Review: Prophet Earth War #1

Despite their potential scope, space operas more often than not play with a very narrow group of tropes. While books like Saga, Black Science, and Copperhead may make occasional dalliances into the world of the weird, they are more often than not willing to let their setting be window dressing for a familiar world of spaceships, laser guns, and humanoid aliens. As such, it is a true joy to return to the world of Prophet in Earth War #1 and remember how unique it is to have a space book that is fundamentally dedicated to portraying the alien. In Prophet, alien species have different values, languages, customs, and biologies, never appearing simply like colorful humans. Alien worlds house monstrous parasites, strange religious, and melancholy ruins of bygone civilizations. And in the midst of the strange, Brandon Graham and company never loses sight of their story's fundamental humanity. In case it isn't clear, I love Prophet and am thrilled to have it back in the form of a final six issue mini-series. My only hesitation going in was that the Prophet series (which ended in late 2014) became towards its end increasingly gigantic in scope, occasionally at the cost of character. I am pleased to say this is immediately reversed with Earth War which begins not with explosive action or byzantine mythos, but with two old friends surveying the desolate remains of the planet earth.

Prophet---Earth-War-#1-1Old Man Prophet and a band of rebels have journeyed to earth to stop the twisted Earth Empire from using a dangerous psychic weapon. Among the rebels is the tailed young clone who discusses with John the confusions of coming to a homeworld he has never known. The interaction between the two beaten, manipulated men who have, through very different means, escaped the programming of the empire, is beautifully subtle and emotional. The ever-present third person narration (the subtle the key to Prophet's success) informs us of the Old Man's confusion and hesitant joy at being united with other clones. Author Brandon Graham subtly draws parallels to the events that made the old man become a rebel in the first place (then he recognized his worst in fellow clones, now, he sees his best).

I like the issue enough that I won't spoil many details of it here, but the story sees the Old Man forming a new alliance with an ominous alien power from earlier in the series as each of the rebel core prepares for war. The book takes its time reintroducing the cast, smartly reminding dedicated readers that it hasn't forgotten any of its integral pieces. The afore-mentioned narration ties everything together by telling us enough background information to get caught up, but never enough to ruin the aura of the strange or destroy the tension of an upcoming conflict.

The art is handled largely by Giannis Miliogiannis (with at least one beautiful page by Simon Roy) who was at one time my least favorite of Prophet's art team and may at this point be my favorite. His linework is scratchy and impressionistic, tending towards an anime sensibility. While Roy lacks the stunning alien backdrops of some of the other artists, his character work easily makes up for it. His character manage to be beautiful and unique while giving off a tangible sense of melancholy and exhaustion. Even when their faces are so simplified as to be non-existent a few careful pencil strokes give pitch perfect body language.

I worry that as Earth War goes on, I may have less and less to say about such a uniformly excellent book, but upon re-reading this issue, I realize that I've not even tapped the surface of the dense material packed within. I cannot recommend the series enough to longtime fans, but to anyone who hasn't tried Prophet yet, now is the time.

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Prophet Earth War #1 Authors: Brandon Graham and Simon Roy Artists: Giannis Milonogiannis and Simon Roy Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/27/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital