Review by Anthony Rooney

Warning: Contains mild spoilers.

I have to confess that my least favourite episodes of The Prisoner were the ones set outside The Village. Other than those wonderful opening credits showing the Prisoner’s resignation and subsequent kidnapping from his London home, that was all I wanted to see of the ‘real world’ in that series. No pun intended but The Village captivated me with its architecture, its fashions, penny-farthing badges and even the font used on the signage (“Questions are a burden to others, questions a prison for oneself”).

So perhaps it is no surprise then that the first issue of Titan’s new Prisoner comic, which features very little of The Village within its pages, entirely failed to grab me.

Like DC Comics’ stab at a Prisoner comic back in the late 1980s, this latest effort has got itself far too hung up on the business of the hero being a spy. Although it was never actually stated in the TV series that the original Prisoner was a spy, it didn’t need to be as it was pretty darn obvious. Aside from being the MacGuffin needed to deliver Patrick McGoohan’s character to The Village in the first place, ‘Number Six’ used the skill set of a spy to his advantage in various episodes (though a physically fit scientist with lots of top-secret information in his noggin might have fit the bill just as well and, better still, put an end to the tedious ‘is he John Drake?’ debate). But essentially our hero was a nameless man of mystery, and it was his struggle against The Village that was important rather than his former occupation.

As with most modern comics, the story is narrated in angst-ridden fashion by its hero, MI5 agent Breen. If I describe Breen as a cross between Jason Bourne and Ethan Hunt, it is not to make him sound exciting but to point out what a clichéd character he is. I felt a very weary sense of deja-vu as Breen donned disguises and jumped on a plane to evade his former masters. The eventual use of a drugged pizza to capture Breen lacked the kind of style I associate with The Village. Mind you, The Village has reinvented itself as the Pink Panther now – stealing things and leaving a ‘V’ monogram behind as a calling card (as this is a comic perhaps they could call in Batman and Robin to investigate? Oh, wrong company. Pity, Number 1 would fit in well at Arkham Asylum). Oh, and Breen and MI5 already know about The Village. Only one agent ever escaped, apparently, and he was insane. Well, THAT takes care of Fall Out then. *Sigh*

I started off bored and ended up annoyed. Little things bugged me – for instance, after eating his drugged pizza why does Breen hallucinate an image of Leo McKern? (Why not Mary Morris, Derren Nesbitt or even Clifford Evans?) And shouldn’t Breen have woken up in a perfect replica of his Tuscany cottage rather than Patrick McGoohan’s old pad?

While the script left a lot to desire, the art too was only so-so, failing to come alive and achieve any kind of vibrancy even when we finally reach The Village (though, to be fair, that might be more the fault of the colourist working in subdued and muted tones).

I’ve never been a fan of the cynical variant cover ploy companies use to sell more ‘collectors’ item’ issues to comic book fans. The variant covers featuring McGoohan, are – at best - misleading, and I imagine some people will be very disappointed to find themselves reading about some new guy in a story that comes across more like a Mission: Impossible knock-off than The Prisoner. And that’s the thing with this comic - it makes the mistake of trying to be a sequel to a TV series that requires no sequel, and gives us a new hero when the original is one of the great iconic fictional characters of our time. Sorry, Titan, but if you slap that logo on the cover then, by rights, you really should be giving us the original, not the economy pack!

I am prepared to get behind anything that promotes Patrick McGoohan’s vision and takes The Prisoner forward into the future that awaits it once us ageing older fans are gone (see, or hear, rather, the wonderful Big Finish audio adaptations). Because of that I’ll give issue 2 of The Uncertainty Machine a try in the hope that things might improve but, after such a disappointing first issue, my expectations are pretty low.

Rating: Poor. Somewhere between the AMC reimagining and Hank Stine’s ‘A Day in the Life’ sort of bad.


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