When I sat down to research and read Titan Comics’ new issue The Prisoner, released on April 25, 2018, the Cold War was the first thing that popped into my head. That may seem strange but it’s because the original television show, which first aired in 1967, was heavily threaded with those political tensions.
In the 1950s and 60s, television had a tendency to focus on the ideal life that Americans dreamed of living. A quick look at what was presented in shows like Leave It To Beaver and even the ever-popular Bewitched provides a glance at just what it was they hoped for. Idyllic family settings with easily solved problems were people’s way of masking the very real fear of nuclear war, foreign invasion, economic uncertainty, and a myriad other things while at the same time promoting what were seen as traditional family values. After all, they’d just come out of World War II and Communism and Socialism had become the new enemy.
Shows like The Prisoner, while not focused on promoting this ideal, still addressed this fear. In fact, in Decoding the Prisoner, Chris Gregory states that actor Patrick McGoohan himself argued that, thematically speaking, the story was about the individual versus the collective (101-102). This could in turn be interpreted as the West Bloc (the U.S. and its allies) versus the East Block (the Soviet Union and its territories) or even Democracy versus Socialism and Communism.
The Prisoner is a science-fiction action story and very fast-paced. Which is good—no one wants to read a slow burning spy story. Espionage and assassinations should be exciting and heart-pounding. And the writer didn’t waste any time getting you there, either. The reader is thrown into the action in the very first panel as Breen jumps out of his own apartment window. The writer, Peter Milligan, did a fantastic job adapting the show’s original premise and has updated it for a modern audience.
Essentially, our protagonist is Breen, an MI5 agent who has grown tired of the spy game. While on a mission in the Middle East, masked assailants kidnap Breen’s partner Carey. MI5 then tasks him with infiltrating The Village, a mysterious intelligence organization thought to be responsible for her disappearance, in order to execute her to make sure she doesn’t talk. Breen refuses and leaves. He then steals something called Pandora in order to bargain for Carey’s freedom, changes his appearance, and waits for Village representatives to drop by.
And they do just that in very short order.
One last thing—there is a brief appearance by a man dressed in a snazzy checkered suit that Breen called the Chess Man. I’m really intrigued by this guy. I need to know the Chess Man is!
The artwork in The Prisoner is absolutely beautiful. The third page in the comic titled Information is Power gave me a strong 007 kind of vibe with that giant red six on a black background. It put me in mind of the gun sight spiral image in the James Bond theme.
Colin Lorimer’s artwork clearly outlines the action. There’s no question what’s happening from panel to panel. His line work is clean and logical. The sequence he used to tell the story made perfect sense. Even the lettering (Simon Bowland) was great. The word balloons didn’t get in the way of the action and even though there was a lot of dialogue, the lettering never felt cramped or crowded.
The coloring, done by Joana Lafluente, is wonderful. The colors pop even though they’re muted. Lafluente’s color choices perfectly support the action that’s taking place in the panels. For example, in the chase scene where Carey and Breen are running from masked gunmen, shades of orange and purple are the predominant colors. This effectively communicates the nature of the action. Orange is another one of those physical, energetic colors that emphasizes excitement. Purple, on the other hand, is often used to denote bravery (think of the Purple Heart medal) and in these scenes, oddly enough, Carey and Breen are both clothed in a dark shade of purple.
I don’t really have anything negative to say about The Prisoner. It was an all-too-short ride that stopped rather abruptly with Breen’s arrival at The Village. This has me looking forward to the next issue for two reasons. First, I’m really curious about this Chess Man (I’ve got a thing for weird villains). Second, although I never saw the television series or remakes (they were well before my time), I have a good feel for the plot. I want to see just how far Milligan is going to deviate in this adaptation.
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Colin Lorimer
Colorist: Joana Lafluente
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Editor: David Leach
Source – Titan Comics
Reference – Gregory, Chris. Be Seeing You: Decoding “The Prisoner”. Indiana University Press, 1997, pp. 101-102.