A Small Killing: written by Alan Moore; illustrated by Oscar Zarate (1991): Oscar Zarate’s art, lovely and grotesque and colourful, really adds layers to the this odd story of a successful designer of advertising campaigns and the demons that haunt him. Alan Moore works on a much smaller scale than he does in better-known works such as Watchmen or From Hell. This move away from the epic may explain why this sometimes seems to be Moore’s least-discussed major work. No explosions, no heroes, no villains, and no real fantasy elements. Well, maybe.
An ex-patriate Englander in New York starts to see a mysterious little boy on the eve of his trip to Moscow to design an ad campaign for an American soda-pop’s first foray into glasnost-era Russia. memories of past failures and betrayals begin to haunt him, always counterpointed with his own justifications and evasions — we’re shown the past and given the protagonist’s often wildly off-base commentary upon it. And then, prior to travelling to Moscow, he returns to England to visit his parents.
The telling of the story is much more compliated than the above synopsis makes it, with flash-backs and flash-sideways, numinous ‘normal’ objects become mythic in memory, fragments of dialogue to sift through, panel composition and colouring to mull over. Zarate does some marvelous things as he moves back and forth from subjective to objective, from crowds to solitude, from the grotesque to the everyday. A fine piece of work that deserves more recognition. Maybe Moore should have stuck a superhero in it. Highly recommended.