Review by Ian Keogh
Small Gods is very unusual for a 21st century Image Comics series in that a full dozen issues and a special were published in 2004 and 2005, yet only the first four of them were reissued as a graphic novel. It’s all the more peculiar for artist Juan Ferreyra having progressed to several high profile series.
Jason Rand’s plot stems from public acceptance of psychic abilities in the 1990s, a skill restricted to roughly 1% of the world’s population, which in bare figures is still an enormous amount of people. Politicians quickly legislated to make use of such abilities illegal in any number of circumstances, and instituted a compulsory registration programme. An exception was made for the use psychic powers in some public services, but their use in law enforcement was barred as a violation of civil rights. Yet precog Owen Young is employed as a cop in Denver. What starts as a basic crime drama switches to an investigation of an ethical cesspit.
Rand’s script is confusing and seemingly contradictory. On the one hand his entire plot is based on Young concealing his psychic abilities to continue the family tradition of serving with the police, and the possible revelation of his secret, yet there are also scenes of him registering a psychic vision to ensure his testimony can stand up in court. That certainly suggests official sanction. It’s relatively late on that it registers he’s reporting the visions as a civilian. This is still a gaping plot hole. If he did testify in court would his paying job somehow be kept secret? This lack of credibility undermines the entire story. Other aspects of Killing Grin are similarly troublesome, with Young’s behaviour consistently escalating his predicament when this could be so simply avoided, and the characterisation tipping over into melodrama. The pay-off’s very much on the convenient side also.
Ferreyra is therefore the star turn here. At the start of his career there are a few rough aspects to his art, but he breaks down the story well and puts in the overtime in ensuring Denver’s landmarks are faithfully represented.
Small Gods has a great title for the subject matter, but ultimately disappoints in every other respect.