The Prisoner #1
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Colin Lorimer and Joana Lafluente
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by Titan Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Information is power in Titan Comics’ new, tautly entertaining take on The Prisoner, the subversive and trippy British TV show from 1967. While the original show traded on metaphor and being willfully indecipherable, writer Peter Milligan takes a much more conventional approach with his debut issue.
Centered around another spy who has forsaken the espionage life, Milligan delays our trip to The Village a bit in order to focus on the man himself and the cascade of events that propelled him toward the idyllic but terrifying compound. This direction gives this debut a solid foundation of context instantly setting it apart from the famously frustrating cult hit. But, fear not, fellow villagers - while this debut is much more straightforward than the first episode of the original series, Milligan and artists Colin Lorimer and Joana Lafluente still keep the property’s eye-grabbing surreality and tense politics very much intact thanks to Milligan’s propulsive script and the art team’s inspired blocking and sartorial choices. Will our new Number 6 find what he’s looking for within the picture perfect walls of the Village? At the very least, The Prisoner #1 bears the show’s standard well with a dynamic, strange, and well constructed opening issue.
Six days ago, MI-5 agent Breen was on assignment with his partner, another agent named Carey, with whom he shared an intimate relationship with. But quickly the mission went south, and as the pair made their escape, Carey disappeared without a trace. This leads Breen down a strange path, seeking the spy world’s most closely-guarded secret, the Village, a sort of experimental “mental fracking” facility in which old spies are deposited in order to mine their memories and experiences in the field.
But while I would have liked to have spent a bit more time in the Village, Peter Milligan does a great job of setting up the dangerously weird world of espionage long before we ever set foot beyond the town’s seemingly harmless walls. Instead of just starting us in the middle of the story like the show’s pilot did, Milligan pulls back to days before Breen’s kidnapping, showing us exactly why he is motivated to find the Village and why his bosses have now deemed him a threat to “national security” (read: their probably evil machinations). In doing so, this version of The Prisoner operates with a much more solid narrative foundation, instead of just trading on hints and speculation.
But even with this solid base, Peter Milligan can’t help but make great use of the show’s strange reputation and dreamlike tone. After Breen hunts down clues and gets closer to his objective, he finds himself waylaid by hallucinogens and pulled deeper into a world he describes as “monstrously surreal, just out of view.” Not only does this fit well into Milligan’s wheelhouse, but also pays worthy tribute to the original show, while still trying something somewhat new with the property. I was worried going into this debut that this first script would be just the trappings of the show with no actual plot to speak of, but I am happy to report that Milligan makes sure to give us both sides of The Prisoner’s weird coin, and it can only get better (and stranger) from here.
Milligan also finds great partners in his art team, penciler Colin Lorimer and colorist Joana Lafluente. Adapting quickly and well to his dynamically bizarre script and tone, Lorimer and Lafluente show that they can deliver both fast-paced action, like the issue’s opening chase scene, and hazy, psychedelic displays of weirdness, like the issue’s sudden descent into the Hammer Horror like bowels of a secret MI-5 installation, with equal aplomb. Though again I would have loved for the art team to spend a bit more time on the anachronistic Village, beyond their ending double page splash of the iconic courtyard, I am confident that we have only seen a portion of Colin Lorimer and Joana Lafluente’s skills and they can only grow from here.
While this first issue is light on an real information (INFOrmation! INFORMATION!) about the plot behind the Village’s walls, the debut of The Prisoner is still intriguing and weird enough to please die hard fans of the series while hopefully hooking in some new ones as well. Thanks to its world-building, gleeful weirdness, and game creative team, I think it's safe to say that Titan Comics has another winner of an adaptation on its hands with The Prisoner #1.