Prophet #26 is out, with Brandon Graham on both script and art. The first issue of this reboot was warmly received, but has Prophet maintained a head of steam after those giddy first notices? Major Spoilers has the answers, after the jump.
Previously, in Prophet: The culmination of the first arc resulted in a seemingly innumerable amount of John Prophets awakening on worlds throughout the galaxy. Each issue since has focused on different John Prophets doing John Prophet-y things, i.e. traveling across strange, fantastical wastelands in the pursuit of various ill-defined missions.
DO BELIEVE THE HYPE
With Prophet #21, Brandon Graham essentially rebooted a somewhat forgotten Image character from the extreme era of the 1990s. I know very little about John Prophet other than he was a Robert Liefield creation in the same mold as Cable – a time-tossed badass soldier-type, who I assume wore a lot of pouches and had tiny feet. Graham has taken that concept and mutated it into something much greater. Graham is creating something truly wonderful in Prophet. The titular character is still somewhat of a cipher, an obscure individual who is actually many individuals, many which have their own contrary, obscure motivations. The mystery of who and what the John Prophets are is the hook on which the narrative hangs. There are hints that Prophet developed a galactic empire, seemingly ruled and maintained by Prophet clones, which then possibly devolved into civil war fought between competing John Prophets. Like the man says, weird, wild stuff.
The plot of any issue of Prophet is generally hard to discuss, as one would expect with a setting infused with such a heavy dose of dream logic. What seems to be a sentient, possibly biomechanical suit of armor (described as a Jaxson, “one of Old Man Prophet’s unhatched eggs”) sets out across a desolate world to find one of his brothers, who is being used as some sort of power plant while also being worshipped as a god. The latter fellow also has some chicken-like organisms hard-wired into his brain, as well as memories of the John Prophet clone that once rode inside him dying in battle. The story fleshes out, ever so slightly, the conflict that was once waged between the Earth Empire and the rebellious John Prophet. It seems that this war may be rekindling, even as the protagonists travel a landscape cluttered with the wreckage and literal bodies left behind eons ago by the same battles. Graham’s script is strangely poetic, filled with oddities never fully explained but forcefully backed by the ongoing action. None of it feels like weirdness for weirdness’s sake; each issue is definitely filling in the margins of the plot. But for me, more appealing than the plot is the world-building Graham does – across all the worlds yet shown in Prophet, there is a sense of apocalyptic history on a geological timescale, of races evolved then gone extinct, of the continuing conflicts of existence for all organisms. The mere survival of John Prophet (in any of his myriad forms) feels more heroic than any costumed do-gooder spoiling some supervillain’s plot.
HE DOES IT ALL
Prophet wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it is without the appropriate artwork to properly realize Graham’s crumblingly ancient yet futuristic worlds. To date, the artists working on Prophet have proven themselves fully able to handle this task. In issue #26, series writer Brandon Graham, no stranger to art duties himself, takes on the graphic side as well. Graham’s art may be the cleanest of the artists to work on Prophet to date, but it is still packed with the details (and amusing sound effects) that are becoming hallmarks of this series. The surreal setting is full of strange imagery, like alien yet disturbingly familiar beak-mouthed creatures, or a bloated “brainrock” humanoid straining to become a planet, littered with dead versions of previous Prophets. The art on Prophet is as imaginative as the writing. Ed Brisson’s color is masterful in its simplicity. The overwhelming greyish hue of the setting gives way to a bright and forceful red as the scenes shift, as the Jaxson soaks in the energy of a nearby star. The color temperature evokes the heat and power of the star, and ties it to the bloodiness of the battle site under contemplation in the scene.
WE NEED MORE COMICS LIKE THIS
Most of my comics reading is of the capes and tights variety. When I read something like Prophet #26, I feel humbled and more than a little guilty. Prophet is the kind of comic I should be spending more time and money on; ambitious in scope and beautifully executed, Prophet is a stunning example of what the comic book format can do. Still, as I unabashedly love Prophet, I recognize that some may not enjoy it as much as I do. The narrative is opaque – there is little explanatory handholding in this book. The central protagonist is not particularly identifiable or engaged in anything more sympathetic than survival. But what some might perceive as shortcomings are obviously central elements to the overall structure of the work. This is meant to be a strange experience that rewards the reader with glimpses of alien worlds unlike anything in our reality. If that doesn’t sound like something you are interested in, that’s fine. But if it tickles your fancy in the slightest, pick up an issue. Prophet #26 earns a rare and gladly given five out of five stars. Check it out.