Review by C.J. Bunce
The Prisoner: Shattered Visage was one of the first prestige format comics from DC Comics. Having the publication style of the recently released Batman: The Dark Knight Returns from 1986, it beckoned this teen reader with the very same mystery and appeal that The X-Files would tap seven years later. But in the pre-streaming world, The Prisoner–the 1960s British television series upon which Shattered Visage would stamp a final chapter–was long gone, possibly never to be seen again, when the comic book was released two decades later. So five decades later and The Prisoner resurfaced again last year with a new tale in comic book form as The Prisoner: The Uncertainty Machine (see our review here at borg). And as luck would have it, the 16 episodes and a pilot of The Prisoner are now freely there to watch over and over thanks to Amazon Prime. As a further celebration of 50 years of The Prisoner, in two weeks Titan Comics is reprinting The Prisoner: Shattered Visage in a new edition, with bonus never-before-published artwork, and an afterword by writer Dean Motter.
The 1967 spy show was written by, created by, and starred Patrick McGoohan, and British, followed by American, viewers were dropped for the first time into The Village. A spy quits the spygame and is soon abducted, trapped in a quirky seaside resort known only as The Village, where he is interrogated and exposed to the oddest sorts of psychological manipulation to get him to spill his secrets. Filmed on set in real-life Portmeirion, the look of The Village cemented the show as a TV classic. In 1988 Shattered Visage writer Dean Motter with The Prisoner enthusiast Mark Askwith created a new four chapter arc in comic book form, as immensely satisfying and compelling as the show, re-introducing the characters of Number Two and Number Six. But this story finds them at the end of their journey as the next guest of The Village arrives, an ex-spy named Alice Drake, whose sailing vacation takes a strange turn, leaving her marooned in The Village with them.
The setting of The Village is only part of the original show that was perfectly recreated for the 1988 comic book series. Artists David Hornung and colorist Richmond Lewis were required to have each page of the story approved by McGoohan and they and the writers later received a further endorsement from the show’s co-star Leo McKern. The photo-real images of both actors bolster the story, shown in the story both at the time of the show and as aged twenty years later. Objects, colors, even props from the original show appear throughout the story, immersing the reader in this strange world of manipulation, conspiracy, privacy, challenges to freedom, and mind control. Motter and Askwith include new secrets about The Village, and 33 years after the comic book release it remains compelling stuff with or without exposure to the TV show.
The location became as much a star of the show as McGoohan and helped to cement the show’s reputation as one of the classic cult TV shows of all time. Viewers of the TV series will be at home in Shattered Visage, from the opening credits mirrored in the life of a new character, to the strange balloon-like Rovers that remain The Village’s militarized security force, to the rooms, the messages, the “branded” products, and every removal of identity the creators could concoct.
Here are some pages from The Prisoner: Shattered Visage:
The Prisoner: Shattered Visage is now itself a comic book/graphic novel classic. It is available for pre-order now here at Amazon, arriving at bookstores and your local comic book store March 12, 2019. Fans of The Prisoner will also not want to miss The Prisoner: The Original Art Edition (discussed here at borg) and The Prisoner: The Uncertainty Machine, discussed here. The entire TV series is available now here on Amazon Prime.