I think there are two types of popular sci-fi comics. There is the big ‘splosions, all-alien-invaders-are-bad action extravaganza that just crams as many elements and designs on page and panel as possible. Then there is the other kind: more reserved, letting alien worlds in deep space, spaceships, and spatial geographies drive the visual narrative. It is the latter that is the hallmark of Prophet, and issue #37 continues to guide the reader into sci-fi that is about spaces and visuals driving a story.
Issue #37 is handled by Giannis Milonogiannis with letterer Ed Brisson. An exciting aspect of Prophet has been the rotating creators: Brandon Graham, Farel Dalrymple, Simon Roy; with Milonogiannis they have combined for the funkiest, loveliest ride in sci-fi monthly comics I have ever been on. This installment follows another clone on a mission to deep space. War is coming, full on universe-wide combat, and Prophet has exhibited patience in narrative by slowly building element by element, issue by issue, towards what I assume will be a big climax. Assumption, though, is not a good thing especially with this series, but even if the end which is coming turns out to not be a full-on set of battles I will still be most impressed with whatever angle the group of creators decides on.
Milonogiannis’s line work is most impressive in environmental design, and, as in some of his earlier issues, I found my eye lingering on some of the wonderful layouts of the deserted landscape of a planet surface , the calmness of objects in deep space, or the organic/synthetic hybrid interiors of a vessel. It is late in the issue, in those deep interiors of a ship, that he utilizes color most effectively to communicate different tones—blue/grey for calm, orange to reddish-pink for danger, etc. The color is a bit unconventional on a first read, but in subsequent scans it began to make more sense. A wonderful thought that came to me in re-reading not only this issue but others is one of it is about the experience of the comic, not necessarily the story, and the aesthetics of the artists seem to lean that way, not spoon feeding or forcing you along.
The other unconventional hallmark in Prophet as an ongoing series is the use of sparse dialogue or exposition giving way to let the visuals drive the story as often as possible. It is nice that a group of creators have come together to tell a large story that can only work in comics: that is, something that attempts to play to the strengths of visual sequential storytelling. This does not mean that I think all comics should be this way or that all sci-fi comics should build on this model. No, the fact that this series has made the attempt to tell a set of stories in this way speaks volumes to one of the most wonderful things about comics that keeps me coming back: diversity in style and presentation. While there are “house” styles or “looks” for some titles, I feel those titles are too often focused upon in reviews and write-ups. In fact (and perhaps someone at some point soon will look up the numbers) aren’t there just as many “non-traditional” comics available, whether in physical or digital forms for people to give a try?
Although “Prophet #37” is approachable and accessible, Prophet as a whole seems to have had a mission statement about challenging the other Image books’ status quo, drumming a fist on the ground hard in challenge as if to say Hey, you want something indie, creative, and different?. Well look at this! But the treat is that this is not an attempt at a non-normative comic just for the sake of being one, as this group of folks are the most talented fantasy & sci-fi writers and artists working together in comics today. The folks working on Prophet care about making comics and, by extension, care about the type of comics that someone can pick up and read.