Saturday, 11 July 2015

Prophet Book 1: Remission (#21-26) NSFW

NSFW:  Contains an alien with a vagina for it's head.  You have been warned.

"Eye of All!" - John Prophet

Last year I covered the reboot of one old Rob Liefeld property, the excellent twelve issue Glory series that took a one-dimensional Wonder Woman rip-off and with distictive art and good writing made her an interesting character in her own right and I was sorry she didn't end up getting an ongoing of her own.  Proving it was possible to make lemonade out of the lemons that made up the rest of Liefeld's "Extreme" Studio's portfolio of characters, a total overhaul of the character Prophet was initiated giving us a hardcore pulp sci-fi series that has grown to encompass a whole bunch of Liefeld characters from members of Youngblood to guest spots from the likes of Supreme.  The original Leifeld!Prophet had no interesting features apart from being a man out of time and having some Christian aspects to his misadventures.  Somehow they managed to wring twenty issues out of this before grinding to a halt sometime in the late 90's.  This reboot series does not pick-up where the early series left off, but does continue numbering-wise.  It goes without saying that the art and writing is a thousand times superior to what went before and this whole volume is a fascinating introduction to an imaginative and alien future.

Summarising this volume has proved a little difficult.  The whole thing is narrated in almost dreamlike narrative captions, that refer to places and things with only the art to provide more clues about them as well as references to beings and events that will only be more fleshed out in future volumes.  There is barely any dialogue until the sixth issue. It does however do a good job in the first half of the book helping you feel for John Prophet, woken from cryogenic sleep, thrown into an transformed Earth motivated by forces beyond his control as he spends a month working his way towards a mysterious goal in the sky.
Welcome to Earth.
John Prophet is fired down at Earth in a pod which he has been sleeping.  He emerges, vomits and then injects himself with a stimulant.  This allows him to fend off and kill the nearby six legged beast that attacks him with the handy squarish knife he has amongst other useful items.  He cooks and eats the "Tulnaka" and then heads east to his next contact.

Narration: "Earth has changed since he last knew it.  The old land is harsher now.  Unforgiving.  Even the animals he's known have changed."

He keeps heading east, coming across the debris of ancient, man made vehicles.  He then comes across a "Oonaka meat farm".  Something in his head tells him to go past it, to the Jell City where he will meet his contact.

That night he has a dream where a haggard Prophet says "It's starting again".  And he wakes with a start thinking it felt more like an "intrusion".  He is now at the Jell City a "smell based caste society".  He is mostly ignored as he works his way down.  The Jell City was formed from an alien organism that landed on Earth and rotted to allow the inhabitants a base to begin their fermentation from.

His dreams direct him to the bottom, there he finds another pod, which contains a "dolmantle" which lookes like a blue scarf but acts as a living suppport system.  It replicates smells to allow him to move freely to his contact who turns out to be a female alien with a vagina head.
I don't even want to think where he's gonna stick it.
She first asks him to mate with her before she gives him his mission.  Thankfully we are spared that image, which cuts to just after.  She says they both slept too long and the Earth Empire would not like what it has become.

John Prophet: "The Earth Empire?"

Creature: "Crazy one.  Fighting for a cause you don't remember".

She tells him that there is a G.O.D satellite in orbit, he must head east to the "Towers of Thauilu Vah to restart GOD".  She then surgically removes an unused organ of his to aid in her reproduction and finish the deal, then Prophet heads quickly up the membrane to the top of Jell City.

After twelve days Prophet comes across another pod.  It is burnt out and emptied of cargo which was a "Jump Pax" that he was going to use to cross the desert.  He instead joins a "Taxa" caravan and works as a "shoveler" as it works it's way across the deadly wasteland.  On the caravan is a Xuix-Guin Blade, a creature covered in trophy skulls of impressive prey and it looks at Prophet's skull with interest.
Prophet works his passage.
Deep inside the caravan hibernates the Caravan King in his "fossil stage".  The giant beasts that make up the caravan work as living factories, taking raw sediment and cellulose and refining it into "chikade", a tradeable substance that is used for building strong structures.  Taking a break with other workers he shows off his knife skills by snatching another creatures knife and nailing several large insects to a post, much to that creature's annoyance.  It also interests the Xuix-Guin Blade more.

Later in the evening there is a ceremony to sacrifice the Caravan King and install a new one.  Prophet misunderstands and tries to stop them, but realising his mistake he fights his way through the caravan.  In it's bowels he faces the creature he upset before but kills it.

He remembers the man made power source at the top of the caravan so fights his way out of there and yanks the large battery out of it.  This lowers the shields and allows large flying creatures to attack.  In the confusion Prophet drops down out of the caravan.

Narration: "As adaptable as John Prophet to this new Earth he's found himself on.  He still clings to the hope in what little remains of human ingenuity."
Badass walking machine.
By lucky coincidence there is a buried travelling machine nearby, he plugs in the power source and it starts up.  It rises out of the sand, and Prophet allows himself the luxury of a laugh as the walking machine starts to take him across what remains of the desert wasteland.  Meanwhile the Xuix-Guin Blade has decided to make him his next target and obtains a steed of his own to follow John Prophet on.

Days later we find John Prophet riding a winged beast he subdued days earlier.  It's been over three weeks since he first arrived on this new Earth and finally the Towers of Thauilu Vah are in sight.  But before he can fly up there, creatures on the ground fire on him and disable his ride.  His dolmantle forms a parachute, but that gets a hole shot through it.  Before it can reform Prophet lands hard and his arm is wrenched off at the shoulder.  His dolmantle covers the stump to stop him bleeding out.

Now at the bottom of the tower, voices in his head urge him upwards.  The tower was orignally an interstellar communications array, and it still attracts aliens wanting to make use of its technology.  One lot have perfected a warping device, Prophet jumps through a ring at the bottom of the tower and is teleported a good way up, before shutting the device down so he can't be followed.
Towers of Thauilu Vah
He climbs until he passes out with exhaustion and his dolmantle uses some nearby bones to create a skeletal arm for Prophet.  He is also still being followed by the Xiux-Guin Blade.  As Prophet climbs higher his dolmantle creates external lungs so he can breathe and finally he reaches the top. 

He fires a bolt at the hatch poking down out of the clouds and uses the wire attached to climb up and inside the G.O.D Satellite. Before he can go further inside though, he is attacked by the Xiux-Guin Blade.  He slashes Prophet eye and starts to overpower him, then it is shot through the head by two soldiers, identical to Prophet, who take him inside the main nerve centre of the satellite.

Narration: "Ortheia, the G.O.D Satellite command centre.  The rebirth of the Earth Empire.  It's War Womb".

John Prophet is shown a machine to place his good hand on.  As one of the Elite John Prophets, only he can activate the device.  He does so and it sends out a signal across the vastness of space and awakens all the sleeping John Prophets across the galaxy.

Narration: "Thousands of John Prophets awake.  The Earth Empire is born anew.  In his head John hears far away laughter."
Time to restart an Empire.
And this ties up this first John Prophet's adventures for now, though he will appear in future volumes.  The next issue is devoted to looking at one of the newly awakened John Prophets, one who finds himself alone, the rest of the pods smashed.  He also has a tail, I assume he's been altered to survive on the planet he was "seeded" on and the tail came as part of the deal.  However the main purpose of this one-shot Prophet is to show us what the beings who telepathically "guide" them look like.

Prophet sees a ghostly young girl who tells him to "save us".  The ship crashed into another and fell onto the planet.  His goal is to get across am impossibly huge wreck of the ship to where the being calling for him is waiting.  The bad news?

Ghost Girl: "The enviroment is contaminated.  You are already dying".
Nice tail dude.
He is attacked and nearly punted out of the atmosphere's gravity field, but his tail saves him and he returns to inside the wreck.  It is difficult for him to make progress, the food he kills is poisoned to and he can barely survive on it.  He also finds himself being followed.  Later in his journey he finds a bedroom that looks like a normal one and "this room reminds him of the humanity he loves."

He carries on, looking more haggard by the day. Then the being following him attacks, it is another Prophet, grotesquely deformed and although Prophet is weak he fights the disfigured Prophet off, though sustains an arm injury.  The ghost leads him to a vat full of red goo and he lies in it, it rejuvenates him and forms a covering round him making him look a bit like a jelly baby.  He floats outside and carries on across the surface of the wreck until the red goo gives out.

Now he is outside he is free from contamination and can survive properly on the meat out there.  He finally reaches his goal, and we see the true for of his guide - "A star fallen mother of the Earth Empire".

It has a huge head, and helmet on, and a small, withered body.  These are the beings who have been telepathically manipulating and instructing the John Prophets.  "Return us to our sky" she says and this issue ends.
An Earth Mother. Ew.
The next issue features a character who will become important in later books, laying the groundwork for future plotlines.  But coming to it cold is a somewhat bewildering experiences, I shall endevour to try and summarise it understandably.

We are transported to a rocky landscape and walking upon it is a robot-like creature, but it has organic needs like eating to repair itself.  The Empire's signal woke him up, that is the signal that woke the first John Prophet not the signal he sent out.  The creature is called Jaxson and he fought alongside "old man Prophet".  He says of the signal:

Jaxson: "You can hear every signal that comes down the cyclops rail on this world.  That cold drone that makes unguarded minds jump to serve it.  This is what John was worried about".
Jaxson smells a "brother" on the planet and flies off to look for him.  He finds him inside an alien city, programmed to be a slave.  Jaxson disposes of the alien sat on top of him and rewires his brain.  He calls him Xefferson and the pair of them exit the city together.  Later as they eat and rest, Xefferson reminices about a battle that saw him lose his bonded Prophet and end up a mind-slave.

They then fly up above the planet to a ring that circles the planet, infested with giant worms.  There are also several rings hanging in space, they form part of a travel network that can send objects across "billions of light years."  Xefferson goes through first, then Jaxson.  When Jaxson arrives he finds Xefferson isn't there.  He hopes he just overshot or got there early.

Jackson jumps onto a floating rock in space that I think might be Youngblood's Badrock grown to huge size, trying to become a planet.  He is called Brainrock here though so it might just be a similar being.  Jaxson uses Brainrock to send a signal through the universe - "John.. It's starting again".  Which is of course what the Prophet in the first three issues heard one night.  Jaxson then contemplates the stars and says to himself:

Jaxson: "Between my fingers I see where John'll show up eventually.  I'll be there to meet him".

What this chapter does is set up the notion that there is opposition to the Earth Empire, and that in the past a war was fought with them, with "Old John Prophet" fighting alongside Jaxson.  It's now only a matter of time before Old John Prophet shows up...
Jaxson travels to "Brainrock".
This chapter takes place after the Prophet's have been awakened.  We meet three of them, including, hilariously, a female one who is still called John.  On a planet called Kartarus, one that was beyond the human empire's reach even at their height an empire wombship arrives conveying Prophets.  They are looking for something and their numbers are whittled down to three when we join them, Brother John Hu (the woman), Brother John Androcles, Brother John Tektite, a slaved canucus wolf and a ghost girl projecting from one of the brain creatures.

They are searching the world for a specific "nephilim", giant creatures who reproduce and feed off each other constantly.  They come across a dead "pinwheel" warrior, and before they can get away, some live ones attack, mortally wounding Brother John Tektite.  The Empire ship blasts the shit out of the pinwheel warriors, but Tektite dies and they burn his body rather than consume him like the ghost girl suggests.
The Johns dispose of the fallen.
Hu and Androcles and the wolf return to the ship and they travel on further.  They think they have found what they are looking for and rappel down out of the ship.  They use razorwire to bring it down and Androcles kills it with his sword.

Narration: "It is too quick a death for one who has lived so long."

The Prophets hook the dead nephilim up to the womb ship and get ready to return to the ship.  Suddenly a bearded, wildman bursts up out of the ground and slaughters the two Prophets in quick succession.  Then he climbs the wires up to the ship, resisting the intolerable pressure on his mind from the Empire Mother.  He rips off her helmet and puts it on, thus allowing him freedom from their telepathy and we are finally introduced to the main protagonist.

Narration: "He's fully awake now.  The one man the Earth Empire fears.  He knows them.  Once he was their hero.  Before he learned of the depths of their cruelty.  The Friend Of The Scale.  The Unkillable Knife.  The Wave Crester.  The Spiral Jumper.  The Lord Of The Wolf-Raget Star.  The Old Man, great grandfather Jonathan Prophet has awoken.  It has started again".
Old Man Prophet shows the nasty Empire Mother who's boss.
And that concludes the excellent twist in this first volume.  The Prophet we followed in the first half, the Prophets he awakened, they are actually affiliated with the bad guys.  From now on Old John Prophet will be the star but setting the tone and scene and establishing it's rules before he makes his appearance is the kind of world building all good sci-fi should be made of.  Making everything feel alien and uncomfortable and ending up with us asking questions about the the Earth Empire and why Old John Prophet (who is the original Liefeld Prophet, they even managed to find a use for the goofy headgear Liefeld gave him) opposes them so.  The art is magnificent, using thin lined detail and a subdued pallette to create a beguilingly weird set of future worlds and beings.  They have only been releasing one trade paperback of Prophet a year and I have eagerly looked forward to the new ones as they come out because I've always loved a dash of hard SF.  That such a fascinating story could come out of such unpromising material, and I'll be looking at volume two next month.

Special Bonus Thing!

If you're wondering about Liefled!Prophet well here is the write up he gave when the series started.  Bloody awful innit.  And following that a drawing by Liefeld of him, which is also bloody awful.  Enjoy!

Blech.  Also, just to show he hasn't improved in the intervening years, heres a varient cover he drew for one of the first issues in this volume.

Just horrible.  Oh Leifeld, why u so shit?


  1. woah this looks fecking cool! and that leifeld stuff at the end, lol like u said, amazing they made something so good out of a crappy 90s character.

  2. Yes the contrast between the awesome art in the book, and Liefelds "art" is quite striking. It is a cool series, there have been four volumes so far, and I think the series is still on-going. Well worth a chunk of change.

  3. I'm awfully sorry, but if Gyo disturbed even you then there's no way I'm reading your review of it. It would get inside my head and poison the rest of my year because of the book's disturbingness. I hope you understand. The Boys did that to me too.

    It'd be so cool to start each day by injecting oneself with a stimulant. That'd make mornings a lot more bearable! Plus we'd get more stuff done.

    Y'know, I'm getting tired of art that has no backgrounds. That Tulnaka looks pretty cool though, like a cross between a beastie and a plant.

    Wow, that female alien is definitely N.S.F.W. And the way she exploits the protagonist is icky. And Future Earth looks even more messed-up than Present Earth.

    That Prophet guy wearing purple... why is his crotch literally veiled in shadow? It's like the artist is saying, 'Here be monsters'. Also, all that "Read the Bible, kids! It's dead cool!" stuff is embarrassing.

  4. Ok cool Lucy, I know hardcore horror isn't everyones cup of tea that's why I stuck a warning in the opening paragraph!

    A jolt of stimulant would be handy I agree, I think the lack of backgrounds in this early volume is mainly due to it being set on several rocky desert planets. They mix it up more location wise in the next volumes which follow Old John Prophet's gathering of his gang to fight the eeeeevil Empire.

    That vagina-headed monster is a bit NSFW now I come to think of it.... better safe than sorry, I'll add a warning.

    Don't ask about Rob Liefeld and male crotches, he always draws them huge and in a way to draw your attention to the um.. area. Paging Dr. Freud.

    I thought you'd enjoy the Gospel According to Rob, it's amazing they made such an awesome reboot series out of that... mulch. It gets even better in the following volumes and should be a bit easier to write about clearly now the background has been established and the focus on one main character.