Comics

The Prisoner #2 – ‘The Uncertainty Machine’ (Pt 2) – Comic Review

Publisher: Titan Comics
Writer: Peter Milligan
Art: Colin Lorimer, Joana Lafluente, Simon Bowland
Pages: 29

The cult TV series comes to life in a brand new comic series by writer Peter Milligan and artist Colin Lorimer! Timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first US transmission, this new series transports readers back to the mysterious village where everyone is a number!

The first issue of Titan Comics’ bold reimagining of The Prisoner, part one of ‘The Uncertainty Machine’, was primarily a prologue designed to introduce our new Number Six, MI5 agent Breen, and edge him closer to the point where he had become the ‘prisoner’ of the title by being captured by the nefarious, mysterious Village. Peter Milligan did fine work re-introducing the world so vividly developed in the 1960’s by Patrick McGoohan & George Markstein and giving it contextual, modern relevance. This sets the ball rolling as to where the series will go.

Chiefly, this second issue very much takes Breen from captured spy toward being the titular ‘prisoner’, introducing many of the historical concepts driving the core original idea – particularly the absence of free will, and how calculated the Village are in extracting their precious ‘information’. Milligan keeps the story really quite simple – the Village want to know what the UK’s most powerful weapon, Pandora, is—a weapon Breen stole in issue one to trade for the life of his captured fellow spy and ex-lover Carey, and use various techniques to get it before Breen tries to make his escape.

In essence, this is precisely what early episodes of The Prisoner itself did, before it truly succumbed to a level of esoteric, absurdist weirdness which edged it away from being about a man truly escaping anything; Milligan’s sequel could well end up going the same way but this issue certainly manages to keep a semblance of narrative understanding while allowing for eccentric touches which play into the older series; the fake court, the old red London bus etc… and the first appearance in particular of a fan favourite Prisoner idea. These ground you in the bizarre world of the Village and its subjects. You may not be lost or confused but you will be curious.

Also, for any fans of The Prisoner, it is exciting to see the first Number Two being introduced. Now if I were a betting man, I’d assume almost certainly that Milligan will adopt the format the show itself did, having Number Two played by a different actor each week – this would allow artist Colin Lorimer the chance to reinvent the show’s central antagonist, the Village bastion who finds all manner of twisted ways to get what he needs from Number Six. Here, classically, he is a thin, middle-aged, austere man, but you wonder just how often the comic series may reinvent this archetypal part of Prisoner lore.

What is also interesting is how Breen still holds to his name here, and Milligan hasn’t entirely done away with referring to him as such. He’s becoming the ‘prisoner’ more steadily than McGoohan’s incarnation did, the more he gets sucked down the rabbit hole of the Village, and you wonder if the arc of the series will see Breen steadily lose his own name and morph into Number Six as the series further explores the still present and prescient ideas of surveillance, big government and restricted freedoms. This is a fascinating take on the idea, and knowing more of who Breen is than the original Number Six allows for him to be rounded and humanised.

Though part of the manipulation by Number Two in his attempts to find Pandora, we learn that Breen was verbally and physically abused as a child by his tough South London father, and his internal monologue helping to carry us through the story helps us feel like we are on the journey with him and uncovering these mysteries with him – while at the same time not being aware of crucial pieces of information he knows. If the message is that the world is the Village, then we are also villagers Milligan, through Breen, keeps a few of these secrets for the greater good from. The comic in this manner works on multiple levels.

The Prisoner’s revival continues, then, to be a real triumph and a fascinating highlight of the summer comic season. ‘The Uncertainty Machine’, with its second part, further immerses us into the Village setting, allows Lorimer to create more vivid panels using different shades to depict the past, to depict dreams and visions, and give the piece a palette which recounts the original series while still giving the piece a fresh, modern flavour.

Honestly, this is fabulously accessible for anyone who hasn’t become acquainted with The Prisoner, and if it doesn’t make you want to go and check it out, well… by hook or by crook, it really should.

The Prisoner #2 is now available from Titan Comics.

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