Prophet, Volume 2: Brothers by Brandon Graham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
While Prophet, Volume 2: Brothers retains the forms of its predecessor volume, it does not retain its substance. The artwork continues to be surreal and sometimes breathtaking, but the storyline is much more "standard" than volume 1, and I fear, just a little, that it is slipping back toward its superhero roots (in the unsubtle and, frankly, silly original Prophet series).
Thankfully, some of the vestiges of volume 1 remain: the very alien life forms reminiscent of Matt Howarth's cult-classic '90s title Konny and Czu; the use of a veritable guild of artists and writers (some the same as in the first volume, but also including newcomers Fil Barlow, Helen Maier, and Boo Cook), rather than a single writer and artist; and the premise that a slowly-gathering army of clones of John Prophet will re-establish the Earth Empire.
Let me emphasize that phrase "slowly gathering". This is why this volume didn't receive my highest rating. I am fine with slow story lines (heck, I read Moby Dick and loved it), but the meandering nature of this story weakened it a great deal. The first volume had the excuse, and a good excuse it was, that the disorienting feeling that one got from reading the book could be viewed as the submersion of the reader's consciousness into John Prophet's own confusion at awakening from a thousands-of-years slumber into a wholly different universe. But that's behind us now. Now, the story is focused ("gathered?") primarily on the original John Prophet, known as Old Man Prophet, from whom the army of clones (or near-clones) has descended.
Volume 1 was more diffuse, with the stories of the different clones getting more or less equal playing time. In Volume 2, Old Man Prophet gets the lion's share of attention, while the tailed(!) John Prophet (Farel Dalrymple's "baby") gets a little vignette in the middle. Frankly, I liked the more diffuse volume, as it felt unlike a "standard" comic book, with a much more complex multivariate narrative that I found surreal and intriguing. I guess I find the linearity of this volume a little disturbing! Then again, "linearity" doesn't really fit so well - the narrative tends to meander, but not enough to break away into true surrealism. It's in an uncomfortable interstitial space between bold and bland. If you're going to do weird, go big or go home!
I will be very interested to read Volume 3. If the series returns to the substance, and not just the forms, of Volume 1, I am in for a treat. If it continues too much further down this path, well, I am forgiving, but only to a certain point.
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