Review: Prophet Earth War #2

Fans and reviewers alike were quick to note that the first issue Prophet Earth War was light on the strange, gooey sci-fi that has been a staple of the book since its inception. Earth War #1 was an excellent character piece, but there was a distinct lack of the monstrous bio-organic aliens, crazy worlds, and general heady concepts that make up many of Prophets most iconic moments. This may not have been accidental as issue two wastes no time in establishing that this sci-fi weirdness is still present, starting out as it does with a beautiful splash page of a monstrous alien starship emerging from a portal. In fact, issue two is in many ways the perfect partner to issue one, as it too sets the scene for the final war, but this time in terms of the big set pieces that the first issue ignored. On a first read, it's not quite the emotional triumph the first issue was, but it's a damn fine chapter of what is already shaping up to one of the year's best series. Thanks in no small part to the opening pages (the first spread is followed by another, this one a massive battle scene dripping green blood), the first thing one notices about this issue is the art by Ron Ackins. Prophet has long distinguished itself by its expert use of multiple artist and while it is shocking to see Giannis Milogiannis' scratchy sparse drawings replaced by beautifully expansive colored pencil drawing, it proves to a more than fitting choice for the issue. Ackins' work is finely polished with a sense of magnitude that provides the issue with an invaluable epic style. The strange multi-limbed beings and war-begrimed soldiers are almost beautiful instead of grotesque as drawn by Ackins.  This sense of epic adventure is helped immensely by the bright colors courtesy of Paul Davey and Ackins himself, who substitutes rich blues, reds, and greens for Prophet's usually more limited palate.  It's a truly stunning exciting issue that manages to flesh out a lot material with apparent ease.

Prophet---Earth-War-#2-1The plot of the issue follows the Four-Armed World-Raper (band name: called it!) as he becomes aware for the first time of the psychic egg that caused so much destruction at the climax of the series proper. As it turns out, our multi-armed friend has been stockpiling his own army of psychically guarded soldiers to overthrow the brain mothers and create a fully human earth empire.  Told with the matter-of-fact, omniscient narration that Graham has used from the beginning, it's unclear whose side we are supposed to take. The world-raper is a brute, but he has the same soulfulness in his eyes as so many of the heroic John Prophets we have met in the series, and his desire to end the manipulations of the grotesque brain mothers seems reasonable. On the other hand, his methods are violent, and his quest for the egg, which has some disastrous results by the issue's end, will surely put him into conflict with the Old Man Prophet who cut off his fourth arm (that was fun sentence to type, by the way).

As you can tell there's a lot of ground to cover in Earth War #2, and for the most part, it's handled very well, but towards the end, the plot takes a turn for the more cosmically trippy which to me has often been the series' only weakness. When grounded in some physical location, the book is unmatched in its ability to create interesting sci-fi concepts and characters, but when thrust into strange psychic realms, it can feel a little self-indulgent and obscure. It also can be a bit repetitive (one can only see a giant tumorous mass of melted flesh in psychic pain so many times before it gets boring, surprisingly). Thankfully this issue is tethered by its connections to the larger story, and it's need to set up the main thrust of the plot. So while the psychic aspect is still very strange, it's clearly in service of getting the pieces in place for an exciting conflict.

In the end, I think Earth War #2 is a really good issue, that will likely be great when I can see more clearly how it fits into the larger narrative.  It's an entirely different beast than the first issue, but with just enough connections to feel like it is still building on last month's story. The magic of Prophet has always been its ability to use esoteric and bizarre insular pieces to create a surprisingly cohesive whole. Prophet Earth War seems to be attempting to repeat this trick on a grander scale and so far, it appears to be a grand success.

Score:  4/5

Prophet Earth War #2 Writers: Brandon Graham and Simon Roy Artists: Ron Ackins Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 3/2/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital