Every couple years the Big Two go "slumming" in the indie scene, picking a few choice talents to do short stories for their various anthologies (Strange Tales). Most of these stories skew towards humor, avoiding serious takes on the charterers. Every once in a while though someone delivers something special, a work that transcends the genre, Raphael Grampa's Wolverine story leaps to mind and now Prophet. Rob Liefeld took a who's who of indie creators and instead of limiting them to 8 page non-continuity stories had them relaunch his entire line. This is a bold move especially in a industry were the 2nd largest publisher relaunched their entire line while retaining 90% of their creative staff and called it a unprecedented step in comic publishing. Launching a defunct indie line from the 90's with indie creators is something few publishers would even dream of, but if this issue is anything to go by its was a brilliant move.
Ok now onto the comic itself.
The greatest strength of artists turned writers is their ability to parse out needless dialogue and exposition, allowing the artist to convey all the necessary information on the page. Graham instead focuses on setting the tone of the book. Creating a landscape with futuristic life forms that feel completely organic; A caste society of termites living in a Jelly City? Wolf packs made even more vicious by bonded with a parasite? Sea creatures that scream like kittens? In a lesser book these ideas would fall flat, but under Graham and Roy they become facts of life. More importantly though, these ideas while not delved into deeply look to set up future plot points (the absence of humans outside of various foodstuffs for example). Id be surprised if the guided tour Graham took us on this issue doesn't inform the rest of the series.
Graham in addition to world building provides subtle characterization, while Prophet isn't fully fleshed out* we get a sense of his past and present, something much more important than a exposition laden back story. Graham's use of narrative captions to show Prophet as a calculated and dangerous man, but still not completely comfortable with his surroundings, was masterful.
A major factor in this issue working is the work of Simon Roy who's European style and attention to detail creates a dense and fully realized world. What many artists fail to grasp in futuristic settings is how truly slow time on a worldwide scale moves, while in 2000 years man may be extinct the landscape and wildlife of the Earth will remain (short of a Extinction event) almost identical. Roy takes this into account, creating wildlife that can easily be delineated to their modern ancestors, and landscapes identical to ours only littered with abandoned man-made technology. The most fantastical element, the Jelly City is given a distinctly alien look to remove any confusion of its origin. These grounding elements allow the plot to move briskly and introduce some bizarre moments without causing a disconnect with the reader.
Prophet #21 is one of the few "relaunch" titles that effectively stand alone, introduce future plot points, and still harken to the past. The DC relaunch could have learned a thing or two from Extreme Studios and Prophet.
* Its the first issue
I loved the lettering, although I'm a sucker for faux handwriting, along with the coloring.