“Maybe one day I will get a whole bunch of courage up and put words in their mouth. I think they will probably ruin the picture as a whole…If I had to be the guy to put the words in their mouth to talk and speak it would be gibberish” Rob Liefeld- Stan Lee Presents: Comic Book Greats.

No truer words have been spoken.

Welcome everyone to A Field Guide to the Comic Book Bargain Bin! Your handy source of all your bargain bin diving needs. Have you ever wonder what you get if you put John Rambo, The Ultimate Warrior, and overtly Christian overtones into a blender?  No? Well you will get Jonathan Taylor Prophet star of the Image Comic: Prophet. For those who are unaware of Prophet I will provide a touch of back story.  Prophet, from what I can gather, is a twist on the archetype of an experimental super-solider frozen in time (IE Captain America). He is foretold to stop the war that will bring the end of man, if he doesn’t cause it first! Prophet comes from the mind of Rob Liefeld and it shows. The character is the definition of EXTREME! Just look at his costume

Big gun: Check.
Random Bandoliers: Check.
Shoulder Pads: Check.
Is it on just on one shoulder?: Check
Pouches: Check
The weird facemask thing: Check

Yeah this guy was the definition of awesome back in the 90’s.

Now today I am tackling the confusing mess that is Prophet #5. The comic that contains elements of Rambo, The Matrix, an acid dream, and a painfully obvious Jack Kirby homage in addition to some of the  worst interior art this side of a Bluewater Bio Comic.

Let me explain to you the plot (if you can call it that) for this comic. Prophet hasbeen captured by the evil organization Ragnarock (you know they are evil due to the name synonymous with Armageddon) which is led by the villain, Omen (seriously, Rob, were you even trying).  Omen has put Prophet into a VR simulation to get into his mind to better understand the super-solider and why he is the way he is. This sends Prophet to WW2 Germany fighting Nazis whilst proclaiming they killed his father.

Through his rage and violence he sends himself to the jungles of Vietnam where the book takes a very Rambo turn with Prophet killing several dozen Viet Con with extreme prejudice. This is till he kills a pregnant woman in his blind fury. Feeling guilty an image of his father (or his Father, not sure really) comes in and tells him that he is damned in Heaven and Earth for his action of taking the unborn infant’s life (Apparently God is cool with Viet Con being slaughtered). This sends Prophet in a berserker Rage in the real world and he savagely cuts a swath through the compound. He eventually escapes and this sends Omen into a panic. He decides to let Prophet’s only friend, Jackson Kirby (yes. He is an obvious Jack Kirby homage.), to go and stop Prophet at all costs.

Now where should I start with this mess? I guess with this: There are the three questions a critic must consider when looking at a piece of work. What is it trying to accomplish? Did it succeed? And was it worthwhile? With all that I can gather from this confusing comic is that this issue was meant to serve as a jumping on point for new readers or at least that’s what I think it tries to be. Just look at the first page

With all that text we are told who Prophet is, his location, why he is there, and his mission in life. You’d figure with that you think this should be the jumping on point for new readers, but you’d be wrong. The comic struggles to get its narrative across amidst an ocean of confusing caption trees, circular dialogue, and mindless action scenes.  When I first read this comic my knowledge of Prophet was low and afterwards this comic left me even more puzzled. I wasn’t certain what the point of this comic was unless it was to tell me Prophet is crazy and likes to do nothing but kill. If that’s the point then the comic pass, I guess, but in reality it failed. I am assuming this comic was a jumping on point and it failed to provide any sort of real information on the character and why they are there. Like why is this organization so interested in Prophet, knowing that if they do replicate him or whatever they will bring the End of Days? Also why is the FBI involved and heck why do they let the simulation go on long enough to cause Prophet to go all Savage Hulk on everyone? So yeah to answer the two first questions: What is this comic trying to do? Be a jumping on point for new readers and provide information for old.  Did it succeed? NO. It left more questions than answers and I still know nothing about Prophet.

As for the third question, “Was it worthwhile?” I have to answer, no. It was a mess of a comic. It was horrible to look at and each page I struggled to follow the action. The comic used a lot of close up shots (on hands mainly) and it really ruined the flow of the comic. Each page of comic should have at least one panel to establish the area. Show where everything is spatially and give us a sense of the kinetics of the fight. Yet this comic didn’t do that very often and when it did the page was so grotesque it didn’t make any sense whatsoever to me. This comic suffered some of the worst art by Stephen Pratt. Well not really him. His pencils were just bad artistically and sequentially but his inker and colorist are more to blame for this mess. They kept in all the unnecessary lines and detailing that just detracted from the comic. I will admit some of the pages were actually cool. I am a sucker for some of these 90’s character models and poses some pages are just awesome. There was also a nice use of the two page spread to present a more cinematic storytelling. It was over-used a bit (and on the talking head scenes mostly) but when it was used properly it added an extra layer to the story. Those few things though don’t save this comic from having some of the worst art I’ve ever witnessed.

The other flaw to this comic is Liefeld’s writing. Liefeld is not the greatest dialog man in the industry. This is a fact. His plot work, at times, is all right and even some character concepts are well done, but the man can’t write dialog. The comic has a bad case of the narration bug that seems to be plaguing Frank Miller to this day. The comic is 90percent caption. Some of that is dialog caption but the rest is all internal monologs by Prophet, who by the way speaks like the Warrior. The dialog at times just goes in circles, as does the narration. It all goes nowhere slowly. The writing just gets in the way of what was okay action (if ugly). You know how action flicks have those talking scenes to cool down for a minute and get to the next fight scene or whatever?  In a good action movie they provide moments of growth and development for the characters and set up the scenes properly, but in a bad one they just disrupt the rhythm of the movie and you just want to get to the next scene. This is how this comic works.  Instead of it being First Blood, it’s Rambo 3.

Now these are some flaws of the comic that really get on my nerve but don’t detract from the experience just going to state them:

The Dialog boxes are colored to help the flow but the characters don’t keep the same color meaning you will think X character is saying dialog A but in reality its Y character. Very frustrating but can be figured out.

This is a biggie for me and that’s the pointless Religious overtones. Liefeld is known for including Christian symbolism and overtones into his works. At most they are tolerable (nothing against them just sometimes they are forced) but in this case they don’t serve a purpose. Prophet isn’t a prophet. He didn’t receive the Word of God and is trying to share it. He’s a Rambo-style killer. The random priest in the comic and the fact the cover itself has the words Holy Bible in bold is just screaming “Hey we are symbols but poorly used and are misrepresented in this comic.” Unnecessary Christian (or any religion) symbolism is a pet peeve of mine and this comic is full of it.

Now an awesome highlight- Prophet wears a suit of dead Viet Con to kill more Viet Con.

Seriously it’s awesome. Only Liefeld would have a character use a dead body pile as camouflage. Well maybe him and Garth Ennis.

So to wrap things up-

Lesson #2- Beware all Rob Liefeld Comics. They are just plain bad. When Liefeld does pencils you get some of the worst art ever put out in the mainstream, and whenever he writes. God help us. The man just can’t plain write. So as a general rule- All Liefeld comics are bad. Right?