When you reach a certain point in a comic series you love, momentum takes over. Once you're thoroughly invested in characters and story, you are predisposed to enjoy each installment even as it may stray away from what attracted you to the book in the first place. I've found myself, through the first two issues of Earth War (the series 25th and 26th overall), noting just how far the series has come since the initial images John Prophet's hibernation pod rising to the surface of a drastically changed earth. Since then, the book has grown in scope and experimentation, excelling both in continuity based adventure stories as in Earth War #1 and psychedelic sci-fi as seen #2. But as consistent as the series has been, I find myself missing the smaller, more personal stories of its past. Thankfully, Earth War #3 is an excellent reminder that creators Brandon Graham and Simon Roy haven't lost their knack of deft characterization and bizarrely humorous sci-fi set pieces. In fact, this issue functions nicely as a summation of what makes Prophet unique in a crowded indie comics landscape. As with all of Prophet's best stories, this issue is extremely focused on a small piece of the cast: in this case Rein East, Diehard, and Brother John Ka (who is, by typical Prophet logic, a woman). Arriving to assassinate a member of the crystal blessed, John Ka discovers Diehard and Rein have been sent to meet her and help out in case of a trap. It's a simple plot that gives the three characters an ample chance to bounce off one another. I'm always impressed by how much continuity there is in a book that seems so freeform and strange, and in this issue it was nice to see some former character threads picked up. Diehard is still pining for his time as a human as well as pining for the affections of the mostly oblivious Rein East. Their interactions are sweet and strange in a way that feels like a payoff to a lot of buildup despite nothing much happening.
What is perhaps most impressive about Prophet as a whole, and this issue specifically, is how many very different story elements are balanced. Graham and Roy clearly have no interest in skimping on weird science fantasy or action adventure, but at the same time, the character manage to be front and center. And there's a surprising amount of specificity to each of the main three here. A robot bemoaning his lost humanity is nothing new, but Diehard subtly melancholy musings on his own nature are played as unique character beats, not recycled science fiction cliché. Similarly, Brother John Ka continues here to balance between a wry, playful sense of humor and a military discipline. It's indicative of her character that her closest bond is with an oddly affectionate bio-engineered insect which also doubles as a deadly weapon. All this is classic Prophet in the best possible way.
Earth War #3 is illustrated by Grim Wilkins who is, as far as I know, new to Prophet beyond a one-page drawing from last year's Strikefile issues. His work here takes a little getting used to, but ends up being hugely effective at selling the action, humor, and warmth of the story even if the grand scope gets a little lost. Wilkins' work is sparse, like that of series regular Giannis Milogiannis, but whereas the latter is scratchy and atmospheric, the art here is flowing and clean. This style keeps a number of action set pieces from being cluttered and also gives room to focus on Wilkins rock solid grasp of the characters. Specific mention goes out to his depictions of Diehard, who, after leaving over fifty percent of his body lying around as lookouts, ends up looking like a hilariously emaciated tinker toy. I go back and forth over how I feel about the series constant shifting of artists, but when they're as good as Wilkins, it's hard to complain.
So far Prophet Earth War has done a fabulous job of tying all of its various pieces, in terms of both plot and tone, into one big story. What remains to be seen is how the final three issue will actually tie things up (especially since we have yet to get to the titular war). That said, despite my love of the series so far, I am no longer nervous about the creative choices being made. What's apparent is that Graham, Roy, and their cavalcade of artists know exactly what has made the book great and don't plan on changing things too much. As a grand finale, I couldn't ask for anything more.
[button btn_url="" btn_color="primary" btn_size="large" btn_style="default" btn_outlined="no" link_target="blank" link_rel="nofollow" icon_left="" icon_right=""]Score: 5/5[/button]
Prophet: Earth War #3 Writers: Brandon Graham and Simon Roy Artist: Grim Wilkins Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 4/6/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital