All throughout the series, we see remnants of the “Earth Empire”: space stations the size of countries, advanced cities lying in ruin, and a massive pyramid this issue, all inhabited by aliens, mutations, and bio-mechanical horrors left over from the Empire that could give the Xenomorphs a run for their money. Watching the clones (Prophet himself takes a backseat this issue) search a distant planet for a “Nephilim” (the gargantuan creature mentioned above) shows a remarkable sense of scale and time, with the dusty brown coloring Joseph Bergin III supplies making these long-dead civilizations appear like fossilized bones being picked over by desperate scavengers. Leading up to the encounter, artist Giannis Milonagiannis depicts Andronocles and fellow clone Hu wandering what looks like an alien version of the Redwood Forests, disturbing the serenity of nature; when the Nephilim is brought down, writer Brandon Graham narrates, “It is too quick a death for one who has lived so long.” It’s a comment on similar pulp tales like Burroughs’ Barsoom series or James Cameron’s Avatar, where the hero is mighty and just, as the Prophets are destroying something majestic in service of a vague goal to revive mankind–hardly the romantic view of European colonialism or Manifest Destiny that is the backbone of Western science fiction and fantasy, sternly nodding its head in approval as space marines or knights or whatever commit genocide against foreign races.
Another distinction between regular pulp and what Graham, Milonagiannis, and artist/co-plotter Simon Roy are doing with Prophet is setting the exploration long after mankind’s civilization has come to an end. Usually pulp fiction would have society still intact to some degree or other, with the goal of taming the wild frontier (even the more peaceful Star Trek has elements of this), while Andronocles, Hu, and Tektite’s venture from their “wombship” at the behest of the physically feeble Arch Mother and her ghostly, childlike projection suggests clinging to an ideal whose time has long passed.
In keeping with the pulp-deconstruction, Brandon Graham uses narration to complement the epic scale of the art, though I found it unnecessary at times, especially in the finale, where Graham feels the need to explain what a character is feeling at the exact moment he’s feeling it, even though the art tells us more effectively. There’s an impression that he’s trying too hard at times, like Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple did in their remake of the existentialist-mystery-disguised-as-a-cape-comic Omega the Unknown. Lethem made the mistake of confusing Steve Gerber and Mary Skrenes’ satire for superhero spoof, while Graham overuses prose: both are being hyper-precious, but at least Graham errs on the sde of atmosphere and themes. In keeping with the pulp prose, he at least gets across that John Prophet is about subverting John Carter.
(Written by Brandon Graham with Giannis Milonagiannis and Simon Roy, Drawn by Giannis Milogiannis, Published by Image)