Since the revival of “Prophet,” it’s been the best ongoing science-fiction comic currently published. “Prophet” #29 by Brandon Graham and Farel Dalrymple is a prime example of how well the series works, and how Graham (and his host of collaborators) have turned it into a title that can literally do just about anything.
By leaping into the far future and featuring a host of clones of John Prophet, “Prophet” has set itself up to tell both an ongoing story as well as more focused, one-offs encased inside the greater whole. “Prophet” #29 falls into the latter category, as one of a group of Prophet clones sacrifices itself to save the Earth Empire Mother that they’re escorting across the galaxy, and in the process gets knocked into a manufacturing barge within a massive war. In one brief moment, the entire issue pivots on that single point and in doing so frees itself from the larger narrative. From this point on, the comic is not about the escorting of the Earth Empire Mother, but of this Prophet’s survival and eventual revolt-leading.
What’s especially nice about “Prophet” #29 is how you can read this issue completely apart from anything else in the series and still get not only a strong sense of what the series is like, but also get a complete story. Graham and Dalrymple do what “Prophet” does best here: introduce lots of alien species, invoke big science-fiction ideas and keep the story moving at a brisk pace. It’s a strong look into a strange ecosystem that is different than anything we’ve ever seen before, but also has flashes of familiarity. Setting as a speck within the massive Ixtano War-Circus is smart, too; we’re reminded of how this is ultimately a very small blip within a massive conflict that’s raged on for 300 years, and how even as Prophet accomplishes his own victories it’s almost nothing in comparison to the big picture. It puts perspective in Prophet’s path, even as it still turns into such an important moment for those who are caught up inside the manufacturing barge.
Dalrymple’s art is gorgeous as ever; the glimpse of the Ixtano War-Circus is boggling in its scope, with what initially look like just a mass of creatures revealed to also contain mammoth spaceships, and then seeing the conflict stretching off into the distance as far as the eye can see. Inside the barge is amazing, too; intricate details to draw creatures like the basidian spore (think a mobile mushroom but with lots of little growths and tentacles), or even just the landscape of the barge. Dalrymple’s an amazing artist, and having him back for another issue of “Prophet” is a real treat. The color choices from Joseph Bergin III and Charo Solis are strong, too; the colors inside the barge are quickly stripped away, and then used sparingly until the end of the story. It’s not just a good storytelling idea, it creates a strong visual impact that shows off Dalrymple’s lines as well as helps punctuate key moments within “Prophet” #29.
The comic closes out with a five-page back-up by Andy Ristaino, which at first appears to be a simple battle but quickly turns into a grim story about a damaged spacecraft and the decision that the maintenance worker on duty has to make. It’s not just a good way to close out the comic, it’s a prime example of how you can tell a story in just a few pages and still make it feel like a complete and satisfying unit. Its strength shouldn’t be that surprising, though. Graham has shown a strong understanding of what makes comics work over the years, both in “Prophet” and elsewhere, and this is just another example. If you aren’t reading “Prophet,” this is a great a place as any to fix that problem. As always, great stuff.