Villains Month: Killer Croc #1

Batman #23.4: Killer Croc #1

 

As the Villains Month one shots go (especially the ones that have nothing to do with Forever Evil), Killer Croc is a good one. I’m a big Croc fan, for the same reason I love Solomon Grundy and Bizarro. Big, pissed off, and misunderstood. Those kinds of villains are always interesting. Their drives and motivations are always just to the side of the tried and true “evil” bad guys. In Killer Croc #1, aka Batman and Robin #23.4, we get to see both sides of the human lizard.

Writer Tim Seely opens the story in the sewer. Croc laments about what the sewer is and what he is. During this, the GCPD is marching through the sewer systems, hunting something. Cut to a quick flashback where we see young Waylon Jones, his atavism creating the scales around his body, being abused by his aunt. The memory fuels Croc’s rage and he unleashes on the cops, killing all but two. Another flashback follows, this one showing Croc getting revenge on the freak show owner that tried to screw him out of money. Back in the Gotham sewers, the two cops – a man and woman – are trying to escape. They run into a group of sewer dwellers that promptly attack them.

So why is Croc pursuing them? Glad you asked. Apparently, the three head detectives, the ones that led a squad of men to their deaths, are crooked. They’ve been ripping off drug dealers for months, until a lonely detective named Hoolihan threatens to expose them. Cut to a roof scene, the three crooked cops kill Hoolihan and dump him into the river. Hoolihan’s body is found by the sewer dwellers.

Turns out, long ago, Hoolihan intervened on the behalf of a teenage Waylon Jones being abused by other children. The two became friends, and when the sewer dwellers tell their King Croc of the body and the killers, Croc sets a trap to lead the crooked cops into his territory. The reprisal is bloody and very satisfying. Seely manages to focus on Croc’s core, what makes him the way he is. As brutal as Croc’s methods are, they are done out of a sense of honor. It’s nice to see the age-old brute elevated to a new status.

Francis Portela’s artwork is a bit too relaxed for me. Don’t get me wrong, his pencils are lovely, but they don’t fit this story. There needed to be a gripping, dark, urban decay sense to Killer Croc. The pencils needed to show us his world, and how violent that world is. Portela’s thin lines, whimsical colors and small-strokes just don’t cut it. We needed a Rafael Albuquerque, a Chris Capullo or a J.H. Williams III for the Killer Croc story.

Though the art betrayed the darkness of the story, Killer Croc’s one-shot remains a favorite among the Villains Month releases.

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(4 Story, 2.5 Art)