An advance review of the first offering from Image's EXTREME Universe!
Credits & Solicit Info:
Story by: Brandon Graham
Art By: Simon Roy
Cover By: Marian Churchland & Rob Liefeld
The distant future Earth is inhabited by alien settlers that feed off of the ape-men mankind has devolved into. John Prophet awakes from cryosleep on a mission to restart the human empire.
It's difficult to describe the mess comics in the early 1990's sometimes were. For every enduring masterwork like Sandman or Bone, there were dozens of comics with names like X-Tremedeth and BludStryffe filled with pouches, enormous guns, poor anatomy and little else. So it came as a surprise when Image announced it would be relaunching several books in the latter category in 2012. While we are beginning to see a revaluation of 90's comics and their "unique" properties, the idea of faithful relaunch of Liefeld's Extreme line of comics would have been have been an aesthetic disaster. Fortunately, Image has spent most the last decade or so turning itself into one of the most progressive comic publishers around, and Brandon Graham (King City, Multiple Warheadz) and Simon Roy (Jan's Atomic Heart) were recruited for the revamp of Rob Liefeld's Prophet.
It isn't necessary to know anything about the previous issues of Prophet, and actually probably beneficial as it prevents the possibility of bad art flashbacks. Liefeld's original concept was a sort of Captain America meets Cable meets OMAC rip-off (he even had the cheek to call Prophet's sidekick Jackson Kirby). John Prophet's father was murdered by Hitler. After becoming the man of the family, Prophet took various jobs, including becoming subject for genetics experiments (as was the style of the time). Prophet was eventually put into cryogenic storage, only to be awakened by Youngblood in a manner that is in no way whatsoever derivative of Captain America being awakened by the Avengers. There was also an OMAC-style satellite, as well as the revelation that Prophet was periodically unfrozen and brainwashed for covert missions (well at least they beat Winter Solider to this punch).The series is mostly remembered as being the book Stephen Platt did after Moon Knight.
Graham is one of the most exciting and original creators to appear in the last half-decade, blending the best of American comic/manga/Eurocomics with graffiti, hip-hop and contemporary design. While Graham is not drawing Prophet, his unique perspective translates just as well to writing. His version keeps some base elements of the character, but takes them in a radically new direction. Once again Prophet is revived from cryogenic storage for a mission, only this time it is in a distant and savage future long after humanity's decline. Graham drops us and John Prophet in medias res to figure out both the lay of this new world as well as Prophet's place in it. Graham's Prophet is taciturn and pragmatic figure along the lines of Conan the Barbarian. While Graham does not make us privy to Prophet's thoughts, nor does the character speak throughout much of the issue, he does make excellent use of third-person captions. These captions, written in a sparse but entertaining style, provide just enough additional information without smothering the art.
This first issue, and despite the twenty-one on the cover it really is a first issue, taps into a sort of 70's sci-fi/fantasy vibe (Dig Prophet's orange jumpsuit!). The first half of the issue works as a sort of combination travelogue and man vs. nature narrative. We get some perspective on the current state of the Earth which balances the familiar with the bizarre, and get a sense of its flora and mutated fauna. The second half shows several encampments and gives the reader an idea of what sort of ramshackle civilizations have taken root in this decaying land. It's an interesting departure for Graham, whose work has tended toward urban, hip and laconic, though there have been plenty of nods in Graham's work toward this Heavy Metal-esque narrative so it's not a complete surprise for those following his work. His gift for putting a clever idea or concept on every page remains intact and we get to see everything from a decaying alien spaceship city to parasite-enhanced wolves.
Simon Roy, who created the art for Prophet, turns in an equally stunning performance. It's a well planned-out world with subtle but consistent variations in the environment, which shows the level of collaboration between Roy and Graham. In particular, Roy brings a real sense of grandeur to the sweeping sci-fi landscapes. His wide angle shots of desolate canyons and alien cities (the two features are done as a map and a cutaway diagram) are worth poring over. Roy also incorporates some similar biological motifs, notably a toothy double-mouth, on his creature designs that give a nice sense of parallel evolution. It's easy to see how much effort went into designing a consistent and appealing universe.
Roy's storytelling is clear, concise and varied. He is equally adept with scenes of quiet wandering as the, brutal bursts of violence that punctuate the issue. Roy also plays around with unusual panel shapes and layouts, making for dynamic pages. Add in organically integrated lettering by Ed Brisson and an evocative cover by Marian Churchland, and you have the total artistic package.
The Graham/Roy Prophet is on one level a very venerable trick, the revamp of an unwanted character and the accompanying illicit thrill reinvention. But more importantly, it's a book that transcends its origins and influences to become something fresh. The sense of collaboration and excitement from the creative team is palpable. There really is nothing on the racks that reads quite like Prophet with its mix of mad ideas and brutal action.
Review by: James Moore, Outhouse Contributor