When the last episode of Patrick McGoohan's cult post-spy series The Prisoner aired, legend has it that TV goers took to the streets and banged on the doors to McGoohan's home demanding an explanation. In less then an hour, he basically deconstructed the entire series into a jigsaw pile of contradictions, leaving his audience entirely baffled, shocked and just a bit agitated.
Taiyo Matsumoto's graphic novel series, NO. 5, is very much like that last episode of The Prisoner, except that it isn't preceded by a year-and-a-half of set-up. It's bizarre from the get go, more akin to Jean-Luc Goddard's classic sci-fi film, Alphaville, but with ACTION. NO. 5 is set in some sort of post-apocalypic future (I think), where an elite group of soldiers called the Rainbow Council police an ever-decaying world. Each member of the council is referenced by number (a Prisoner staple), and the narrative follows the titular No. 5 as he defects from the council's ranks.
In this second volume, we find No. 5 on the road with some sort of weird childlike companion that he picked up in the first book. His goal is to meet with the man who runs the Council, an old bugger who wears something that looks like a bunny suit. At the same time, he's being hunted by No. 6, a big burly soldier who's apparently experiencing a crisis of conscience of his own. Then a pair of hundred-year-old physic kids show up and make the world go boom. There's also something about laughing mushrooms and daffodils with faces, but I didn't dive too deeply into that last part.
Now, you're probably thinking this is a very strange book, and you're right - it is. But it's a good kind of strange, just like that finale to The Prisoner. What Matsumoto is trying to say may very well be indecipherable in the end, but the portrait that he has painted is as refreshing as the art style – a bold synthesis of European and Japanese aesthetic – that he renders it in, making the journey a worthwhile one, indeed.
Peter Aaron Rose is a writer, producer and technologist who lives and works in San Francisco, CA. Under the pseudonym "Peter Siegel", he recently authored Killing Demons, a graphic novel available from Engine Press and Platinum Studios.