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V For Vendetta

Reviewed: May 1, 2006
By: story & script by Alan Moore / art by David Lloyd
Publisher: Vertigo
288 pages, $26.99

ďRemember remember the fifth of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason why gunpowder, treason

Should ever be forgot...Ē

The movie has come and gone. If you want to know more about that version of this story, thereís a novelization of the Wachowski brothersí script as written by someone named Steve Moore that you can pick up.

If you want to know the real story of V for Vendetta, thereís this book, which Moore and Lloyd began creating back in 1981, when Mrs. Thatcherís England was at its height. They set the tale in a then distant 1997, and mined the legend of Guy Fawkes to tell a tale of vengeance and validation, a protest against right-wing ascendancy. Considering how violent and unrelenting their story is, itís a wonder more people havenít spoken out against it.

V is an unknown man in a Guy Fawkes mask who is intent on liberating England from the techno/fascist oligarchy which has taken it over. People are ruled by the terror of the Ear, the Eye and the Voice of Fate. Fate is a gigantic computer that serves the interests of the Leader. V eventually destroys them all.

Moore usually wears his influences on his sleeve, and the Nineteen Eighty-fourish nature of his tale is pretty clear from the beginning to the end, except that his mystery avenger is a Winston Smith who somehow survived the worst that the state could throw at him and remade himself as an engine of personal and social vengeance.

We meet V as he is approaching the end of his plots and preparing the creation of his successor. An unwilling prostitute named Evey is rescued from some street thugs (well, police, actually),taken to Vís secret HQ and given the training she needs to become the next V.

Part of this involves putting her through a version of the hell that V himself had endured some years earlier.

While all this is going on, the agents of authority are falling, one by one. Some had been part of the camp where V was experimented on (in room 5, or V, of course) and they die at his hand. Others die because they are necessary linchpins in the structure of the fascist society that V is destroying. Still others plot to gain power, destroying their targets and themselves along the way.

On a certain November 5, all of Vís plans come to fruition and the many plots he has been spinning interact like the enormous anarchy symbol he has made out of dominoes in his secret sanctum, the Shadow gallery. One flick of the finger and all is done.

This is a grim and powerful story by a writer known for that kind of work. Moore loves to play with the darker themes of the comic book universe and does that sort of work very well. His later Watchmen (with Dave Gibbons) defined the anti-comic movement for over a decade, while his Superman pastiche, Supreme, indicated that he still enjoyed the innocence of the older material. In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen he and Kevin OíNeill explored 19th century characters who might have been superheroes. Other significant work includes From Hell, a version of the story of Jack the Ripper, and his more recent creations, the scientific adventure series Tom Strong (think Tom Swift in collision with Doc Savage) the mystical Promethea, and Top Ten, a sort of superhero meets NYPD Blue series.

Lloydís artwork is more realistic than the usual run of graphic novel stuff. Except for the theatrical V there are no costumes or spandex among the cast, who are ordinary people, sparely drawn, not the idealized individuals of much comic book art.

Iím told the original series was in black and white, but this edition of mine has been rendered in faded water colours, another distinction between it and its four colour brethren. Iím reminded of the style used in the old Classics Illustrated comics: small panels grouped six to nine on a page, few splash panels. Itís very effective in this story, but not what younger readers are used to.

Mind you, this book, like nearly all the graphic novels Iíve mentioned here over the years, is NOT for kids.

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