In a world where roughly 63 million people have psychic abilities, the government has regulated telepathy, requiring telepaths to register or face hard prison time. That doesn’t stop everyone, however, which makes life for the characters in Jason Rand’s Small Gods harder than they ever imagined or thought possible.
Denver Police Officer Owen Young is a precog, able to see the future yet unable to control the timing or content of the visions; it’s similar to the scenario explored in Minority Report, only with no creepy guy keeping people chained up in a swimming pool. Young loves being able to help those in need, but unlike in Minority Report, these cops aren’t allowed to violate civil rights by arresting suspects before they commit crimes. The cops have to catch them in the act, which doesn’t always work out well for the potential victim.
It’s when we begin to get a glimpse of Young’s home life that Rand really begins to show that this isn’t just another sci-fi detective book. He gives Owen real emotions (complemented nicely by Ferreyra’s character design) and problems to deal with—such as his girlfriend, Dani, working nights, and only being able to see her for the few minutes after he gets home and before he leaves in the morning. It creates solid tension in a seemingly unstable relationship that only grows later in the story. Moments like this build more characterization than one would expect from a book of this type.
Effectively mixing science-fiction elements with a detective story, Rand never falls into cliché-filled dialogue that plagues most police procedural situations; his characters are unique enough through speech and mannerisms that it’s easy to tell them apart. Ferreyra’s noir-ish black-and-white art proves a strong complement, since his artistic strengths are facial expressions, crucial in a story where a look from one person to another means everything. He proves weaker in scenes of character interaction, as people in close proximity sometimes look out of proportion or crammed together any way they’ll fit.
Rand has said that Small Gods will feature a rotating cast, which could be a burden or a blessing. The characters in this story are well defined, and it would be a shame if we didn’t see them again for 10 issues. It leaves room for multiple angles to play with, but it’ll be hard to keep readers coming back to new characters and an unfamiliar setting. This could hinder things a bit as Rand will have to set up the premise at the beginning of every new story but may attract more people looking to jump in head-first. Here’s hoping it works—as of now, Small Gods is off to a strong start.
SMALL GODS By Jason Rand & Juan E. Ferreyra Image Comics
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