Friday, 24 February 2017

Comic Review: The Prisoner - Shattered Visage


The Prisoner was and is one of the all-time great TV shows, that simple. Transcendentally brilliant and a rare glimpse of genuine small-screen auteurism. As such any sort of remake or sequel is on a hiding to nothing, especially when the show's psychotic hardcore fandom comes into play. Quite why DC, always with a record of steering clear of property renting, decided to commission this four-issue sequel to such a beloved show isn't known, though it was possibly just to keep up work with designer and Mister X creator Motter, who was doing odd bits of work for them at the time. he was partnered with Askwith, owner of the Silver Snail comic shop and a superfan who'd also done occasional work for DC. The original four-issue series consisted of 48 page prestige instalments and was vetted by Patrick McGoohan himself.

It gets right into upsetting people by rapidly establishing that the notorious series finale "Fall Out" was a continuation of the drug-induced mental battle seen in penultimate episode "Once Upon a Time". Which, when you think about it, isn't a big problem. Firstly "Fall Out" is batshit crazy and it's not hard to imagine a lot of drugs were involved even with McGoohan's chaste reputation and secondly it was very clearly designed to kill the thing off, too nonsensical to answer questions but too sweeping to allow a follow-up. So really the only way to write a sequel is to work around it even if it seems joyless, and naturally this is a bit of a red flag to those who believe the TV show is tantamount to a gospel.

The basic premise, set at the time the comic was published in the late eighties, has some admirable innovations - Number Two (the Leo McKern version) has been imprisoned since the fall of the Village and published a tell-all memoir which has made the Village a hot commodity in the intel community once again. The Village has just one resident now, an aged, bearded Number Six who found the freedom to stay when everyone else evacuated. It's a neat immersion, superficially defeatist until we meet the man and find him undiminished. 

The intel plot works well and features some well-crafted new characters who fit nicely alongside the veterans, with main protagonist Alice Drake (there are several in-jokes as well as numerous references) engaging and intelligent after washing up in the Village and taken under Six's wing. Antagonist Thomas Drake also carries a lot of the narrative and does it well; the pair probably shade Six and Two in terms of page time which gives it a fitting sequel feel and gives their showings more power. What fun would a retread of the show have been anyway?

Motter & Askwith excel in the general presentation; the poster-like semi-abstract art, made with heavy photo-referencing, is unlike most comics seen at the time while the language is perfect. The spook stuff, full of titles and allusions, fits nicely with what we saw of the world of spies in the sixties show while everything Six and Two say can be heard in the voices of McGoohan and McKern. The plot is a little loose and towards the end seems in an indecent hurry after such a patient build-up and the book requires a couple of reads to really appreciate what's going on but it's worth it for the details which pop out a second time around.

It's not perfection and it's not to all tastes but Shattered Visage is a respectful follow-up. Whether you feel that the series needed any sort of follow-up is more the question; if you were happy with "Fall Out" and feel the show is sacrosanct it will do little to convince you otherwise. But as sequels go it';s likely to be as good as it gets.

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