V For Vendetta
Reviewed: May 1, 2006
By: story & script by Alan Moore / art by David Lloyd
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.