Remember, remember, the Fifth of November… (The gunpowder archive and plot.)
309. V for Vendetta
Well, I couldn’t very well let Guy Fawkes Day pass by without doing a column on V for Vendetta, could I?
I think it goes without saying that Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta is one of the best graphic novels of all time. It’s publication history was spotty– two-thirds of it appearing in Brit anthology Warrior before disappearing for a time, only to be finished and collected by DC– but the completed product has proved to be amazing.
Why’s it so good? It’s a rich, complex work with loads of characters and layers. Hey, it’s Alan Moore– what do you expect? The book’s about a lot of things: anarchism vs. fascism, transformation, terror, vengeance, belief, dominoes, bulletproof ideas, and the 22nd letter of the alphabet. The hero, V, is a terrorist, but we identify with him and root for him, even as he blows up buildings, incites riots, invigorates the people, and weaves a tremendous web that unites every character in the book.
The main character, however, is Evey Hammond. She is the reader’s eyes and ears into this strange world, one that our reality seems to be mimicking more and more each year. We follow her through her encounter with V, her journey out into the world, her fears and loves, her kidnap and torture, and her rebuilding of self. Evey is put through hell but emerges out the other side a new person, a person with purpose. Well, that’s one way of looking at it. The other way of looking at it is to see V as a manipulative bastard that turns her into something to suit his own needs. I like the former idea, though.
This comic has an extremely intricate plot and is loaded with characters who are all important, whether they seem so or not at first, or whether they get much screen time or barely any at all. He also fills the pages with wonderful moments, including the flashback origin of V, the vicious cabaret, the heartbreaking story of Valerie, or the haunting, acid-trip journey that Finch undertakes. David Lloyd’s art is extremely effective at conveying the soul-crushing atmosphere of fascist London, the shadows of society, the power of V, and the emotions of the characters. The word “moody” was invented to describe the artwork. It’s a deep, dense work.
V for Vendetta pretty much defined cinematic comics: there are no thought bubbles, no sound effects— only action and dialogue. Many comics today try to replicate cinema, but they don’t seem to do it well. The graphic novel was translated to film by the Wachowskis a couple years ago, and they did a fairly fine job. They took shortcuts, of course, and the book is better, and fuller, but the movie’s good, too. It’s just different.
Moore and Lloyd’s V for Vendetta is going to be on everyone’s list of “best comics ever” for years to come because of the sheer magnificence and power of the work. Really, I could go on and on, but there’s no point. If you read it, then you know, and if you haven’t read it, my words will do naught for you. Go, read it now!
And remember the words of V:
Be sure to check out these nifty V annotations the next time you read through the book.