The Butcher of Paris #5 “Beating Chance” closes out the series with a whimper. Writer Stephanie Phillips and artist Dean Kotz have great intentions. They’re putting a much needed spotlight on a real-life serial killer who preyed on the most vulnerable of victims: Jewish people fleeing the Holocaust in France during World War II. It’s too bad the series doesn’t do the subject matter justice.
The closest it comes to paying tribute to the murdered is at the end of this final issue, when it lists the names of “Petoit’s confirmed victims” in between panels in which Petoit is executed by guillotine. Since the first issue, it’s one of the only times the series has focused on the victims at all. Instead The Butcher of Paris has mostly followed those tasked with capturing Petoit, and eventually Petoit himself.
Even then, those characters the series does tell stories about only have a surface level characterization. Outside of being detectives, this series hasn’t brought me any closer to understanding what the older and younger Massu are like. It’s not that characterization is absolutely essential, but if any comic is going to spend five issues on two characters there’s got to be more about them. Especially if the focus on them is taking space that could’ve been used to memorialize the dead in a true-crime story like this one.
Maybe it was a problem of the amount of space Phillips and Kotz had to tell the story. “Beating Chance” certainly feels rushed. It opens with Petoit being captured, and rushes through the trial. The elder Massu, who was arrested after being accused of working with the Nazis last issue, is released by the time the story gets to him in this issue. He’s embittered by his captivity, and his son is trying to convince him that Petoit will go free if the elder Massu doesn’t testify.
From there on, the story is of the trial. There are some great details and drawings there, really bringing out how the crowd thought of it as entertainment. Two women in the audience comment, “I’ve never been more amused” and “Petoit is quite handsome, isn’t he?” It brings to mind a recent Twitter controversy over whether or not Ted Bundy was sexy, showing in some ways that nothing ever changes.
While the issue is focused on the trial, Massu makes his decision on testifying (which I won’t spoil here) off page. Since the series has largely focused on him, his final decision is the emotional meat and it’s just not there.
The series ends with the outcome of Petoit’s trial. “Beating Chance” isn’t the best issue of the series, and it’s not the worst either. The Butcher of Paris has noble aims, but fails to reach them.
Wicked Rating – 5/10
The Butcher of Paris #5 “Beating Chance” from Dark Horse Comics is on shelves now.