Pulp Corner: Prophet Vol. 1 – Remission
John Prophet. Poster child of Early 90’s Image Comics excess. Brainchild of Rob Liefeld. I tried to think of an eloquent way to describe him but I think Wikipedia does a fine job with the facts:
“John Prophet, a poor and homeless man living in the World War II era, volunteered to participate in the medical experiments of Dr. Horatio Wells, a time-traveling scientist from the future who used DNA-enhancing methods to transform Prophet into a supersoldier. He was engineered to serve the evil Phillip Omen and programmed with murderous instincts. Wells had a change of heart though and changed Prophet’s programming from evil to a strong belief in God. Wells planned for Prophet to be placed into stasis for many years and then re-emerge in the future to help Wells’ people fight the evil Disciples”
That’s for real. So what we have here is some kind of bible thumping Captain America killing machine. He debuts early in Liefeld’s flagship Image title, Youngblood and as the Wiki entry notes was originally destined for X-Force before the artist jumped ship. A young Biff Tannen was obsessed.
Yes, retrospectively this seems like the definition of steaming hot garbage, but at the time elementary school me didn’t care. It was everything I wanted, plus he looked BADASS. Now that I can look back at it with adult eyes it seems the reason this connected with me was because the creator (barely an adult himself) had the same interests as my 8 year old self. Who can blame him?
Two years ago when I stumbled on the fact that Prophet was being continued by Image comics and even picking up with the same numbering where it originally left off, I scoffed. Who in the world was clamoring for more John Prophet? How could this be a good idea? I left it alone. Something strange happened though, I kept seeing it pop up on comic book sites with fantastic reviews. What the hell was happening? I had to find out.
Writer Brandon Graham along with artist Simon Roy took the task of revitalizing Prophet by toning down the silliness of the original and extending the logical parts of his back story in a way that made sense. Our main character John Prophet awakes from hyper sleep on what appears to be Earth thousands of years into the future. The planet has changed immensely and for the worse if you’re part of the human race. No remnants seem to be found and only different species of creatures. After a bit of a tour through these cultures Prophet gets involved traveling with an Alien caravan and an assassination attempt on their leader. This gave me flashbacks (in the best possible way) of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter series. Prophet eventually receives his orders involving a trek to a tower to activate a satellite that will awaken the Earth empire. What does it all mean?
Well when he succeeds, the next issue begins with another Prophet awakening from his sleep and in the issue after that yet another Prophet each which their own mission. Smartly, a different artist is assigned to each issue that deals with another Prophet going forward. So any stories or issues in the future that deal with the Prophet drawn by Farel Dalrymple will always be drawn by him and the same goes for Giannis Milonogiannis and even Brandon Graham himself. Which I think is a fantastic idea, especially since all their styles are reminiscent of each other with enough delineation to pick out who is who.
The artwork itself is really interesting. The color palette and the designs are so otherworldly everything looks foreign and rightly so. It’s alien without being cliché, it doesn’t look like anything we’ve ever seen and that’s how it should be. There’s very little dialogue in the book and everything is mostly told through a cold and sterile narration. It helps to give us the information we reader’s crave but can still be very bewildering. I actually think this series could be published without words since the images and narrative are strong on their own, yes we’d have less insight but I think it would still be very effective.
Prophet succeeds and I now understand why it was being reviewed so favorably. It’s certainly not for everyone and this trade while containing the first six issues is far from being a complete storyline or really giving you any of the answers you may need. It’s also one of those books you need to see and immerse yourself in since it’s a world unto to itself. I can only do a fair amount trying to describe it here. I’d recommend this to fans of hard sci-fi, it’s kind of the anti-Saga. Saga is more Star Wars in its design as an adventure that uses space as the backdrop. In Prophet space is the central construct.
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