Petoit talking kind of liked him. It was instantly revolting to realize who he was. None of us want to share views with serial killers.
Unfortunately, the rest of the issue doesn’t reach that level. It gets much more comfortable, going through generic interviews with people in Petoit’s life. None of them believe him capable of the crimes he’s been accused of. He tortured small animals. The details are real (as is this book), but feel so familiar they’ve lost their bite.
Absent from “Law of the Jungle,” and the two previous issues, are stories of the victims. They’re who audience needs to relate to. The tragedy of their murders should be at the forefront of the story, or else it starts to feel too much like an adventure. There’s nothing wrong with having fun in stories. Yet, it doesn’t feel right to enjoy a story about someone who used the Holocaust to coverup murdering Jewish people trying to escape Nazi-occupied Paris.
Wicked Rating – 4/10
The Butcher of Paris #3 “Law of the Jungle” will be available from Dark Horse Comics February, 5 2020.