Wanna feel weird? I’ve got just the thing for you. Prophet is a space opera that is like David Lynch’s Dune meets Conan: The Barbarian (Arnold version, sorry Aquaman) meets The Cantina from Star Wars meets Multiplicity. That’s right. I referenced Multiplicity. The Michael Keaton rom-com from the 90’s. Oh, don’t be that way. You know you want to read about space Conan turning everything in his path into a blood jelly.
I hate waiting. I hate it. I especially hate waiting for something when there’s a story involved. As you might imagine, before the advent of Netflix, television was mostly pain for me. Comics can be that way, too. Especially if you want to read all the great new stuff coming out (thisismetoowhygodwhy?!) BUT – like most people that we try to attract to Shortboxed, you might have missed a lot of comics. With that being said. I have a new (re: old) series for you to marathon. Hold on to your butts, gang – we’re going to the future to meet John Prophet.
Alright, don’t get weirded out. Prophet Vol.1 collects issues 21-26. Rob Liefeld, of comic fame and infamy, created John Prophet in the 80’s. The series was discontinued when Liefeld left Image comics to go form Extreme. But John Prophet has been resurrected by a whole mess of excellent writers and artists.The story is such that it can be explained in a mere few sentences.
The first page we meet John Prophet, a Javier Bardem (ca: No Country For Old Men) in a space-suit that any Star Wars fan might mistake as something off the rack of a Rebel Alliance Goodwill. We’re on Earth, in the future.
The human race is seemingly near extinction and the planet is covered in a who’s who of aliens that look like they sound like Jell-O being sucked through your teeth. John Prophet, a man in some sort of prolonged cryo-sleep, is awoken by “Earth Empire’s” signal, and must go on a long and gooey mission to spread that signal to the rest of the Earth Empire – which is spread around the galaxy.
In Volume 1, we find out that there are actually multiple John Prophets that have been cloned from a singular John Prophet (Clone Wars, Jango Fett, yadayada) – and they are all to partake in certain dangerous missions to bring Earth Empire back from certain annihilation. Every John Prophet is different, and the same. They all have similar gear – each of them is outfitted with a few unique elements on top of their uniform elements. One of my favorite tropes of any movie/comic is when they go through the main character’s equipment. I could watch a supercut of Bond-gets-his-gadgets-scenes for a week straight if I didn’t have any dignity or erstwhile will to live.
In each issue of Vol. 1, we see a new Prophet, or team of Prophets complete some mission. This allows for a “singular” character undergo a HUGE variety of changes and react to different circumstances simultaneously. While we have up to 20 different Prophets by the end of the Volume, each one of them feels unique. But don’t get too attached – there’s a lot of death in these pages. A lot. A lot of gooey, chunky, jellified death. You begin to start picking out your favorite Prophet and then you see him get slaughtered. It hurts, but it feels so good.
Each issue boasts a different artist – and every single artist in the first volume brings something amazing to the table. It only fits that they have different artists depicting the lives of the different John Prophets. They all have expert-level world-building talents – and when you’re building this many worlds in such a short amount of time – it’s absolutely necessary for an artist to create a definite sense of place for a reader.
The writing is… sparse. Very, very sparse. It feels like the first 15 minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey. There is little dialogue and a lot of attitude. The art is good enough that you don’t need someone dictating to you the story. The characters rarely have time to talk to each other before they are burying a weird weapon into each other’s faces.
As a sci-fi nut, I was pleasantly pleased to have just enough of an idea of what’s going on with the tech in this universe. But let me be clear, you’re not supposed to have a grip on it yet. There are tons of different eras of tech happening all at once. There are advanced machines that are seemingly ancient, and there are alien desert caravans that look like something that might have come out of Lawrence of Arabia/Tatooine. There are teleporters on the same world that there are radio towers. It feels a little like Mad Max, sometimes. And then when you move onto a different world, reminder: these events are happening simultaneously, there is extremely advanced tech that you thought you would have seen on a previous planet.
This all leads to one feeling. The universe is chaos. The ONLY constants are: John Prophet clones, and a constant feeling that you have been sitting in old grape jelly for too long. Everything is gooey. Did you see the 90’s Super Mario Bros live action movie starring Smee from Hook and John Leguizamo as Luigi? It’s like the Mushroom Kingdom in Super Mario Bros.
Does this get Shortboxed?
Do you like Sci-fi? If the answer was yes, no or maybe – Prophet belongs in your shortboxes. It’s one of the best non-hero stories being told in comics today. I think when you talk about Space Operas – people want to talk about Saga (and for good reason!) but Prophet is different. It’s less pop-culture/bubbly and more gritty, bizarre and lacks a universe of vaguely humanoid aliens (sorry Saga fans, you know this to be true).
Where to get it
You can get the trade at your local comic book shop or Amazon.
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