Vol 5, Num 8 :: 2006.04.21 — 2006.05.05
V for Vendetta is yet another great work by Alan Moore. Moore is to graphic novels what Welles or Kurosawa were to motion picture?he’s a first-rate storyteller who breathes life into every page, a perfect marriage of image and word.
V for Vendetta is set in post-World War III England. Moore began writing this in the early 80s, so “near-future” translates as 1997. After the instability of the third world war (in which lots of nukes were used), England is left reeling until fascist political party Norsefire seizes control. Norsefire is comparable to the Nazi regime in WWII?they put minorities (blacks, Jews, homosexuals, etc.) into torture camps, establish martial law, the whole works. There’s also a big Orwellian 1984 vibe too, since the Norsefire party is technologically centered. They can pretty much keep an eye on every move people make in London.
In the beginning, the story introduces Evey Hammond, a 16-year-old girl who tries to resort to prostitution to make ends meet for her family. Turns out the first person she propositions is an undercover fed, and he and his pals try to rape and murder her. Before Evey is harmed, though, a mysterious character kills most of the gang and whisks Evey away. This shadowy character simply calls himself V.
Though V is the cornerstone character in the book, he’s not the most important. The story focuses on several people: Evey, who wants to help V strike back against the government but also has a more compassionate heart than her rescuer; Finch, a jaded fed who has wants to catch V, despite having no real allegiance the totalitarian government he serves; and Rose, who watches her life unravel before her after her government agent husband is killed by V. There’s also a strong set of minor characters.
V wants to overthrow the government so the people can have power again. He dresses in a Guy Fawkes costume, his real identity forever hidden. His agenda is obscured in riddle, his motives sometimes leaning toward establishing democracy, at other times toward anarchy.
The story is extremely well told. Moore is a master of tying the visual image in with dialogue. Almost every panel is deeper than it seems, using alliteration, foreshadowing, parallelism, and repetition. He’s also a master storyteller, using techniques both conventional and crazy to weave the plot around.
V is an enigma, which is one facet that makes the story so interesting. He’s neither hero or villain. He’s a freedom fighter and a terrorist. He saves lives and takes them. He grows roses and builds bombs. His name could and does stand for anything?“Variable,” “Vigilante,” “Villain,” “Victim,” “Victory,” and “Vendetta.” It even stands for the Roman numeral for five, which ties into the plot. He’s more of catalyst than a character and his appearance moves the other characters’ stories and transformations along.
This graphic novel is fantastic at raising questions: at what price does freedom come? What is freedom to a society? Does the end justify the means? What do you do when all of your choices will inevitably lead to horrible things?
The only downside of V for Vendetta is that it gets a bit jumbled in some spots. Moore later perfected his storytelling with Watchmen, easily one of the finest things I’ve ever read, period. But his skills are at 99% capacity here. This is a fantastic read that I definitely recommend.