Writer: Brandon Graham
Artist: Simon Roy
The distant future Earth is inhabited by alien settlers that feed off of the ape-men mankind has devolved into. John Prophet awakes from cryosleep on a mission to restart the human empire.
The first thing to bear in mind when picking up this comic’s is that while this is part of Prophet Creator Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Comic’s relaunch under the Image imprint, what Graham and Roy have done with the character is a million miles away from the “programmed warrior from the past sent hopping through time armed with incredible skills as well as the signature large guns and swords”.
This book carries on the numbering (#21) and indeed the legacy of a character born of the 90′s Image artist’s boom era, but sensibility wise this is an entirely new creature, that is if anything grounded firmly in a sort of euro indie. While Graham cites John Buscema’s run on Conan as one of his prime influences for the tone of this futuristic tale, with a scope that’s truly broader than the first issue can fully encapsulate (but not by much) it also has a feel of the work of Jodorowsky and Moebius at their collaborative best.
If I wasn’t aware that this book had come from a US studio I could have sworn it came from the now defunct Humanoids Studios or could easily feature as a backup strip in Metal Hurlant. This is testament to Images reinvention as a much riskier company, that while covering the mainstream appeal also have a back foot in indie, putting out books that might not necessarily get published anywhere else.
Our protagonist John Prophet is a taciturn man out of time with little in the way of dialogue for his fellow travelers and an internal monologue that’s often just as sparse. Graham leaves Roy to educate the reader with his expansive, uber detailed and timeless visuals, crafting a world and style that while reminiscent to Jean Giraud’s strange yet captivating obscura has hints of Darrow and Golden while still remaining uniquely his own.
The hints of Buscema’s Conan do linger on the periphery of what is essentially a fantasy journey set in the future, with our main protagonist setting off across an alien world that was once earth, on a quest he barely remembers and the encounters he has along the way. This is very much a quest book, and there’s no denying that there is a bigger picture in play that while obviously embedded in this intro like an invisible weight bearing down, it’s not so dense and complex that you can’t get your head around what it is and where it’s going.
This is an easy read, that would be made quicker if not for the stunning art,and I found on finishing I was instantly compelled to return to the first page to revisit any details I’d missed.
Prophet #21 is also notably not for the feint hearted with some gruesome scenes of violence and unsettling goings on in a world that is both weird and completely alien. This further carves the book into a very indie niche despite it’s place on a line that was formerly a staple for ‘big muscle action’, though to say this will hurt the title is presumptuous given Image’s knack for drawing in a crowd outside of the mainstream.
To say I loved Prophet would be to overstate it’s appeal, as I feel I’ve encountered similar books before from European publishers that have been doing this type of things for years and well. That said this is a delightfully fresh packaging, and something that hasn’t been done in the US market in such a borderline company for a very long time.
It’s a strange and compelling book with an appeal that might just suit the creative freedom of the Image crowd down to the ground. Hero heads may be less inclined to stick with what is essentially a foray into the farther edge of fantasy/sci-fi, but I would recommend this book as something fresh and bold for newbies and while the more seasoned reader may have previously encountered this style of book before, it’s hard to leave it on the shelf when it looks and reads this damn good.