Review: Prophet #21

Prophet #21, cover by Marian Churchland

Prophet #21

Story by Brandon Graham
Art by Simon Roy
Color by Richard Ballermann
Letters by Ed Brisson
Edits by Eric Stephenson
Covers by Marian Churchland and Rob Liefeld & Andy Troy
Prophet created by Rob Liefeld

32 pages / Color / $2.99

Image Comics

It could and would happen to anybody, but it’s what John Prophet does next that makes him a champion for humanity–aside from his possibly being its last card carrying member. He wipes his mouth with the back of his glove and proceeds to reach into the puddle of his own sick to reclaim a capsule of stimulants he’ll use to inject himself. Ampa Micakane to give his neurons a boost and to activate a number of implants his body received, oh, a good long sleep ago. The catalyst starts flowing into his systems right about the time a starving tulnaka shambles over to show off its cootie-catcher of jaws and the many fangs nestled within.

It’s just the start of a very eventful homecoming for John Prophet, the taciturn Rip Van Winkle tasked with reclaiming the planet from its alien sovereigns. Tucked away in a drill-head pod beneath the planet’s surface, Prophet endured as the rest of humanity devolved into chittering apes under the tyranny of galactic invaders. He’s alone, but not without a mission and some carefully placed tools scattered throughout the unfamiliar terrain. Earth has transformed dramatically since Prophet went off to sleep. There are whole new species of feral predators and even some that he does recognize are maddened by exotic parasites. If he can survive his journey through the wilderness, his only reward is a series of new objectives. It all takes him through an organic city protruding from the planet’s crust like the swollen husk of a very greedy tick.

Expect strange sights and smells, harrowing dystopias and savage violence. It’s a story that may change the way you think about ranching. It may even call in to question your idea of what is sexy, though probably not. Hopefully not. Definitely not.

Pretty as a postcard...from the end of the world.

You may be hesitating with the issue number. This is Prophet #21. Many of you haven’t read twenty issues of Prophet prior to today. Some of you did and don’t even remember what happened last time.

Doesn’t matter.

This is a new start for John Prophet just as Keatinge and Campbell’s Glory #23 was for that particular warrior princess. ¬†Under Image Comics’ Extreme banner, these titles are perfect jumping on points. That they’ve kept the original numbering should in no way scare you off because they’d just as easily work as #1 issues. If there’s any real knock against Image’s treatment of the Extreme relaunch it’s that potential new readers might see Prophet #21 and pass it by. While the name might be new to them, the digits don’t exactly signal new beginnings. Full disclosure, I’d never heard of this character before his return was announced last year. I had no problem or confusion to disrupt my enjoyment of the issue, but it likely would’ve eluded me if I wasn’t a reviewer with helpful colleagues to point out the good stuff.

Moving on.

A friend who works at a local comic shop expressed some disappointment in the issue, citing a flat tone and delivery. It’s a criticism worth noting, but I actually latched on to Brandon Graham’s somewhat austere, documentarian style. The cold shoulder approach fits with Prophet’s temperament. He’s emotionally detached, moving from objective to objective as set out by his long-dead handlers and the instructions imbedded within his dreams. That same detachment serves the increasingly bizarre series of events and set pieces, lending Prophet a fairly trippy air of out-and-out oddness. No need to comment on anything so strange. Just point the camera at it and shoot.

Always be prepared.

Artist Simon Roy takes us to some very unusual places infested with even more unusual creatures. I hate to invoke the name twice in one week, but there’s a bit of Moebius going down here, especially once Prophet ditches the somber wastes of the surface for the colorful fungal civilization of the subterranean realm. It’s not quite as meticulous a hand as that, but the crudeness of some battle scenes and even to Prophet’s ugly mug add to the proceedings. Earth has really gone to shit, and our species’ savior doesn’t look much evolved from our earliest representatives.

This one clobbered me over the head. Weird science fiction with a big W. This one’s gonna keep me warm in the absence of Orc Stain, and I’m pretty excited about the roster of artists set to guest on the book. Ignore the number on the cover and get ready to ride out the beginning of the world’s end.

Story: 4 / Art: 4 / Overall: 4

(Out of 5 Stars)

Hey, how’s about a preview from our good friends at Graphicly?


  1. Thanks Paul, I might check this one out at my LCS!

  2. Looks good; I wonder how many idiots will just laugh at it though because it’s associated with Liefeld.

  3. Im so glad you recommended this book Paul. I was wary because of the numbering (i really wished they had released it as a #1) but it ended up being my POW. I love this world that they have created, it’s so unique and original. The comicalliance preview compared it to Conan and with that in my mind, i felt the flat tone really worked. It was a bare bones approach that only emphasized what was needed, leaving you free to just soak up the strange creatures and environment. I finished it excited to read the second issue and it’s been a long time since i could say that about a comic. It’s this kind of bold creativity that i wish i’d see more of in Marvel and Dc. I absolutely loved the art as well, the designs were creative and disturbing, using the familar as a base but changing it enough to make it unsettling. It reminded me a lot of David Lynch’s films and Naked Lunch, which have similar bizarrely unsettling tones. It’s not without its humour though as that implied sex scene is something that will stick with me. It came out of nowhere and the followup panels, the disrobing and smoking, had me laughing out loud.
    Image has started 2012 strong with this book and if they can keep it up, this year really will be the year of Image comics. I never would’ve thought that an EXTREME Comics relaunch would’ve been something i’d be interested in, but now i cannot wait to read Glory!

  4. Nice evocative review. The art sold me anyway, but your reviews are a highlight of this site. Now what the heck happened to Orc Stain?

  5. Loved this. Moebius and Orc Stain are legitimate comparison points, I think. This is basically a Euro comic ripped from Metal Hurlant and transplanted into a Rob Leifeld comic.

    There’s a bit of Carlos Ezquerra in the art as well, particular in Prophet’s mug. Nothing wrong with not following the standard tropes of superhero comics here – this is so far outside that idiom that I had no expectations whatsoever to see that sort of stuff. A ‘villain’, love interest etc may emerge…but it wouldn’t necessarily improve this at all. I’m interested in the process that shaped this world, and how that will be disrupted by Prophet as he strides the earth like a certain Cimmerian. That’s plenty for now.

  6. As much as I am enjoying this title I am getting a bit tired of the constant proclamations about how unique and singular a vision it represents. By standards of the American comics? yes. But many of the tropes being deployed here bear an uncanny resemble to Tsutomu Nihei’s universe of Blame!Noise! and Biomega!

    Nihei is not that foreign and underground a commodity either. Not only is a Bulk of his work is available in English language, he even did a Wolverine mini-series SNIKT!

    This is by no means a detraction. I am thoroughly enjoying the run on Prophet and it is thoroughly refreshing, but lets also give credit where credit is due to those that trod this road before