-Review by Paul Ewbank-
The First Volume of Image Comic’s reboot of the obscure sci fi series Prophet was a bizarre, at times incomprehensible mess of body horror, grim atmosphere and breathtaking alien scenery. Though for much of it I had little idea what was going on I was sufficiently enthralled by the fantastic art and unique universe to pick up the second volume, and I’m happy to say that Prophet: Brothers outdoes its predecessor on every level. Retaining the distinctive look and style of the first volume whilst tying it to an actually followable plot, Brothers also manages to inject likeable characters and surprising emotion into the barren, often alienating Prophet universe.
At the end of Prophet: Remission the original John Prophet had awoken from a millennia long sleep and found the earth empire he fought against in ages past was also slowly awakening. He embarks upon a search through the desolate alien worlds to find his comrades of old to aid him in the new war. This change in perspective is one thing that confused me about the last volume- at the very end John Prophet original kills a group of his clones (the protagonists of the volume) and I was left scratching my head as to why. Surely they’re supposed to be on the same side? But no, it’s gradually revealed in Brothers that the cloned Prophets are being mind controlled by the Empire Mothers- vile shrivelled little things who ran the empire of old and enslaved millions of alien races to their will. Prophet original, or Old Man Prophet as he is called now, rebelled against their rule and sided with the aliens. I still can’t shake the feeling that a lot of this would have been clearer if I’d read the original series, and that’s a real shame since a reboot should be able to stand on its own. Eventually I caught up with most of the details but the occasional reference or new character popping up who I was supposed to recognise left me irritatingly nonplussed.
The biggest selling point of Remission was the artwork and Brothers is a worthy successor. The universe of Prophet remains totally at odds with anything else I’ve come across in science fiction. Throughout Brothers there’s a fascination with organic, living things operating in place of machinery; starships are living, breathing creatures and even entire planets are the corpses of long dead giants. Alien races communicate with each other not with computer translators but by allowing squishy parasite things called Dolmantles to fuse with their brain. Technology, where it appears, is deeply meshed with living matter and much more natural and organic than the ultra high tech equipment seen in most SF worlds. All of this is given life by jaw-dropping artwork and an ever changing and evolving style and colour. Aliens range from colossal worms drifting through space to bulbous, many limbed insectoids to gnarled formations of roots and leaves. No two creatures look alike and each is amazingly detailed and disturbing in how far it is from anything on earth. The colouring of the comic is exceptional- each hue of alien blue, pink and green is soft, lurid and otherworldly. I really don’t know how they do it but each frame of Prophet is more mesmerising than the last and utterly original in look and design. The colour scheme shifts abruptly throughout the volume- for a segment on one of Jupiters moons the sky is violent red and a substory about a John Prophet Clone trapped in an alien slave ship is entirely black and white with occasional splashes of blood red and sickly yellow. There’s plenty of gore to be found, and the squicky elements of the first volume are still present in the frequent allusions to inter-species relations and buildings that look more like the innards of giant, decaying beasts. Dialogue is still fairly minimal and the haunting, detached narration once again gives a feeling of oppressive silence to the world, even during the frequent action scenes.
The most surprising success of Brothers is in its varied and instantly likable supporting cast. Old Man Prophet recruits a motley crew of aliens and machines to help in his battles and each is weirder than the last. There’s Hiyonhoiagn (don’t ask me to pronounce that), a semi immobile tree thing with a fondness for highly combustible beverages who adds a totally unexpected dose of humour to the otherwise bleak narratives. There’s also an impossibly badass cyborg called, seriously, Diehard, an eccentric flying ‘bot called Jaxson who appears briefly in the first volume and Rein East, a lizard assassin (an assassin who is a lizard, not someone who assassinates lizards) who reminds Prophet a bit too much of his past lover. Yes, Prophet’s past lover was a lizard. Obviously. The interactions between these assorted freaks (all of whom can absolutely kick ass, incidentally) fuels much of the second half of the volume and gives a more human, light hearted feel to proceedings. The lizard lady takes a dump in the middle of a spaceship at one point and prompts a whole slew of poo jokes which my inner five year old admittedly found pretty funny. The tone of the volume shifts from dark and isolating to a more traditional action adventure vibe throughout its six issues and though there’s still plenty of weirdness and messed up details, the newfound sense of fun is a great addition.
I really can’t tell you how pleasantly surprised I was with Brothers. I was expecting some more ultra trippy visuals and a whole lot of squishy alien body parts and whilst I definitely got that, the improvements in story and character are astronomical. Prophet now seemingly has it all- unparalleled visuals, compelling stories and an engrossing world populated with fun characters. It even helps make the insanity of Remission make a bit more sense. The first volume turned a few heads for its unapologetic weirdness but with Prophet: Brothers, Image Comics have made a title so fantastic that the whole of comic book land should be watching.