Seven issues in, “Prophet” remains as wildly imaginative and visually original as it has been since the Extreme Studios re-launch. “Prophet” #27 has daring, unusual storytelling, verging on downright confusing, but writer Brandon Graham and artist Giannis Milonogiannis pull it off.
For readers new to the title, the most accurate and succinct elevator pitch I can give you is that “Prophet” #27 is like a chapter of an illustrated heroic epic poem set in imaginary outer space. The basic facts of “Prophet” #27 are relatively simple: John Prophet reflects over his past while stuck in space on a space worm’s back. The action shifts into the present as Prophet attempts to find an old comrade, Brother Hiyonhoiagn of the Kinniaa. I had to read the issue several times before I felt I had a grasp of what was happening, however, because the way the story is told is anything but simple.
Graham gives John Prophet’s thoughts and movements the rhythm and diction of ancient mythology or parable, in a stream-of-consciousness narrative flow. The ruminative tone and lack of word balloons in “Prophet” #27 emphasize how Prophet’s memories and labors are witnessed only by the reader. Also, the third-person point-of-view and curiously detached quality of the narration — Graham refers to the protagonist as “John” or even just “the old man” — reinforce Prophet’s solitude and singularity.
Graham’s storytelling shows and doesn’t tell, and his assault of rapid world-building is fierce. Every page has backgrounds bustling with foreign information, while the movement of John Prophet’s adventures continues to unfold in the foreground, heedless of any space-tourist visual overload being induced. However, it’s not a flaw, merely an observation — “Prophet” #27 is a dense read and may require intensive rereads.
Giannis Milonogiannis’ art is crucial to the success of Graham’s script. His Moebius-like, yet spiky, lines burst with texture and expression. Since the text of “Prophet” #27 reads like an epic poem, Milonogiannis’ pencils have to carry more of the world-building and action, and they do. His beautifully bizarre, otherworldly visuals add another layer of complexity to “Prophet” #27. The reader can observe with awe and fascination, while John Prophet, who has seen it all before, can push through it resolutely.
Joseph Bergin III’s palette of grays, browns and faded warm hues give Milonogiannis’ alien landscapes a familiar, earthy grounding. The muted colors also echo the quiet isolation that is the dominant emotional note of “Prophet” #27.
Once I had better absorbed the arc and feeling of John Prophet’s journey in “Prophet” #27, I was reminded of “The Old Man and the Sea,” “King Lear” and particularly “The Odyssey.” I also thought of the lines of Robert Stevenson’s “Requiem”: “Home is the sailor, home from the sea/And the hunter home from the hill.” “Prophet” #27 feels like a section of legend about an old, powerful man. The story of his long, rich life is a series of travails and triumphs long in the telling, characterized by unwinding elegiac expanse rather than the youth and fire of younger men.
“Prophet” #27 takes some patience and open-mindedness from the reader, but its multitude of ideas and formal experiments are worth the effort.