The last time I read an issue of "Prophet," it was the early '90s and I was researching the title before interviewing Stephen Platt (who was scheduled to take over the art with "Prophet" #5). More importantly, I can say with great certainty that I don't remember a single thing about the comic. And since it looks like the last time the character had his own comic was in 1997 (with the "Prophet/Cable" two-issue miniseries), I'll bet most people are in the same boat.
In other words, there might be a "#21" on the cover, but for most of us, this is a fresh start. And you know what? Brandon Graham and Simon Roy keep that in mind and give us exactly that.
"Prophet" #21 feels like we're reading the first chunk of the best French science-fiction graphic album that you've never heard of before. With a new setting and purpose, coupled with the character himself a bit of a blank slate, it's a comic that is the perfect jumping on point. John Prophet himself is just as lost as we are on this future Earth, with alien monsters and civilizations, massive jellyfish cities and a mysterious mission. Graham has come up with all sorts of wonderful detail to explore, and does so at a leisurely pace. We not only get to see all of the tools that Prophet is carrying, but we learn about the biology of these strange creatures and get glimpses into their society.
Even throwaway lines help Brandon's script make us feel like we've been plunged into an entirely new world; traveling to the towers of Thauilu Vah, or entering a smell-based caste system. This doesn't feel as though Brandon is making it up as he goes along, but rather that all of this has been carefully mapped out. Prophet himself is in many ways an everyman; less of a character and more of a guide for the reader through this landscape. It's a good strategy, because the world that's been created for "Prophet" is interesting enough in its own right that we can stop and marvel at it and be content.
Roy's art is enticing; it feels like a slightly less-detailed Geof Darrow comic, still packed with information but not to the point where your eyes threaten to explode. A lot of attention is paid to the wilderness of this future Earth, and its lush forests feel so real that later locations like the jellyfish city end up that much more alien in their nature. Roy brings Graham's crazy creatures to life; they feel instantly odd and foreign, which is exactly as they should to both Prophet and the reader. I wasn't familiar with Roy's art before, but I definitely want to see a lot more.
"Prophet" #21 fills me with great hope for all of the Extreme Studios titles being re-launched this year. If they're even half as good as "Prophet," then we're in for a treat. And even if they're not? Well, we've still got "Prophet," and I am most definitely coming back for another issue.