Butcher of Paris #1
Dean Kotz (Artist), Troy Peteri (Letters), Stephanie Phillips (Writer), Jason Wordie (Colours)
Dark Horse Comics
December 4, 2019
The Second World War was a time of great horror, but one man decided to take advantage of the despair around him for his own personal, and horrific, gain.
For Jews hoping to escape Nazi-occupied France, Marcel Petiot seemed to be the answer to all their prayers. For 25,000 Francs, Petiot could guarantee them safe passage to Argentina. But these people never made it to Argentina—they never even left Petiot’s home.
In Butcher of Paris, writer Stephanie Phillips reimagines the dark days of Petiot’s “reign” over Paris, as desperate Jews came to his home in the hope of a new life, only to be met with a gruesome death. It’s a story that people should be familiar with, but for those not in the know, it will be a surprise that someone could stoop so low as to harm a group of people who most needed assistance.
What makes this opening chapter of Butcher in Paris particularly hard-hitting is how vividly it showcases the dire circumstances that the Jewish community found themselves in. This is made obvious to readers by the Gestapo officer Jodkum, a deeply cruel man who wantonly abuses his position of power to terrorise the community and the French citizens in his vicinity. We see him hunting down Yvan Dreyfus, a man who has been helping Jews escape France. Jodkum doesn’t just hurl abuses at Yvan and his wife, Paulette. He uses physical force, extorts money from them—money that they don’t even have—steals their home, and then sets Yvan on a mission to uncover the French Resistance.
Power-hungry men like Jodkum not only made life hell for Jewish people, but also for the French people who were trying to keep the peace. One such person was Detective Georges-Victor Gassu, who is essentially the protagonist of Butcher in Paris. We know little of Gassu, as of now, but he is going to play a much bigger role once Petiot’s crimes are revealed. We already get an inkling of how sympathetic a hero Gassu is. Witnessing Jodkum’s violence towards the Dreyfuses, Gassu jumps to their defense, even if it means going up against the vile Jodkum.
As an introduction to the series, this first issue of Butcher in Paris packs in a fair amount. We get to meet Jodkum, the Dreyfuses, Gassu and his son, as well as Petiot. Alongside this host of characters, we learn about life in Nazi-occupied France, the Resistance, and the escape plans for the Jewish community. In other words, this opening issue has to cover a lot of ground. It can be a bit confusing for the reader, especially at first, and I would urge everyone who picks this book up to read the blurb thoroughly as Petiot’s first appearance is brief and could come across as inconsequential.
Though I am a huge fan of reading books based on recommendation alone, it is important to know where this series is headed before reading Butcher in Paris #1 because the plethora of characters can be baffling. By the end of the book, one is certain that this series has a very clear goal and direction, but until then, one can be left wondering about the focus.
What I find most appealing about Butcher in Paris is that it is a combination of three genres that I am fascinated with: World War history, murder mysteries, and true crime thrillers. Do you have to have an interest in all three to enjoy this series? From what I’ve read in this first issue, my answer would be a resounding “no.” I appreciate how writer Phillips has managed to tie the three genres together seamlessly to create one solid story. It definitely appeals to the mysterious-at-heart, but it doesn’t shy away from the hardships faced by those living through World War II. And the true crime element of the story makes it all the more poignant for readers.
I also love the art by Dean Kotz, who has managed to capture the style of the era Butcher in Paris is set in—the 1940s—in his art. It is beautiful and incredibly detailed, and I appreciate how he has created distinguishing features for the massive cast of characters. Kotz’s art is further highlighted by Jason Wordie’s stunning colour work. I love that despite the World War setting, Wordie doesn’t use a muted colour palette. The world seemed dark and bleak at the time, but the colour didn’t actually fade away from it.
For history buffs and murder mystery fans, Butcher in Paris promises to be a riveting read, while also making some strong commentary about the selfishness and selflessness of human beings. I feel this story is going to show us the best and worst of humanity, with plenty of gore and horror along the way. This series will be a fascinating read, though you may have to look at some panels through your fingers.