Prophet writer Brandon Graham returns to an old creation for a wild story at Image Comics!
Originality and singularity of vision are hallmarks of Brandon Graham's comic book work, and they've served him well as he's resurrected comics from the past at Image. His King City was published there as a graphic novel, but his breakthrough work has been Prophet, a reimagining of an old Rob Liefeld concept. Considering how well things have gone for Graham at Image, it only stand to reason that he'd return to Multiple Warheads, a title that saw its first issue published by Oni in 2007 before being temporarily shelved.
Graham is probably at his best when he's simply able to go forward and create whatever's on his mind. His is an active vision that restlessly spits forth weird looks at possible futures and indelibly designed worlds whose deceptive simplicity serve as a surface for great complexity. Multiple Warheads #1 takes place in a crazy-looking alternate Russia, where radiation pervades the atmosphere and the wildlife can be put to use in everyday business. It's a place where you can stop off at the Misogyny Parlor at the local shopping mall or you can use quick-growing plantlife to aid in your escape from a heavily-guarded palace. It is in this setting that Graham writes two parallel stories, each one revealing the environment in different ways. The first focuses on Sexica and her werewolf/mechanic boyfriend, Nikoli as they travel across the country in their car. Like all great road trip stories, this is a quiet, even introspective story that's character-based and features long looks at expansive vistas as well as lots of conversation. The second story follows Blue Nura, a tracker out on a bizarre mission to find the owner of the severed head she's carrying around with her (he grew a new one). This story is more action-packed, featuring motorcycles, swordplay, and daring fights against armed guards. It's a much more manic, high-energy look at the world of Multiple Warheads, and it's even a bit assaultive to the senses.
As much of a freewheeling, stream of consciousness-type of ride as the book feels like, it has a particular narrative and visual structure. For one thing, Graham bounces back and forth between the two stories, juxtaposing the personalities of his main characters and keeping things lively. Doing so also makes the world of the comic completely immersive, and it invites multiple reads, upon which more and more details are discovered. Visually, the book resembles 1970's manga, an apparently influence on Graham. Furthermore, Graham sets up a type of visual synecdoche on many of his pages; a smaller, more intimate panel featuring a close-up often precedes a large panel with a wide-angle view of where the action is taking place. It's a device that grounds the action in an immediate reality while simultaneously setting it in a large, fantastical world. The improvisational feel of this issue gives it a playfulness that belies its complexity and the depth of thought that went into creating it.
What makes Multiple Warheads #1 so compelling is its level of detail and the way it rewards multiple reads. It's an obscure narrative that uses its texture and density to its advantage. Full of that trademark Brandon Graham ambition (Grahambition?), it's a comic that's wonderfully, strange, fantastically designed, and ultimately worthy of the time and effort it takes to read. It's a text that demands the reader work with it while taking an artful approach to world building. It's a comic that's as much about the mystery of what comes next as it is about what's happening right now. Every page is an adventure, and every turn the plot takes is unexpected. That's the beauty of Multiple Warheads #1. Here's hoping that the next installment doesn't take five years to reach us.