Prophet, Vol. 1
Created by: Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Farel Darymple
Published by: Image
ISBN: 1607066114 (Amazon)
Genre: Science Fiction
Somewhere along the line I lost touch with my fascination for science fiction. I’m not sure where that was exactly but I’d guess it was pretty quickly after I stepped out of junior high. I had grown up with science fiction and it had held a comfortable storehouse of wild imaginations when I was young. Some of my first comics were some weird-ish Gold Key books and reprints of the early Marvel sci-fi bits (such as “The Terror of Tim Boo Ba”). They were helpful in expanding my conception of what could be, but eventually all that sort of began to stale as the tropes became recognizable and the shocks mundane.
That alien is happily waving to his friend’s dead carcass, tied to John like a scarf.
Near the end of junior high, I discovered marginally less fantasy-based sci-fi in a short-story anthology edited by Isaac Asimov, among others. It encouraged me to see that there was something beyond Star Wars and Tales to Astonish and Ender’s Game, but in a way, it was too late. Space and the future and time travel had stopped calling out to me. I still held onto superheroes for a while but that was more born of an already-extant investment in the characters.11And as those characters evolved into unrecognizability and new characters continued to flood the books I followed, I simply couldn’t find the connection anymore in their never-ending-yet-never-moving stories. I’m tempted to say I failed the books by my maturing interests, but in reality it was probably the books that failed me by not being able to grow along with me. I don’t hold it against those superhero books—they followed a path that seemed best to them. But I can’t pretend interest anymore. The nostalgia in me says I should feel a kind of sadness for that loss. Or perhaps a cousin to sadness. But more I just don’t feel anything. The same way I don’t feel sadness for the loss of my first, second, or third girlfriends. There was emotion involved at one point probably, but now it just doesn’t really come to mind save for an occasional “Huh!” when I realize how long it’s been since I cared. By the time I discovered science fiction that could really excite me (say, Gattaca or Moon or last year’s Moon Moth), it was less that I was interested in the sci-fi and more just that I appreciated good, thoughtful stories and accomplished storytelling. I don’t seek out science fiction stories, but if I hear grand things I can be persuaded to spend some time in their worlds.
Which is why I picked up Brandon Graham’s reimagining of Prophet.
Which is good because I don’t honestly think he knows where he’s going.
<excursus>I’m not even sure how important it is to mention that Prophet is a reboot, is a reimagination, or is in any way related to the earlier book. Nobody22Probably. cares about Rob Liefeld’s short-lived series, Prophet. I was there on the ground floor and after one (or maybe two) issues, I didn’t care either. I suppose the only reason why anyone talks about the two in conjunction is to make Graham’s version look real good. But I’ll tell you this for free. Graham doesn’t need the crutch.</excursus>
For someone who doesn’t look for or even particularly care for science fiction stories, Prophet excites me in ways that surprise me. When I sat down to blow through volume 1, I did so reluctantly. It was a due diligence kind of thing. So many people were talking it up I felt it would be responsible of me to take a look. A few pages in, I sighed and set my jaw to trudge through yet one more sci-fi cliche that people seem to devour for the reason that they simply are not me and have their own tastes and desires. Having read and enjoyed Graham’s King City, I was disappointed. Yet, gradually, the world in which I believed that Prophet was typical and maybe a little boring—that world was shattered by the sheer imaginative force of Graham’s brash creative will. This thing was not just worth my time. It was good and it was exciting. I was undone and remade. Politely.
This is the Brandon Graham I know.
While Prophet's art is fun and kind of wonderful and the book’s narration is a terse punctuation on its interesting plot development, Graham’s greatest asset is imagination. In terms of sheer creative dynamism, Prophet is revelatory to me. In a sense, it sends me back to the freshness of my childhood. When Tim Boo Ba’s fate was mind-bendingly fresh. When I opened UFO Flying Saucers #8 to have my paradigm shift. Graham’s Prophet unveils a world that I couldn’t imagine on my own. Maybe I could have conjured one or two or three of the wild things that make up his John Prophet’s universe, but this is hundreds of things. Hundreds of things that make me feel young again.
And maybe it won’t act as a fountain of youth to anyone who isn’t me and doesn’t have the exact same kind of childhood political geography exerting such governance over his or her reactions to really great science fiction craziness. Maybe it will merely stop at making that person happy for having read something worth their time. And maybe that’s good enough, right? But for me, I crave more and will be (to my own surprise) following Graham’s Prophet to its end.
I’ve noticed that I haven’t actually described either the book’s plot or characters. I’m not going to. I don’t think anything should come between a reader and encountering Graham’s world for the first time. Giving readers a heads-up would only diminish the experience—and I won’t have that on my conscience.
John is a hard, hard man.
Good Ok Bad features reviews of comics, graphic novels, manga, et cetera using a rare and auspicious three-star rating system. Point systems are notoriously fiddly, so here it's been pared down to three simple possibilities:
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