By Todd Allen
You may have heard some good buzz floating around about the relaunch of the old Liefeld-verse title Prophet. Believe the hype. And yes, if you’ve read my reviews over the years, it _is_ out of character for me to be pointing happy attention to a Liefeld-verse project. Prophet’s new incarnation is excellent work and I think it’s important to address the elephant in the room, since Rob Liefeld is a pretty divisive figure for a lot of people. I’m looking at the relaunch as a its own entity and you probably should, too.
This relaunch starts with issue #21. Odd number to start a relaunch with, since a quick Google doesn’t show me any issues of Prophet since the ’90s and certainly not 20 issues worth. Hilariously, a lot of the previews of this issue have been mislabeled as Prophet #20. The preview cover image doesn’t have an issue number on it and the Image 20th anniversary logo appears to have been mistaken as the issue. An honest mistake, especially with an odd numbering choice.
The comic itself is written by Brandon Graham and drawn by Simon Roy. This is a science fiction comic. Dystopian future, world building, alien culture building, cannibalism, and some hacking of creatures with a big ‘ole knife. As befitting coming in cold on issue #21 of a series, the issue starts suddenly with our hero emerging from some sort of suspended animation capsule that I gather was part of the original series. He’s been asleep for a long time and he emerges into a world that’s not familiar. There’s a city on the other side of the wilderness and while it’s inhabited, it’s not inhabited by people. Prophet knows he’s supposed to meet a contact and get his mission. He’s also receiving some communications in his dreams.
This issue is all about building a credible future environment and establishing the culture of the creatures whose city he’s hiding out in waiting for the assignment. Sociological order is introduced and explained. The art and coloring (Richard Ballerman) create a wonderfully surreal environment for the story. An immersive environment that envokes a sense of wonder and a creepy feeling as there are touches of horror around the edges.
The narrative tone itself is fairly subdued and matter of fact, adding to the surreal effect of the alien surroundings as Prophet matter-of-factly goes about his business. The Prophet character gives this just a touch of military science fiction flavor, too. But just a touch.
Frequently, it’s useful to provide a touch point to describe what a series is like. The closest thing I can think of in recent years in Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder series, which Dark Horse has been packaging in Omnibus form and highlighting in Dark Horse Presents. I say Finder because it also spends a good deal of time building up the alien cultures. Prophet has a bit more of an action bent to it. With the culture he runs into, it’s possible you might read a little Planet of the Apes/Kamandi influence into it. I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, this spends more time with world building than Kamandi’s adventure romps did. Perhaps the original Monkey Planet novel by Pierre Boulle is a closer fit for tone. Really, this has more in common with a European science fiction comic than Kirby’s Planet of the Apes riff. But you get where I’m going with points of reference.
Prophet #21 comes out of left field and runs over you with a smart, imaginative and well-rendered science fiction world. Highly recommended if science fiction is in your wheelhouse. Recommended for a change of pace if your comics genres of choice are different.
This is due out on January 18th and I’m running this a little early in case you want have your local comic shop pull a copy for you. I’m not usually one to dip his toe in the “this is going to sell out quickly” pool, but that buzz is starting up and… well, this really isn’t necessarily what you’re expecting to see when you place an order for Prophet #21. This might pull in a different audience than expected and create a short term shortage.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.