It is a truth universally acknowledged that whenever the subject of comic books shows up on a police procedural, the result isn't exactly going to be the most positive portrayal a medium could ask for. Such was the case with this week's episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, in which the cops of the SVU took on a serial rapist, a group of real-life super-heroes called "Justice League New York" (!) and -- in a completely inexplicable turn -- Chris Ware's artcomix masterpiece, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth.

It is 45 minutes of truly bizarre criminal investigation, and if you missed it, the Magic of the Internet has your back. Catch the full episode after the cut!

Like most thematic episodes of cop shows, this installment of Law & Order walks that strange line between truly horrific crimes and hilariously bizarre presentation. Admittedly, it's nowhere near the heights of the episode of CSI where they investigated a murder at the Furry Convention or the infamous Punk Rock Quincy, this one has some pretty amazing touches.

My personal favorite aspect of the episode is how there is absolutely no attempt to address the fact that there are costumed vigilantes running around beating up suspects. I realize I am probably the only person I know who works from home and doesn't constantly watch Law & Order, but I'm pretty sure this is not the first time real-life super-heroes have shown up on the show. Still, you'd think somebody would mention it. Then again, I guess Ice-T has seen so much that nothing really surprises him anymore.

The casual introduction of Fantastica, 12:19 and the other unnamed members of JLNY is weird, as is the downright super-villainous plot of creating a criminal and then pretending to stop him yourself that was lifted straight from a hundred comics, but it does eventually give way to some truly amazing dialogue about our favorite medium. The money quote hits at around 38 minutes in, when the detectives discuss Stuart's motivations for his crime:

BENSON: He's obsessive. He works at this... comic book store.

ROLLINS: I can see it. He's an outsider who's desperate to be seen as a hero in Leslie's eyes.

BENSON: He leads a double life. This... fantasy life.

ROLLINS: We don't know how dark it goes.

Melodrama aside, I love that it takes them 38 minutes into a 43-minute show to acknowledge that Stuart works at a comic book store. Even the writers have realized that as soon as they offer that little tidbit up, their audience will know exactly who the bad guy is.

Even better, though, is Stuart's confession of how he lured his victim into a life of comic book reading:

"I showed her Jimmy Corrigan, and obviously The Dark Knight Returns, and the New Avengers. She was... really cool."

Clearly, this is fiction. In real life, the weasely comic shop clerk would've tried to impress the pretty girl by going straight for Sandman. But here's the thing: According to this episode, Leslie comes in not to buy comics for herself, but for her nephew, and since Stuart "doesn't get a lot of girls like her" at his shop, we can assume that she wasn't a regular comics reader already. So basically, she goes from zero to dressing up as Hit Girl and joining a vigilante group in the span of two months. And the comic that convinces her to do so is... Jimmy Corrigan?!

I'm... I'm pretty sure that's not the way it works, guys. Don't get me wrong, Jimmy Corrigan might inspire people to do stuff, but usually it's less "stalk the night to protect the innocent" and more "jump off a roof and/or up your antidepressant dosage."

Either way, congratulations to Chris Ware for his prominent placement alongside Dark Knight Returns and New Avengers -- truly, three comics that could not possibly have less in common. Unfortunately, the aspiring serial rapist market probably isn't one that he's all that eager to tap.

[Via Fantagraphics]