Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

26 April 2013

Prophet, v. 1: Remission

Collects: Prophet #21-6 (2012)

Released: August 2012 (Image)

Format: 136 pages / color / $9.99 / ISBN: 9781607066118

What is this?: In the far future, a warrior reawakes on a mission to reignite the old Earth Empire.

The culprits: Written by Brandon Graham and drawn by Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Graham, and Giannis Milonogiannis

I picked up both Hawkeye and Prophet, v. 1: Remission on the recommendation of House to Astonish. I was prepared for Hawkeye, but Prophet … I’m not sure what to make of Prophet.

Prophet gives the reader a feeling of being dropped into a world that has already been partially developed. Part of that is because Remission reprints #21-6; obviously, twenty issues came before Remission. What relationship they have to Remission is unknown, though, and when those original issues were published is unstated. (Mostly 1993-6, with one issue in 2000.) I presumed those 20th-century issues related to the stories in Remission, but a glance around Wikipedia shows the link is tenuous.

Prophet, v. 1: Remission coverRemission is set in the far future. Earth is vastly different, the landscapes altered and overrun by alien animals and sentients. John Prophet is belched forth onto this Earth by an armored digging machine that has been buried for an untold number of years. The newly awakened Prophet is sent on a mission — to go to a satellite and send out a beacon to the remnants of the old Earth Empire — that has been prepared so long ago a city has been born and thrived at one of the rendezvous points along his route.

Prophet’s quest is excellent sci-fi. The aliens are varied in custom and appearance, and Prophet drifts through their settlements. The technology is a combination of advanced and dilapidated, with animals frequently used for power. The fractured Earth society is stagnant, not creating or innovating. Humans are not seen anywhere — unless, as one alien intimates, the ape-like creatures that are farmed for meat are human.

Writer Brandon Graham doesn’t give Prophet much character — for good reason, as it turns out, since Graham moves on to other stories after #3’s big twist ending. Prophet is an enigma, a grunting action hero one can easily see being portrayed on screen by a mop-topped, early ‘80s Arnold Schwarzenegger. There is no explanation of his past, no examination of his motives: he is born into this strange world, and his only reason for birth is his mission. He is as reflective as a brick wall, and he does not question the elaborate preparations that bespeak a long-term plan; he only acknowledges their usefulness.

Artist Simon Roy is perfect for this arc. Roy, who is also co-credited for the story, draws a world that has only tinges of the familiar. His aliens are weird, the landscapes forbiddingly strange. His Prophet is brutish and stoic. Roy’s style also has a tinge of the doodles in a high schooler’s notebook — appropriate for such an imaginative and epic work.

For the rest of Remission, Graham tells one-issue stories from elsewhere in the universe. The stories presumably arise from the events at the end of #23, but only #25 explicitly says so. Each individual story is good, but their episodic nature saps the momentum of that great first arc. The lack of continuation and continuity throws the readers’ assumptions about the series’ nature into question. What is this series about? Who specifically is it about? Will any of these stories mesh, or are they vignettes to give the flavor of Prophet’s universe? I believe they are related, and people or places in #24-6 will be important. But that’s a belief, with no real evidence to support it.

Still, they are enjoyable stories, if lacking in back story. Issue #24 features a shorter quest, in many ways echoing Prophet’s in #21-3. The best of the latter three stories is #25, which follows a robot wakened by Prophet's signal; Jaxson is a automaton veteran of the Earth Empire’s wars who now is stoically getting ready for another. The final issue is less effective, without much struggle and without any pathos. But it does introduce the Old Man, who was mentioned in #25. The art for the three issues — by Farel Dalrymple, Graham, and Giannis Milonogiannis, respectively90 — is very good, but they lack some spark that Roy’s art possesses. Emma Rios contributes a five-page story that is opaque, both in art and story, to the point of nonsensicalness.

I enjoyed Remission, but I wonder, what is it about? Is there a larger story here? I feel there has to be, given the hints laid down during #21-3, but I cannot guess its shape or color. I am tempted to pick up Prophet, v. 2: Brothers, but as good as Remission is, I don’t know if I’m going to enjoy it as a long-form story.

Rating: Image symbol Image symbol Image symbol Image symbol (4 of 5)

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