The Prisoner ends with Fallout which is such a major piece of television history that it almost defies description. But not content to end there, I read the graphic novel Shattered Visage, which takes place 20 odd years later and “concludes” the story of #6.
What it does really well is tells a spy story and builds on the sheer power of the Village and those who work for it. It also rewards attentive readers with some enjoyable “Easter Eggs”; notice Port Muscat? Angelo Muscat played the Butler in the original series! Sadly what it doesn’t do so well is give us any deeper insight into #6 who seems to have become a total misanthrope, spending the last 20 years living in the Village with no one else around. Finally able to be alone and “free”, he lives off food that is still being delivered which is all part of the opening exposition letter sent to Mrs. Butterworth. (See, the Easter Eggs start early!) When a new person finds herself stranded in the Village, he brands her #6 and he effectively becomes the new #2, which was completely out of character except for the fact that he’s not trying to break her. It’s more like he’s playing with her but it could simply be that he believes her to be a new trick in The Village arsenal, even after all this time.
The story is told over 4 chapters each bearing a clever title lettered A through D. My favorite is by far Book A(r)rival establishing a new rival. Book By hook or by Crook, Book Confrontation and Book Departure are all clever in their own right, but come on… no comparison. The story is illustrated in a magnificently cinematic style that allows the “movie” to play in the readers mind. I say that specifically because there are scenes that the artwork depicts remarkably visually. For instance, there’s a moment where a man pulls camera footage to watch a handshake, and the camera zooms in to the hands, where something is clearly being exchanged. This is incredible and illustrator Dean Motter deserves credit for it, because clearly no motion is really happening on an inked page. Like so much else with this book, Motter also loses some points where his artistic rendering of Leo McKern’s #2 looks more like an angry dwarf ready to go in search of the One Ring, rather than the former leader of the Village.
I enjoyed the graphic novel but it does have its weaknesses. Sadly, for a series that always felt slightly ambiguously timed, usually pushing for a “tomorrow” vibe, this has outdated with 3.5″ disks, desktop computers, and the wonder that is GPS. It makes up for a lot with such amazing images as looking through Venetian blinds and seeing that view as if through prison bars. (The same stunt is used to no less effect with a school gate.) Roger referenced Alice in Wonderland in his review of Fallout, as I suspected he might, and he’s certainly not alone in making that connection as the new #6 gives her daughter the books of Alice in Wonderland and Secret Garden. Her sailing ship, which she plans to use on a globe spanning mission (leaving her kid behind for a year) is even called The Vorpal Blade. So, plenty of allusions to going down the rabbit hole.
#6 was such a great character in the series and seeing him as a misanthrope living in a dilapidated Village felt like a letdown. Surely we could have had more time with him being him, or perhaps even finally telling us his name…. though realistically no one would have accepted it. Part of the allure of the series is that we never do learn his name. Seeing the new #6 walking around the eerily empty place was enjoyable but the power behind the Village felt absent. There’s that line that we fans will never forget from The Chimes of Big Ben when #6 tells #2 that he will come back and wipe the Village out. Perhaps that’s his game, but it takes 20 years to get there and in the end, the Village is still there, because it is always there, partly as a construct of the mind, partly as a power that can never really be defeated. All in all, it’s a fun return to the land of The Prisoner, but it’s never going to rise to the level of the series. Every so many years, I go back for a reread because it’s a fun read, but little else. The Prisoner was a landmark television show and we were never likely to see it captured in 100 pages of a graphic novel. But that won’t stop my enjoyment of it, when I go back to read it again in a few more years… ML