Reading Prophet Earth War #4 I found myself enjoying it immensely but questioning what exactly it was about. In the space of 28 pages, we had some gorgeous art, some heady sci-fi, a lot of crazy violence, and a number of call backs to the early days of the series, but it all felt a little scattered, and I was left feeling a little unsatisfied. I still think Prophet Earth War feels like a fitting finale for the series (with a couple of issues that nail exactly what makes Prophet great), but this installment is a very mixed bag. The story is divided into three sections, giving Wilkins, Roy, and Miliogiannis roughly equal space to shine (which they each do). The first section follows the Old Man has he goes out to battle with an increasingly ominous group of crystal-blessed allies. The second follows the mutated clone general as he is drawn into the madness of the his parasitic alien fragment. The third finds John Ka, Hiyonhoiangn, and Rein-East carefully navigating ridiculously hostile terrain to regroup with the old man. If you've read my reviews for the past few issues, you can likely guess which two sections I think worked and which one I didn't.
Let's start with the negative. The middle chapter, beautifully rendered by the ever talented Simon Roy, is of the sort of cosmic, confusing psychic nature the series has dipped into a little too often. There are some cool ideas in play (we get a motivation for the red pain, a series first), but it feels too disconnected from the more grounded, gritty story going on around it. Plus, for all the time we've spent on it, the red pain plotline has not emotionally added to much. It's a strange alien enemy who doesn't raise the emotional stakes in the way that the four-armed world raper did on his own. In all it feels like a distraction from the rest of the finale and I can only hope Graham is going somewhere with it in the next two issues.
The other two stories are much stronger. The John Ka story is a relatively straight forward adventure story, but the alien strangeness of the setting keeps things interesting while allowing Grim Wilkins to show off his own strange style. But the real draw is the first story which sees the series quietly reflect on where it came from, as the Old man finds himself making the same journey as the first re-awoken prophet. Adding to the melancholy is the fact that the Old Man wears the dolmantle of that original, now-dead soldier. As in the best Prophet chapters, this section juxtaposes epic science fictions with understated character work.
It's also a nice reminder that there is a through line from the first issue of Prophet to this one, and that, for all its meandering, there does seem to be some sort of end being worked towards. I can't imagine the last two issues changing my love of Brandon Graham's sci-fi masterwork, but I sincerely hope they double down on what works wel and give the series a fitting end.
[su_box title="Score: 4/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
Prophet Earth War #4 Writers: Brandon Graham and Simon Roy Artists: Grim Wilkins, Simon Roy, Giannis Milogiannis Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 5/11/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital