In 1992, a group of super-popular artists at Marvel Comics left the cozy confines of the House of Ideas to strike out on their own. Image Comics was the result, and the comics industry would never be the same.
The first book under the Image banner was X-Force artist Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood. It was such a hit that Liefeld turned every idea in his sketchbook into a hit comic. Among these was Prophet.
The character of John Prophet first appeared in Youngblood #2. He was originally conceived as a Captain America riff, a WWII-era man who volunteered to be experimented on by a time-traveling scientist. The art was farmed out to Liefeld’s studio, each artist a watered down version of the next, all of them playing a game of telephone with human anatomy and the rules of storytelling. It’s all cool posing and blood dripping off of impossible weapons.
By the mid-90s, the series Prophet went into hibernation, only to be resurrected in 2012. Liefeld recruited creators Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, and Giannis Milonogiannis, and gave them free rein to reimagine his characters.
The technology depicted in the series is like a mixture of Dune and Alien, with organic machines, mucus magic, and teeth everywhere. At times it reads like a broken down version of Flash Gordon, with the same kind of propulsive storytelling.
The long arc of the series is the renewal of the long-dormant Earth empire, and the book’s five volumes – Remission, Brothers, Empire, Joining, and Earth War – detail Prophet’s awakening, gathering of his allies, and battles. It’s almost like a metaphor for Liefeld’s standing in the comics industry. His rise and fall happened on his own terms. Now, like many of his creations, his legacy is in the hands of the next generation.