Titan Comics’ revival and continuation of The Prisoner is becoming, issue on issue, something of a warm blanket for any storytelling or indeed comics enthusiast. There is a skill and deftness of touch to the ongoing tale within ‘The Uncertainty Machine’ which both revisits and updates the surreal absurdity of Patrick McGoohan & George Markstein’s late 1960’s original series. In every piece of dialogue from Peter Milligan and artwork by Colin Lorimer, you can feel the quality in a series which is incredibly in tune with the world of The Prisoner – and here it dares to unpick aspects of its mythology too.
The journey of MI5 agent Breen inside the Village has been as tricksy & turny as that of the original Number Six, and the end of the previous issue ended with the kind of cliffhanger that leaves you baffled as to where the tale could go next – specifically how Number Six put a bullet in his head upon his escape from the Village being thwarted. Milligan’s solution, the reveal that Breen has been inside a Matrix-style simulation inside the Village all along, could have felt like a cheat in lesser hands, but it absolutely fits the manipulation and control a whole legion of Number Two’s running the Village historically have unleashed over the years – even back in the 60’s they were toying, ahead of their time, with simulated levels of reality.
This issue reminds us that the core principle of this story remains in the vein of classic Prisoner – Number Two wants information, specifically on the mysterious Pandora, and is willing to torture Breen, through his mind, in order to get it. Whereas the previous issues worked to establish Breen and the set up, and play a traditional ‘escape’ narrative, the third part of ‘The Uncertainty Machine’ really goes for broke on the strange, mind-warping imagery, and it allows Lorimer and colourist Joana Lafuente to have a field day with their panels; deep reds, shadows, the austere greys of the simulated 19th century Vienna that Number Six finds himself in – the strange world of Breen’s mind and the Village is captured vividly.
Milligan, working from editor David Leach’s original story, enjoys playing with what Breen considers reality as Number Two—here depicted as a rather straggly, cruel white-haired middle aged man (maybe slightly inspired by Peter Capaldi, but they maybe not)—pushes his psychological state to the brink in order to try and expose what Breen knows about Pandora. Nonetheless, Milligan ensures the humanising through-line across this story—Breen’s determination to protect fellow agent and former lover Carey—remains front and centre to his actions and psychology, with the new Number Six being taunted by his own mental process in how perhaps he’s not doing enough to save her from the machinations of the Village.
It would be churlish to spoil a few surprises toward the end of this issue but Milligan delivers, once again, a delightful about face of a cliffhanger which again throws into the air all of our preconceptions as to where The Prisoner is going, not to mention daring enough to try and provide hints as to the origin of one of the series’ most iconic enigmas. We have one more issue until ‘The Uncertainty Machine’ draws to what looks to be a thrilling conclusion, and we can’t wait to be seeing you there…
The Prisoner #3 is now available from Titan Comics.