If you've been reading Prophet since Image's relaunch a few months back, #24 will start with the familiar: John Prophet wakes violently from a technologically-induced slumber and vomits up something useful. As he regains consciousness, Prophet realizes he's in a setting apparently devoid of other human life, and then something grabs his attention, eventually steering him onto the mission he is supposed to fulfill. Oh, and he's got a tail now.
And if you haven't been reading Prophet, you're missing out.
The value of Prophet really seems to be in the differences between the Prophets and their missions, mixed with the assumption that somehow Graham will show us just how they all intertwine to define the future of the human race. The inclusion of subtle differences among similar story beats has me more excited than I expected I would be. It's at this time that I feel the need to reiterate that John Prophet has a tail now:
I like the return of the inventory panel, as it shows that different Prophets have been equipped (or evolved/genetically engineered) based on what environment they're expected to be in and what tasks they'll need to undertake. The inventory panel is gives a feeling of comics from a time that's past now, which is not unwelcome. We all know Batman's got a bunch of cool stuff in his utility belt, but sometimes it's nice to see it all spread out. It gives the reader a chance to wonder “how's he going to use that?” as well as giving the writer/artist a chance to flex their creativity.
It only took three issues of Prophet before it dethroned The Unwritten as my most anticipated book each month. Simon Roy (Jan's Atomic Heart) brought a rough, rugged feel to both the characters and the environment in his three issue arc; with the conclusion of that first story, Farel Dalrymple (Popgun War) joins Graham and brings with him the tainted sterility present in sci-fi films like Moon. You can see that this spaceship Prophet's been kept in was once very clean and pristine, but something has happened, an explosion ripped through before the other Prophets could wake up.
Whether he means to or not, Graham seems to be setting up all of the John Prophets of the universe to undergo somewhat similar trials as they complete their goals and ascend into whatever role they end up occupying, a trend I'm enjoying quite a bit. There's the feeling that, while there is something else going on, something far bigger than the adventures of each John Prophet, you don't really need it to appreciate what's going on in any given story arc. Graham described Prophet as "Conan in space," a wonderfully simple description that the series seems to be living up to, but the different arcs manage to encompass different genres.
While Roy's arc felt much more like a traditional action story, there's a haunting feeling to Dalrymple's arc, placing it pretty firmly in the camp of suspenseful/horror science fiction, almost up there with Alien. It doesn't hurt that mood to have a ghost-like young girl guiding Prophet while he is slowly being poisoned and chased by a mutated doppelganger.
Dalrymple delivers stunning visuals too, with Prophet falling to Vostok's World in a giant gel "star skin" snowsuit being a personal favorite. I don't know how he does it, but the way he draws the gel that becomes Prophet's star skin gives a life to pink goo that I haven't seen since Ghostbusters 2.
I'm not sure whose decision the last page was, but my god if it doesn't feel like someone was reading/watching Akira when they found inspiration for it. It's all kinds of creepy and has me excited for the next issue.
Graham's doing something pretty awesome with Prophet, and I don't just mean the stories he's telling, though they're quite good. No, what he's doing, that we don't see much in comics anymore, is telling stories in short arcs. Hickman's FF have been around three-to-four-issue arcs, most of Morrison's Batman has been smaller story arcs, but there's quite a bit I've been reading that pushes for six-issue arcs as the norm.
With Prophet, we get three issues with Roy, then two with Dalrymple, and finally a one-shot written and drawn by Graham. He could draw these stories out, make them last longer, but he doesn't. I've got to respect an economy of words, especially when I can get a fuller story in $9 and 3 issues of Prophet than I could in $24 and six issues of Ultimate Spider-Man.
Image is producing a lot of killer books right now and I'm impressed by how they've become an almost perfect example of a comics publisher doing things right, amidst all the garbage and creators rights issues going on at the big two. In the last couple years, I've given most Image books at least a few issues to hook me, but none of them sank their meathooks in deeper than Prophet.
I can't remember having this kind of excitement for a comic since I was a kid. I feel I must again remind you: John Prophet has a tail.
David Fairbanks doesn't get many things right the first time. He studied physics in college, loves science, music, comics, poetry, movies, books, and education pertaining to all of the above. He will talk your ear off about Grant Morrison and Ben Folds, has an indie bookshelf larger than his Marvel, DC and Vertigo ones combined and if he ever actually grows up, more than anything else, he wants to still be happy as an “adult,” whatever that is.