Brandon Graham has turned Prophet into something resembling a lost, classic sci-fi comic from the 70s. Joined by a team of talented indie artists, Graham has crafted a legitimately must-read new book.
I didn’t know anything about Prophet, one of the less-infamous titles of Rob Liefeld’s old Extreme Studios (Youngblood, Supreme) for Image Comics. If anything, my prejudice against Liefeld actively kept me from trying any of the relaunched titles when they began earlier in the year. But two books in particular – Prophet and Glory - met with such stunning reviews and positive word-of-mouth in the comic shops that I had to try them out. Prophet: Remission collects the first six issues of Brandon Graham’s relaunch, the first few chapters of what promises to be an expansive, epic science fiction story.
The book, which features art from Simon Roy (on the first three chapters), Farel Dalrymple (Chapter 4), Graham himself (Chapter 5), Giannis Milonogiannis (Chapter 6), and a back-up feature called “Coil: A Clone Story” written and drawn by Emma Rios, is gorgeous throughout. The book is well designed, with a striking cover and fantastic interior art. The rotating artists all work well together, and it helps that Graham has found a clever narrative excuse for the frequently changing art teams. The artists give the various worlds, stories, and characters distinctive looks and personalities, and the variety to the design of the alien worlds and creatures is another huge point in favor of Graham’s rotating cast of artists. The trade also includes a few pages of design work from Graham and Roy, so you can see a little about how the characters and worlds evolved into what you see in the issues themselves.
Fans of Liefeld’s Prophet will not find a lot they recognize here, as the series takes place thousands of years later, long after the Earth Empire has fallen, but there’s still plenty to love. Longtime readers of Liefeld’s old Extreme Comics label may find callbacks to old some old characters (though the most obvious callbacks thus far will come in a later volume), and they’ll thrill to the book’s shocking final page, while new readers will find the relaunch easy to follow, as the new setting and new characters demand a new introduction – though Graham goes fairly easy on the exposition of these new worlds and alien cultures, instead positing John Prophet as the ultimate survivalist hero, a title he earns in slow, measured stories punctuated by brief moments of thrilling action and visceral violence. We don’t learn about these elaborate alien worlds in page-long summaries from our cast or mission breakdowns from a superior officer; instead, Graham lets us sink into the worlds as Prophet himself does, watching him traverse the landscape, take in the sights, and mingle with the locals.
There is an important lesson to be learned from Prophet: Remission, one I sincerely hope Marvel and DC take note of: All it takes to make good comics are good creators, an interesting idea, and a little freedom. Under the direction of Brandon Graham and an impressive team of artists, Prophet has become one of this year’s must-read titles. It feels like a lost 70s Conan comic with a dark sense of humor. It feels like the kind of sci-fi adventure pulp I would have fallen in love with as a high school or college student, picking apart every month with my friends at the comic shop. It feels effortlessly inventive. But what it is, in the end, is a fascinating confluence of indie talent creating a book that I’d be willing to bet is not quite like any comic you’ve read before.
Prophet: Remission. $9.99, Image Comics 2012.