Hasitha Fernando reviews The Prisoner: Shattered Visage…
The Prisoner: Shattered Visage takes place 20 years following the events that concluded the 1960’s cult TV series. Alice Drake, an ex-spy fed up with her cyclical routine stumbles across the infamous facility termed the ‘Village’ during a sailing trip gone awry. There she encounters an aged Number Six and witnesses a decade-old conflict unfold. Meanwhile in London, secret agents with darker agendas gather for nefarious purposes…
No one will ever dispute how ‘ahead of the curve’ The Prisoner was. The allegorical and almost prophetic nature of it struck a chord with the audiences of the late ‘60’s which were undergoing a paradigm shift fueled by the counterculture movement. It was a seminal piece of work, of that there is no doubt. Decades since its release you can still observe its impactful ripple effect on modern-day productions such as Lost, Westworld or Black Mirror. In its very essence the series can be described as an almost philosophical exploration of the dichotomy and innate conflict that exists between the concepts of individualism and collectivism.
In the original storyline an unnamed ex-spy (Patrick McGoohan) is gassed and transported unconscious to an idyllic seaside community called the Village, following his hasty resignation from the agency. Here its inhabitants are deprived of names and have instead been assigned numbers- akin to cogs in a machine. Thus, during the course of the 17-episode narrative of the TV series our protagonist is known simply as Number Six. The Village administrator, designated Number Two, constantly monitors Number Six and subjects him to innumerable experiments in order to extract information about his resignation. Different Number Two’s come and go, each failing at their task of breaking Number Six. The narrative reaches an obfuscating crescendo in the divisive finale titled ‘Fallout’ which sees our hero returning to London, having escaped from his captors.
Following several botched attempts – including one involving the legendary Jack Kirby – artist Dean Motter was approached by DC Comics to create a comic book series which served as a direct-sequel to the original TV series. With the blessings of ITC Entertainment and series creator/star Patrick McGoohan, The Prisoner: Shattered Visage debuted in 1988. And after 30 years, Titan Comics is now bringing back this classic to print for the first time since its original publication.
Right off the bat I’ve got to be honest with you. If you haven’t read this graphic novel and is unfamiliar with The Prisoner TV series – don’t bother. This companion piece will appeal mostly to fans. Granted, the writers did a great job in summarizing the incidents of the TV series for the uninitiated. But, in spite of their best efforts the new narrative concocted up by Dean Motter and co-writer Mark Askwith does beg the question, ‘Is Shattered Visage a worthy sequel to the celebrated TV Series?’ The answer is a frustrating YES and NO. YES, because this graphic novel is truly a worthy successor. They’ve been able to successfully capture the crisp dialogue and dry humor reminiscent of the series along with its more… outlandish aspects. Motter’s surrealistic artwork brings to mind DC comics early Hellblazer runs which I’m a fan of; but that’s just me. Others who are acquainted with more vibrant modern-day graphic novels may be irked by the muted color schemes of this work. I particularly admired Motter’s visual story telling prowess; entire panels existed sans dialogue which communicated to me what mere words could not. Alice Drake made for a compelling protagonist in this story. Defiant, resilient and headstrong she is truly Number Six’s kindred spirit.
Why I responded in the negative vis-à-vis this graphic novel is because I felt the writers embarked on an unnecessary endeavor. The Prisoner is its own beast; a masterpiece destined never to be copied or replicated. Although controversial, the conclusion of the series had a sense of finality to it. But in Shattered Visage we discover that ‘Fallout’ may have been a drug-fueled hallucination all along. Through the course of this narrative more head scratching questions arise as opposed to definitive answers; and that is why it’s frustrating. Yet, in spite of all this, as a spiritual successor nothing else so far has come close. To all loyal fans, ‘This is for your eyes only.’