Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Prophet Book 4: Joining (#39-45)

"Behind his crown shield, John wonders if he's being led into something" - Narrator

So I don't know if Prophet was officially cancelled or if it ended the way it was planned with a cliffhanger into a new series.  All wikipedia says is that: "The series concluded in July 2014 with issue #45, and the story will continue in a new series called Prophet: Earth War, beginning in January 2016." Which does in fact exist, I checked my LCS and everything although I'll be waiting for the trade. It has to be said these final seven issues do have a chaotic feel to them, like they have had to cram a much longer storyline into fewer issues and the often elliptical feel the series has dissolves into full on incoherence in places.  But if you are new to the series (you're going to be even more confused than I am!), in Book One a cloned "John Prophet" was awakened on Earth and activated the dormant Earth Empire who had lost a war against an army led by another Prophet called Old Man Prophet who was free of the Earth Empire's "Brain Mother's" control. The Prophet who awakened the Empire is known as "New Father". In book two the reawakened Old Man Prophet starts building a team to help him take on the Earth Empire who are busy retaking earth from the aliens who have colonised her.

 He brings together the immortal android Diehard, the techno-organic robot Jaxson, the sentient tree root-like Hiyanhoiagn and the lizard-like female assassin Rein-East.  In book three, the being known as Troll contacted both Old Man Prophet and New Father Prophet about a new threat, the "Red Pain" which has already destroyed the Lady Probable's palace (see Book 2) and a whole Earth Empire fleet.  New Father Prophet on the instructions of Troll, with his comrades Long John, John Ka and Greenknife travel to where one of Badrock's children are. It is "Moorrock" a huge rocklike being curled in a ball, they blow him free of the gravity well the nearby star has him in, and that was where book three ended. So now it's time to take a look at how such a story can be wrapped up so quickly, although it is helped massively by the inclusion in the collection of the two "Strikefiles" that give tonnes of backstory to the series that may yet make it into the new series the aforementioned "Prophet: Earth War".
DIehard's story.
We kick off with a melancholy chapter about Diehard as he plays some music in contemplation of his past.  Age 10 he is a human boy.  Age 31, already part machine he fights alongside Glory during World War II.  Then age 197 he is on the moon talking with Badrock while an aged Shaft introduces a new superteam "Youngstar".  Badrock says to him:

Badrock: "We've grown past this world.  Me, I've been talking to the universe.  It answered me".

Age 877 he is fighting in the ninth year of the 2nd Bolo war.  He feels a rumble and follows it to a circle of Peace-Of-Stone soldiers surrounding someone known to him - Badrock and his children.

Age 2350 he travels to the Kyklos system.  Thousands of years pass, at age 6602 he has a family he is training to hunt on the Kyklos world.  But "the poison of the 7finger war left his city turned to black glass.  His family dead."

Age 8728 he has another family on another world.  The Earth Empire is everywhere with its "crushing hands".  Age 9010 he fights alongside "the Old Man.  Great Grey Grandfather Jonathan Prophet".
Diehard and Hiyonhoiagn.
They destroy the Birth Mother and the growing vats.  The "Free-Johns will be the last generation of Prophet-Men".  Many Free-Johns go to the Scale world, some to the pod reefs.  Diehard, age 9023 decides to go with Hiyonhoiagn to rest within the roots of his people.  Old Man Prophet does not join them:

Old Man Prophet: "I can still hear them out there.  Faint and far away.  I fear this is not the Empire's true end".

He goes to sleep in secret, the brothers parted ways.  Jaxson to the "edge worlds to listen", Hiyonhoiagn went home.
Rein-East has a crush on Diehard.
Rein-East happens upon Diehard saying she heard the music, it "sounded pretty".  Diehard tells her to sit with him and "I will tell you an old story".  He was living amongst the Koxo people on the "relatively obscure planetoid D31459".  He was returning from a failed vision quest when he found all the Koxo in a trance in the great hall.

The Witch King their leader, says a Djinn has contaminated the water and must be exorcised or "our city will rave itself into oblivion". He is unaffacted.  They go to the armoury and he asks how Diehards vision quest went, Diehard says his inorganic parts might be intefering with having one.  The Witch King says "the vision path will present it when you are ready".
The Witch King of Koxo.
They climb upwards and find a human empire milking machine mining milk and contaminating the water as it does so.  It seats three so Diehard approaches it cautiously.  He fights the Johns inside the machine, he sees the Witch King's head explode and the last John blows him in half.  He sees a ship full of humans saying they can mine milk from this hunk of coal "and the Red Mothers will never think to look for us here."

Then the Witch King still alive commands Diehard to wake up.  The Djinn/Milking Machine clouded his mind, the final John has also been dealt with.  The Witch King says Diehard has had his vision quest.  He is presented with a mouth organ to thank him for his help dealing with the Djinn.  But he has no mouth.  "Regardless it was a great honour" says Diehard.

Not long after, the human empire found the planetoid and the Koxo people, "those who weren't massacred would be exiled throughout the galaxy...But that was all so long ago" he says sadly.

New Father Prophet and his arc brothers Long-John, the female John-Ka and Greenknife (whose gender is never stated) have found all of Badrock's children and have manuvered them "here, between the Gate's Bleed Stream and the gravity well of the system's blue super giant, they are a psychic dam to block the incoming alien threat". The Johns keep the children in place and chat while they do so.
John Ka and Greenknife.
Meanwhile the Insula Tergum, Old Man Prophet's ship, orbits a huge circular space structure "the Superior Xsis."  Inside a tank made from Jaxson's egg brothers sit Old Man Prophet and Rein-East while Jaxson and Diehard sit on top and the tank zooms further into the structure.  Rein-East asks Old Man Prophet about his "scale mate" (his long gone lover from the Scale world), what was she like?  He does not answer.

They blast through a huge wobbly pink thing in their way and arrive at some huge doors which open and reveal a big giant head.  It is the Venerable Wake.  He says he knows Troll has sent them, but "though you have been loyal pawns, your master finishes the game without you".  He shows them the lure made of Badrock's children.
The Venerable Wake.
The Venerable Wake: "I tell you this for no reason other than my own interest in what man can do when moving against gods."

They hurry back to the Insula Tergum and set course for Badrock's children.  Who are restless, sensing the oncoming alien threat.  Meanwhile on Phobos, Troll reveals his true form, a kind of enormous tube with tentacles.  He flies off towards the Badrock lure.
Troll freaky real formm.
The Red Pain comes through the gate and encounters Badrock's children who scream in agony.  And in a double page spread that I can't scan properly, Badrock returns. "now tied to the very fabric of the universe."

The Insula Tergum drops out of the Bleed into normal space.  Old Man Prophet observes the light in the distance is Badrock.  More things are pushed out of the Bleed including the warmachine John-agro from Book three and the Earth Empire's fleet the Arma-Brakium.
Old Man Prophet.
Badrocks children are all dead and broken, as is New Father Prophet.  A grieving Greenknife is able to reclaim his dolmantle.  In a rage Badrock grapples with Troll who is " fearless, risking his immortal everything for more".  It is "part conflict, part joining".

In the distance, John-agro fights the Insula Tergum when a wave of god energy allows the Insula Tergum to make a getaway and heads for Badrock and Troll, leaving John-agro and the Empire fleet behind.  The shattered heart of the Red Pain is nearby, "interwoven with the dead flesh of the god it birthed".
Rule 34 dictates someone will find this sexy.
John Ka and Greenknife go inside a new structure (I'm not awfully sure where this structure comes from), they pass strange lifecycles carved in the rocky tunnels.  The birth, transcendence and collapse of the builders.  Then Greenknife sees a vision of New Father his/her love and John Ka sees her own female lost love.  But they are false images being created by the dying husk of Long John "twisted by the artifact's nucleus into a new being of pain."

The mutated body of Long John is killed when a spear is thrown through it, which causes the visions to disappear.  "Drawn by the Bleed energy, star pirates - marauders from the body city descend upon them."

We take a quick break for Hiyonhoiagn to tell his story now.  He was born on the branch of kings and if he hadn't met John he'd have had his whole growth-life planned out for him.  He found a new family, "Humans, Scales, Jaxson-eggs".  The war was worse than the worst and when it was over he returned to the pod reefs.
The old root's story.
He has had three children, after a long time Brother John returned and he lost his first young root that same day, "he died too young".  He grew into the ship and found another egg there which became his second child.  The third child is the Young Trust they gained after being touched by the Red Pain and the destruction of the Lady Probable's people.  He tied his roots to it, "it had so many questions and a way of helping me see answers I'd given up on."

Now outside the ship, Badrock and Troll are locked in their combat/joining.  Inside the crew work to hold the ship together under an assault from John-agro.  Old Man Prophet gets a mental flash of when Badrock and Troll were eating together in the Youngblood canteen when they lived among men.

Then they are ripped into the Bleed, things look bad as the ship comes apart.  But the Young Trust seed saves them by feeding the Bleed energy into the second child and triggering a metamorphosis into a huge winged creature holding the Jaxson egg with the crew inside. I think.
I...I have no idea what's going on here.
The pirates have the Red Pain nucleus.  The captain wants to touch it and does so, making mental contact with it.  Then John Ka and Greenknife are dumped in a "death maze of the body-city".  There are many vicious creatures in there to kill the prisoners for sport.

The Pirate captain goes to see the Queen of the Body-City and he uses the power from the Red Pain nucleus to kill her and savour her agony as she dies.  In the death maze, the John with a tail who appeared in books one and two and who is free of Empire control appears an attacks a large vicious creature threatening John Ka and Greenknife.
There, much sexier.
The next chapter is told from the point of view of an Empire Brain Mother who lives "on the eliptical edge of Centaurus... between the sister hypergiant stars Ostun and Omba".  It is home to the greatest minds of the Earth Empire.  The female Brain Mother Exmere frolics with her female lover Quomtotuz.  Then she is called for a mission.

Exmere: "Alone, from the sweet calm of her pod into the mind nouse of the home-core.  the Johns think loud and simple backed by the shielded whispers of my sisters.  And behind it all, the hum of Father's mind".

She travels to the All Father's Axis Mundi, they want her to investigate a sister who has gone silent.  They have suspected for a while that an outside mind is is toying with "our great Empire." She flies out in her physical form in a small ship,  The world is one that she and "sweet Quomtotuz" cleansed a long time ago.

After a long journey where she meets other Brain Mothers and some alien creatures, she finds the planet her lost sister is on.  She can hear their echoes, her and her Johns.  She explores further and finds the Johns, then locates her sister, "she is elsewhere. Mind and body".

She feels another working through her sister's mind.  She is speaking "for another to these still sleeping ancient gods."  They speak of a birth.  Once being made from two.  She probes deeper to find who is meddling in the Empire.

Exmere: "Through me we go across space to where the lost sister is tied. The ocean sound grows louder.  On the other side the crash of waves is deafening."

She suddenly grows, outgrows the world.  The system is dwarfed by her.  She is "an Empire God".  Then she is a pebble in the ocean, "The Empire's vast powers tiny in the eye of this".
Exmere has a cosmic experience.
She sees Badrock and Troll merged, "I stand in the eye of the storm".  Later she wakes up.

Exmere: "It is quiet.  I no longer hear the constant murmur of my sisters.  The universe is painfully quiet.  I am alone."

Back in the prison maze of death, Tail-Prophet slices up the creature attacking him them spews up a pink jelly thing.  It is a neonaught which he sends up vents to look for a way to the surface, but it always dies on the way lacking a guiding intelligence.

The Body-City is another part of the Cyclops rail and eventually will be pulled into the Bleed.  An exhausted Hiyonhoiagn flies the ship to it and lands them more-or-less safely.  On the surface of the Body-City they meet some escaped prisoners, they thought Old Man Prophet might be their hero brother.  Old Man Prophet is curious about another free Prophet here.  Then an Empire ship crashes into the ground and he comments "that Empire fleet might still be nearby".
Tail-John frees Greenknife and John Ka.
Tail-Prophet blows some spores in John Ka and Greenknife's faces freeing them from Empire Brain Mother control.  Greenknife suggests they team up his dolmantle with the neonaught and have it steer it to the surface.  They do so and the combined creature makes its way up through the ducts to the surface.  It avoids the Red Pain on the way and finally reaches open sky.

One of the escaped prisoners says this is their John's signal.  Old Man Prophet says they will join them in freeing the rest of the prisoners.  Jaxson opens himself up so Rein-East can travel inside him, then they go to where the dolmantle/neonaught emerged and Jaxson digs down until the drop into the prison.

Old Man Prophet and Tail-Prophet meet and greet.  Brother John Ka and Greenknife follow them, "looks like we've got a new arc" says John Ka.  There is a mass battle as the prisoners led by the Johns fight the monsters.  They are bathed in red, but it lies dormant and so no pain.
The Empire claim the source of the Red Pain.
They make their way to strike at the creature at the centre of it all, but just as they get there an Empire Star Prophet appears, blows the creature to bits and takes the Red Pain nucleus, then flies away.  The Johns and the rest of them are left contemplating this turn of events in the rubble.

Narrator: "The Star Prophet.  Off into distant space to rejoin his fleet.  Silence and fear as they consider what the Empire will do with this new power".

Old Man Prophet says aloud, "this must not end here".
The aftermath and a new quest awaits.
But it does.  That concludes this run of Prophet, to be continued by the same creative team of writer Brandon Graham and principal artists Gianni Milonogiannis and Simon Roy in the promised "Prophet: Earth War".  Because despite this somewhat rushed ending (what ended up happening between Troll and Badrock?  Where did the pirates and the Body-City come from all of a sudden?), overall this was still a fantastically imaginative slice of pulp SF.  The two "Strikefiles" included in this volume lay out more history and character backstory which helps fill in a few blanks and adds to the general world building exercise. A tonne of artists do a page or two for the Strikefile, including a shitty Rob Liefeld one. This series was a masterclass in taking rubbishy knockoffs by a talentless hack and spinning gold out of them.  The primary use of a third person narrator added to the general "alienated" feel of the series, which I liked, but not everyone might. Character relationships were built with delicate brushstrokes both written and artistically, and the whole universe it was set in felt bizarre but well lived in. In many ways I'm amazed a series as complex and demanding as this one was lasted as long as it did.  I really enjoyed Prophet despite the incoherence of some of the final issues, and look forward to the continuation of the war against the evil Earth Empire.


  1. i'm so confused lol! what did Badrock and Troll turn into in the end?!

  2. I don't know what happened to Troll and Badrock! We last see them wrestling in space then the narrative changes to the city that appeared from nowhere because they needed a way to link the two sets of characters together (Old Man Prophet's lot and Tail-Prophet's lot) to set up the new series. I hope we get some answers in Earth War.

  3. That's one of the problems with science fiction. The whole setting and framework of the world is confusing, as well as the things that are happening to the characters. Takes a skilful creator to pull that off with aplomb.

  4. Yeah, I think given a few more issues things would have resolved more satisfactorily. As I said there are two issues just full of backstory that should be taken into account. But I am hoping Earth War answers the dangling plot threads.