The Prisoner: Shattered Visage is a four-issue comic book mini-series by DC Comics based on The Prisoner (1967 series), the 1967 television series created by and starring Patrick McGoohan. The name is a reference to Percy Shelley's famous poem Ozymandias, which forms part of the introduction.
Set twenty years after the final episode of the television series, Shattered Visage follows former secret agent Alice Drake as she is shipwrecked on the shores of the Village and encounters an aged Number Six. While the decades-old conflict unfolds between Six and Number 2 (as played by Leo McKern in the TV series), secret agents in London have their own plans regarding the intelligence mine that is The Village, as well as the secret lying at its very core. The trade paperback included a two-page text piece that explained the surreal final episode, "Fall Out" as drug-induced hallucination.
The likenesses of McGoohan and Leo McKern were featured for their characters’ returns. ITC subjected the comic to a thorough evaluation. The contract required that each page of art and each complete issue be sent to the notoriously critical series creator, Patrick McGoohan, for his signed approval. McGoohan signed off on the material without comment and ITC later informed Motter, "He didn't hate it." McKern sent Motter a note saying he was flattered to be a "comic book villain" for the first time.
Book a: A(r)rival
In London, Alice Drake, adventurer, travel book writer and former secret agent, prepares to embark upon a round-the-world sailing expedition on her boat, the Vorpal Blade. Her daughter, Meagan, is left in the care of her estranged husband and a boarding school.
Alice's husband, Thomas Drake, is a secret service officer concerned about the man known as Number Two. An extract from Thomas' private correspondence describes the Village as a British retirement facility for spies that, in 1967, became focused on interrogating Number Six to determine the extent of his secret information and his intentions. The final effort was a surreal, drug-enhanced psychodrama in which Number Two (Leo McKern) staged his own death and resurrection, but Number Six still would not talk and shortly afterwards, the Village was evacuated by UN troops.
However, Number Six was absent from the list of inmates released or dead and his whereabouts are unknown. Number Two was jailed for violating the Official Secrets Act and while in prison wrote a tell-all book (The Village Idiot) about the Village which Thomas personally altered to obscure and remove classified information. With Number Two's twenty-year sentence ending, Thomas fears that the released Number Two will return to the Village and that what he does there will break open the secrecy of British covert operations.
Alice begins her sea voyage, but she runs into a storm. Her ship is washed onto the shores of an island, which appears to be an evacuated, abandoned holiday resort. (Earlier scenes showed Thomas Drake and an associate taking efforts to reprogram Alice's navigational computer, and later scenes reveal they intended for her to sail by the Village as an advance scout.) Seeking help, Alice explores the Village. She enters the Number 2 house and finds a giant domed room. In the oval-shaped center chair sits a bearded man, who wears a black suit jacket with white piping. He informs her that she is in the Village, and that she is Number Six. This man is the former, original Number Six.
Book B: By hook or by crook
Alice spends the night in the number six living quarters in the Village. The next morning, Number Six takes Alice on a tour. He is a gentle man who lives a solitary life as the sole inhabitant of the Village. He says that the other Villagers were "free to go" while he was "free to stay." While Six is mysterious and distant, Alice finds him kind as he catches fish and makes them dinner. But when Alice wanders away at night, a giant white sphere (Rover) encloses her and bears her back to the green-domed house to meet the newly returned Number Two.
Alice recognizes Number Two as the author of The Village Idiot. He asks if she's seen Number Six, declaring that he has returned to help Six escape. He describes Number Six as a valuable and powerful man unjustly punished for actions performed on behalf of his country. "The system imprisoned him, interrogated him, broke him, drove him mad," says Two. "The man that would not bend simply broke. Shattered and alone, he chose a number and christened himself Number One." Alice asks (echoing the series) who Number One actually was, and Number Two responds that she has missed the point. "Here's a man who raged against numbering of any kind. To choose any number, even the number one, was a contradiction. He was caught between belief systems. He had accepted. His days were numbered. He was ours, body and soul. We had won!" Alice is appalled at Two's glee and leaves angrily.
Book C: Confrontation
Back in London, Thomas Drake and his partner, an American agent named Lee West, prepare a private expedition to the Village. Despite the lack of official resources from Thomas' superiors, Thomas and Lee are convinced that the Village is at the center of someone's manipulations. There have been a series of recent assassinations including scientists from Marconi Electrics, the shell company used by Number Six's superiors ("Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling (1967 episode)"). Later, Thomas' mentor, a Mrs. Butterworth ("Many Happy Returns"), is smothered in her sleep, eliminating another former employee of the Village.
At night, Number Six and Alice walk through the silent streets of the Village. They are confronted by Number Two. Number Six claims to have known all along that Number Two sent Alice as a scout, pointing out Alice's warder's attitude ("Checkmate") and warder's watch (Six, isolated from modern technology, is suspicious of Alice's digital watch). Alice protests but is ignored as Two and Six engage in a fistfight. Disgusted, Alice leaves them to it.
Two and Six battle in a raging storm, Two calling Six a coward. He says that Six lost twenty years ago, that Six won't return to the outside world because he'd have to face defeat, that Six's secret information is worthless, and that Six is nothing. Their fight takes them inside an old mill where Two gains the upper hand. Number Six remains defiant, declaring that he is a free man and his life is his own. Two, choking Six around the neck with both hands, answers, "Then take it!" Both fall out the window of the mill, into the water below.
Shortly afterwards, the door to the Number 6 residence in the Village opens. Six enters and begins to cut his beard.
Book D: Departure
Two separate forces soon enter the Village, although which 'side' either represents is uncertain. First, Thomas and Lee bring a small handful of associates. Shortly afterwards, there comes a group of soldiers sent by Thomas Drake's superior, Director Ross of Operations. It is unclear if Ross has been spurred into action by the assassinations, if he is after Drake for disobeying orders in venturing to the Village or if he is acting on his own. Lee, Thomas and their detail of troopers arrive first and enter the home of Number Two.
In Number Two's domed office, Lee triggers the lift below the center chair, lowering them into the underground chambers. Past the jukebox and the "Well Come" sign is an ornate chair (as seen in "Fall Out"). Sitting in the chair is a figure who speaks of how he will escape and return to destroy the Village and how he is a free man (echoing the original Number Six). He rises from the shadows and is revealed as Number Two, saying that Number Six is dead.
Lee and Thomas step past him, climbing lower into vertical tunnels ahead. They descend into clear tubes with the word ORBIT printed on them (also seen in Fall Out). Lee and Thomas are now in the heart of The Village, and find housed there several nuclear missiles, still as usable and deadly as ever.
Lee admonishes Thomas for not recognizing the truth behind the Village. "It was all in the files. You just have to read between the lines," Lee explains. "Power. Control. That's what the Village is all about." Unexpectedly, the launch sequence for the missiles is triggered. Thomas re-emerges into the upper level to find Number Two setting off the missiles without opening the silo doors. The Village is destroyed in a massive explosion, supposedly killing all who remain. Beyond the reach of the flames, however, Alice Drake's boat, repaired with a Village waterwheel, is seen sailing away.
Director Ross, back in London, receives a report that indicates all the assassinations have one man in common: a mysterious, top-hatted man with a mustache. (The observant reader will already have noticed this man in the background throughout various pages of the comic.) When Ross takes the report to his superior, the Colonel, Ross finds that the Colonel has been replaced by the same mustached man (in a manner similar to the TV series' Number Two's being regularly rotated). Ross' report is burnt and his resignation demanded. Later that night, Ross is gassed unconscious in his home. He is loaded into a hearse by two men, to be transported to whereabouts unknown, echoing Number Six's own abduction at the start of the TV series.
Number Six and Alice Drake are then seen sitting together on a park bench. Six is clean-shaven and tidily dressed. Alice says that one crucial question remains unanswered: who was Number One? Six answers: "Does the presence of Number Two require the existence of Number One?"
Alice then asks about Number Six's secrets, and he assures her that they are safe: "None of us would be here if they weren't," he tells her with a confident smile. Alice, accepting this, remarks that her digital watch is commonplace these days. Six bids her farewell with the Village salute, saying, "Be seeing you." He leaves as Meagan, Alice's daughter, enters the park and embraces her mother.
This happy reunion is displayed on a video monitor, which is shown to be one screen on a domed ceiling of monitors in a new version of the Village's surveillance centre. On the final page, this new control room is shown to be housed in London's Palace of Westminster...
Shattered Visage received mixed reviews from fans and critics. Howard Foy of The Unmutual fan site called the comic "a major disappointment" due to its contradictions with the series finale and wrote that "surely any sequel to The Prisoner must take as its starting point the closing moments of 'Fall Out.'" Foy was particularly displeased by Numbers Six and Two being at odds when "Fall Out" had ended with them apparently friends, writing, "Their return to the Village and their sworn enmity a la "Once upon A Time" is a concept that is deeply unsatisfying and one that this reader found almost impossible to accept."
The Anorak Zone review also expressed distaste for the comic's "revisionist history," asking, "If you don't like the source, then why write a sequel to it? Also worrying is that anally retentive need to echo the dialogue of the series, and it doesn't feel particularly original." The content was also described as "not exactly dense" with "over 50 of its 187 pages having no dialogue."
Blogger Gordon Dymowski described Dean Motter's artwork as "unreadable and needlessly abstract" but expressed high regard for Motter and Mark Askwith's writing, calling it "superb, drawing disparate elements in a story that often feels like episodes 18 - 22 of the original series." He spoke well of the comic's interpretation of the series finale, saying that "the most clever part of Shattered Visage is how it integrates the sloppiness of 'Fall Out' into its story and allows Number Six to truly become a prisoner."
Art critic Frédérik Sisa, also writing on The Unmutual, found that Shattered Visage demonstrated "faithfulness to the characters, an understanding and elaboration of key themes, and a connection to the original series’ essential philosophical core." Sisa disagreed with other reviewers asserting that Shattered Visage depicts a defeated Number Six, writing, "Altogether, what we find in Shattered Visage’s Number Six are the same character traits as in the original series. If he was indeed broken by Degree Absolute, we find no clear sign of it in his behaviour or personality. Someone did break, however, and the case is strong that it was Number Two who fell to pieces." Sisa notes that Thomas Drake's files indicate Six never gave up any secrets and this combined with Number Two's irrational and suicidal actions make Two's account and sanity suspect.
Sisa viewed Number Six's presence in the Village as appropriate for a character who was "a lone wolf, a man who wanted time to think" and found that the comic addressed "Fall Out" in a respectful fashion, saying, "As controversial as it was for Motter and Askwith to revise 'Fall Out' as a hallucinogenic theatrical interrogation, the maneuver makes sense in terms of The Prisoner‘s literal story of a resigned government agent." Sisa wrote that the comic remains in line with the sentiments of "Fall Out" as Shattered Visage "reinforces the view that while the individual may not break and may even triumph over himself, he or she will always be in tension with society."