Last issue’s complete overhaul of “Prophet” as part of Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios relaunch met with almost overwhelming critical praise, setting a high bar for the follow-up installment. Issue #21 introduced protagonist John Prophet, who has awoken at some point in the future where the Earth is barely recognizable with a mission to undergo. In “Prophet” #22, Brandon Graham and Simon Roy give readers the next stage of his journey in a manner both advancing the story and serving as a self-contained mini-adventure.
On his journey to the Towers of Thauilu Vah, John Prophet crosses the desert by foot until he joins a Taxa caravan, helping to feed the giant beasts that carry them. The caravan is like its own little society, traveling from market to market in an endless cycle. Like the first issue, Graham and Roy imbue the world here with such richness (usually through allusion or single panels), we get a sense of how this little society works. John’s ride is disturbed when he prevents what he think is a coup against the caravan king and instead receives the wrath of the caravan population.
John’s choice to intervene despite it potentially endangering his quest is the first glimpse of his mind beyond the mission. Thus far, he’s been very single-minded in his pursuit of his goals. It also gives the book an exciting chase scene giving us fleeting glimpses of this moveable village. Roy packs in so many details in the background, combining familiar concepts with alien ones. He takes the idea of a caravan of elephants and enlarges and twists it.
Roy’s aliens show remarkable creativity with varying body types and configurations. The decision for the blind Uo monks to look like miniature versions of the giant beasts that drive the caravan raises questions about exactly goes on in this caravan — are they the same species or do they simply resemble one another? Visually, there’s a sense of a larger and more complex world here than we’re given access. The level of storytelling confidence both by Roy and Graham allows for a somewhat subdued and mysterious protagonist like John Prophet to be so one-dimensional, even if we see that there’s more to him here. That blankness works amidst such color and detail.
Beginning with this issue, “Prophet” will also include back-ups strips, this time delivering a four-page comic by Fil Barlow from 1995. Tonally, it doesn’t match the lead feature but it’s an entertaining story that displays wild cartooning talent.
Amidst the critical acclaim of “Prophet” #21, some wondered if the issue was praised so heavily because it’s wasn’t a superhero comic. This issue clearly demonstrates the praise was merited because “Prophet” is a very good science fiction comic. Graham and Roy use familiar tropes and ideas as a base for much of what they do but how they build upon them and create a full and complex, unique world is astonishing. There’s something new and exciting on every page, a rarity in comics.