If you watch enough Law & Order: Special Victims Unit – and lord knows cable television will let you watch as much of it as you want, as we're pretty sure there's a Law & Order channel somewhere – you eventually start to get paranoid that everybody outside your door is a slobbering pedophile rapist and there is no one you can trust who isn't Elliot Stabler, Olivia Benson or Captain Kragen, although you'd probably make allowances for Munch or Fin, but not that ADA Casey Novak – she seems to lose a lot, and didn't she get disbarred?
Ahem. Anyway, one other aspect of getting sucked into SVU marathons is that you start to realize just how insane it is that all these gory, horrifying details about child rape and other soul-nauseating crimes are long-running, perfectly acceptable prime-time fare with all these legal procedural dramas. Seriously, pull back from your desire to see Stabler and Benson hook up and think about what you're seeing. Once upon a time, Elvis Presley wasn't allowed to swivel his hips on television, and now we see mutilated child corpses every weeknight for entertainment. Now, we've got some of the same stuff happening in comics.
At least three books this week involved an element of chilling child abuse in varying degrees – one just a repeated implication, one an ongoing case and one a disturbing revelation. Rather than dwell on that ugly plot device thrice over, or ramble on about how cool it would be if Stabler had super powers, let's visit these books in one fell swoop.
The Shadow #3, by Garth Ennis and Aaron Campbell, continues to only allude to the fact that one of its major villains, one General Saburo Akamutsu, is also a casual pedophile, whose appetites are catered to by his evil criminal mastermind partner Kondo. Thankfully, this is a Garth Ennis book about a guy who kills criminals, so the odds are good that we'll get a very satisfying murder-in-the-face of this guy, and with any luck, the newly introduced stinkbag Buffalo Wong will be involved as well. Overall, this series is a cool bit of World War II era intrigue, where the smooth, affable and erudite Lamont Cranston amuses himself with the manipulation of his dull-witted American handler one moment, and then righteously murders the wicked in the next with highfalutin declarations of justice being served. Campbell's art is decent enough, but nothing too special.
Batwoman #10 gives us a continuation of a child-killer story that's been going on since issue #1, as J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman continue to draw out their first arc through several creative changes, including the arrival and departure of artist Amy Reeder and the oncoming artist Trevor McCarthy, who is good but will suffer for the comparison to Williams' seminal work. The initial child-killer, a spectral figure known as The Weeping Woman, has been bested, but she is part of an even bigger child-killing ring of absolute evil masterminded by a mage named Maro Ito, who is powered by the fear her murderous exploits cause in Gotham City. Another child lies dead in this issue, as Detective Maggie Sawyer and Jim Gordon lament who the girl reminds them of. This one also gives us a new, mystical origin for Killer Croc, aka Waylon Jones, who is no longer the dumb brute he used to be – the guy now knows what oleander smells like, for example, and now he's got a lineage that dates back to Sobek, God of the Nile, Tatsu The First Dragon and so on. Maro is transmuting him into something that looks like a mini-Godzilla, which is kinda cool.
What was once hands down my favorite book in the New 52 has been faltering a bit with how drawn out this first arc has been, and how jumbled and disjointed it feels with the constant jumping back and forth in time and between characters. It's still good stuff, but it's not as involving as it once was. We get a powerful revelation from Kate Kane's father and we get to see a moment of humanity from Agent Chase, but hopefully this magic madness draws to a close soon.
Saga #4 from Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples has the most involved instance of awful child abuse, and it's made into a hideous plot twist that appalls even a hardened freelance killer like The Will. It seems he's trying to forget having his heart broken by his spidery ex-lover, so he goes to Sextillion for some debauched bacchanalia ten times more graphic and unsettling than Fantomex did over in Uncanny X-Force last week. The opening page is of two giant smiling lady-heads with no bodies but spindly heeled legs, letting us know that we're into some depraved shit. There is a dinosaur dildo involved. And a naked caterpillar lady. However, The Will is looking for something less "safe," so the proprietor of the joint recommends a special Slave Girl. Who turns out to be six goddamned years old. That promps The Will to make us love him, because he immediately turns around and crushes that proprietor's head into sludge with his bare hands. Of course, we're reminded that The Will is still a fucking monster, but at least there will be worse monsters than him to come.
In the meantime, we get more development between Alana's indignance at her husband Marko's delirious admission that he had another bride named Gwendolyn. The story behind that isn't as scandalous as we'd feared – that is, unless Marko's lying through his teeth about it. But the characters are fairly intriguing in Saga so far. There's something sort of off-putting about it that's kept me from giving myself to it completely, but I'm still hooked in to see where this goes. I'll trust Vaughan to make it worth the trip.