Comics are no stranger to continuing a story where another medium left off. Dozens of movies and TV shows have been continued and expanded in comic form, long after they were no longer on screen and between various iterations and installations. But The Prisoner #1 (Titan Comics) feels like a different creature in a lot of ways; while there are often gaps between the end of a show and the start of the corresponding comic, a full 50 years has passed since the show premiered in the U.S. With only 17 episodes, the original British show was always a bit more of a cult classic than must-see TV, and the 2009 attempt to reboot and update the story with Ian McKellen and Jim Caviezel didn’t go anywhere good.
Readers don’t have to be familiar with the show to enjoy this first issue, but if you are you’ll appreciate some of the references and subtleties. Rather than diving back in with Number Six, played by series creator Patrick McGoohan in the original show, the comic introduces readers to a new protagonist. That’s just the first of many smart moves made by writer Peter Milligan, fresh off a successful six issue run of Kid Lobotomy, which is proof enough that he is capable of writing something as wicked, wild, and weird as the original The Prisoner TV show. The first Number Six was a spy attempting to retire and leave his previous profession behind. When he was deemed too dangerous to be allowed to live in the world as a civilian, he was kidnapped and woke up in The Village, a mysterious facility that looked like a real town but with balloon-shaped enforcers, mind control, and torture to keep detainees from escaping.
But a lot has changed since the show’s creation in 1967, and so must the story’s protagonist. This new prisoner has a backstory rooted in British interference in the Middle East and his reasons for arriving at The Village are more complicated. It’s easy to compare the differences between The Prisoner book and show to the two versions of Casino Royale. Both Bond and Number Six are British spies, and the two versions of the stories show two different men and two different kinds of wars.
Artist Colin Lorimer has a wealth of experience working on weird stories that depict real people, along with comic adaptations for shows like Millennium and The X-Files, making him a particularly good fit for this book. The Prisoner is one of the few books where you want a relatively generic looking protagonist, a character that could conceivably look like just about anyone in the course of his work, and Lorimer excels at giving the book a specific sense of place. Especially for fans who watched the original show, elements of The Village are immediately recognizable. It lends the book a sense of being finely balanced between reality and the unbelievable, which is exactly the kind of tone needed. Colorist Joana Lafuente uses palettes to change the mood on the page as the protagonist goes on the run and ultimately finds himself a captive of The Village. Milligan isn’t afraid of leaning into some of the Silver Age weirdness that The Prisoner affords, and fans of the show—or just spy stories in general—should check it out. Imagine if Mister Mxyzptlk showed up in Sheriff Of Babylon and you’ve got a good idea of how this could go.