– Review by Paul Ewbank-
John prophet has been around in various forms since 1992, appearing in various Image Comics titles, none of which lasted very long or gathered much notice. Nevertheless, Image decided to reinvent the character in 2012 and the first six issues of this new Brandon Graham helmed Prophet are collected in the paperback Prophet:Remission.
Thousands of years into the future, a man awakens on a barren, alien world. He sets out across the wilderness, knowing that he must meet a contact and receive his mission. He encounters savage beasts, aliens living in a rotting, once-living ship, and a caravan of traders travelling on immense ten-legged elephant creatures as big as castles. He survives thanks to implants in his body giving him augmented strength, the ability to eat alien foods, and the instincts of a warrior. Eventually he discovers his mission: he must climb to the peak of the Towers of Thauilu Vah and, once there, reawaken the lost earth empire.
This is the premise of the first three issues of the new Prophet. From there it gets…stranger. John Prophet’s mission on what turns out to be a time and alien ravaged Earth awakens a whole host of other John Prophets throughout the galaxy, who must all carry out their own missions on bizarre, inhospitable alien worlds.
The artwork of Prophet is unlike anything I’ve ever encountered. The depiction of a post apocalyptic earth- on which the devolved human remnants are farmed for meat by alien colonists- is harsh, ugly and gory. The design of the alien creatures and technology is mesmerising: these are beings which resemble nothing on earth and are both terrifying and fascinating. Every picture of the Taxa Caravan had me staring dumbstruck for several minutes, and there’s no shortage of jaw-dropping full page spreads to really show off the unique, totally alien world Earth has become. Issues 4-6 deal with different worlds which each have their own distinct but equally bleak look and feel. Issue 5 utilises a stark monochrome colour scheme which tips the comic even further towards surrealism. The artwork of the whole book is utterly superb and Prophet is worth owning solely on the merits of its pictures. Which is just as well, since the plot is, for the most part, utterly incomprehensible.
The first three issues dealing with Earth-John Prophet make sense well enough and are riddled with details as…squicky as the artwork. Upon meeting his contact, a bulbous, pink skinned abomination, John inquires as to his mission and gets the reply “I’ve brought with me your mission. But first, mate with me, human.” And they do. And then light cigars and gnaw on the grilled leg bones of what are basically still humans. Dialogue is on the whole pretty scarce, and a hauntingly matter-of-fact narration is used to explain details of the world and John’s inner thoughts. The minimal use of text greatly benefits the oppressive, unsettling atmosphere created by the artwork, and the air of mystery and confusion is balanced by just enough revelations to keep you following along. The first half of the graphic novel succeeds in drawing you into an uncanny, dreamlike adventure.
…And then the second half rolls around and fails to make any kind of sense whatsoever. It’s possible that it would all make sense if I’d read the previous incarnations of Prophet, but I seriously doubt it. And anyway, this is supposed to be a reboot, so why make me trawl through comics decades old to be able to understand it? Maybe the next issues will reveal all. Who knows. All I can say with certainly now is that I was left crushingly disappointed with the conclusion to what had started as the most original and unpredictable comic I’ve ever read. If you like weirder than weird post apocalyptic graphic novels (something of a niche I know) then pick this up for the first three issues and the artwork and design, which is impeccable throughout. Just don’t expect a satisfying conclusion. I’ll probably pick up volume 2 when it comes out this year off of the sheer intrigue the first volume generated. With Prophet, Image comics have created a world that’s so strange, so well imagined, so indescribably other that despite the less than stellar plotting I can’t wait to see what they do with it next.