So here we are here, twenty-five years after the creation of Image Comics, and I am about to sing the praises about a Rob Liefeld creation. (In Rob’s defense some of his ’90s stuff might have failed a bit in execution but were good ideas otherwise.)
Stranger things have happened this year, but for comic book fans, the fact that Prophet has become one of the most beautiful, interesting, artful, and unique comics in the medium is quite a surprise.
So how did a thinly veiled Captain America analog transform so much? How did we get five gorgeous collections? Well, that falls squarely on the shoulders of indie comics mainstay Brandon Graham and his team (yes this book is a HUGE group effort) of talented creators. Earth War, the most recent, is credited to Graham and Simon Ray as writers, with (in the ordered listed) Graham, Giannis Milongiannis, Ray, Ron Ackins, Grim Wilkins, and Sandra Lanz as the pencilers. Color duties were handled by Joseph Bergin III, Lin Visel, Paul Davey, Arkins, and Graham (again).
What this artistic team of superheroic proportions has created is a hard sci-fi serial in the vein of the best of Moebius and Metal Hurlant. Prophet, with it’s dense, bizarre and complete sense of world building, is not an easy read, though. The concept is simple to describe but complexly executed. The story takes place thousands of years in the future, where an unknown number of Prophet clones have almost become an army, exploring distant planets and getting involved in Dune-like intricate plots with various alien races. It’s all pretty mind-blowing, made even more so due to the fact that it actually takes place in established Prophet (therefore Youngblood) continuity. Hell, fucking Diehard makes an appearance. And even that ’90s walking cliché is turned into a deeply tragic and soulful character who has lived so long and seen so much, he has lost all sense of humanity and longs for even the simplest things, like the taste of water.
The whole saga actually has an underlying theme of loneliness and tragedy that is very moving, assured and mature. It stays with you after you are done.
The artwork in this volume is simply stunning. Everything has delicate and handcrafted looks to it, with coloring that refreshingly doesn’t have that overt gloss that so many comics have these days. The whole book has a softness to it that is arresting to take in. Even the gutter lines are pretty. You really do want to just pore over every panel, every alien creature and every twisting and psychedelic landscape.
You would think a book with six artists would be jarring and uneven, but when the art switches you hardly notice, and it actually gives the book a nice change of pace, bringing the Franco-Belgian bandes dessinées even more into the forefront. And although the art changes, the world designs stay the same, keeping you firmly within its realm.
Honestly, Prophet may not be for everyone. However, connoisseurs of the comics medium really owe themselves a look at it. It’s unlike anything in mainstream American comics now and feels like something new and foreign. It’s amazing that Image is putting it out and it would be unfortunate if it didn’t reach readers. I, for one, have become a convert and will be jumping back to check out the first four volumes and keep my eyes out for what’s to come from Graham and co.