Thursday, October 4, 2012

Prophet is the best galactic post-apocalyptic barbarian story I have ever read

The first issue of Brandon Graham's run on Prophet begins with an ancient capsule burrowing its way out of the ground. John Prophet emerges from the capsule, awaking from suspended animation on an Earth that has been colonized by aliens. Prophet is driven by a single mission: to make his way across the blasted landscape, climb the towers of Thauili Van, and re-awaken the Earth Empire.
A very cool and Marian Churchland-esque inventory of Prophet's tools

The first collected trade paperback of Prophet came out recently, which makes this an excellent time to be getting into the series. When I say the "first," I should clarify: the original Prophet series was created by Rob Liefeld back in the '90's. What I'm talking about is the reimagining/continuation of the original series, which Brandon Graham is doing with Rob Liefeld's blessing. I never read the original series, but I don't feel like I'm missing any backstory. The new series is definitely intended to stand on its own.

One of my favorite things about the series is its tone. The world Prophet finds himself from is in the aftermath of a galactic war, with the burned-out spaceships of the conflict still littering the landscape. But for the weird creatures that now call Earth home, life goes on. The narration of the series is very matter-of-fact. Rather than trying to explain how things got the way they are or why they work the way they do, the narration simply tells us the way things are. This does not make the reader feel like an outsider; instead, it makes the world feel full and alive. Readers feel there is more to it than what is glimpsed in the pages. I got the same impression from King City, one of Brandon Graham's other comics. While searching for images for this post, I came across a site that had one of my favorite pages from Prophet. I think this image really captures the feeling of everyday weirdness.

As the plot moves on, it expands into several connected stories. These are each drawn by a different artist: Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Gionnis Milonogionnis, and one issue so far that was drawn by Graham. Each artist draws a different storyline, so the different art styles become a representation of each character's point of view. Each artist's style is unique, but they all fit the tone of the story. Which one is my favorite usually depends on whose story I happen to be reading at the time.

I was never the kind of comics fan who picks up a stack of comics every Wednesday at my local comic book store. I had always preferred buying trade paperbacks on Amazon. Thanks to Prophet (and also to Becky Cloonan's run on Conan the Barbarian, which I might talk about in a later post), I now have "pulls" at Standup Comics a few blocks from my apartment, and the guys at the comic book store know my name. Yet, despite already owning all of the single issues, I still went out and bought the trade paperback when it came out, for ease of reading. I think that tells you all you need to know about my feelings toward Prophet!

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