It is perhaps simplistic to declare that "V for Vendetta" is Alan Moore's version of George Orwell's "1984." Orwell came up with his "prophetic" title by reversing the last two digits of the year in which he wrote his book. Moore began his story in 1982, picturing a future that was around the corner and setting his tale in then late 1990s in a Britain that had become a fascist state. Moore worked from the assumption that in 1983 the Conservatives would lose the elections and that the Labour Party would remove American missiles from the British Isles, which meant that England would no longer be a target during a nuclear war. In the post-holocaust Britain of the 1990s, Moore posited a Fascist takeover. The title character of V is a one time victim of a concentration camp medical experiment who is now an enigmatic hero wearing a grinning Guy Fawkes mask; Fawkes was one of the conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot that was an attempt to assassinate King James I of England. In the opening chapter V sets his sights on The Voice of Fate, the official voice of the government's propagandistic lies. From that small but significant initial victory, the battle continues.
There is something decidedly "English" about "V for Vendetta," and not simply because of the setting. Moore can talk about Harlan Ellison's "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" and "Fahrenheit 451" being among the elements he drew upon to create his own brave new world, but it is clear that he owes more to Orwell and Huxley, to Robin Hood and "The Prisoner," than American manifestations of the same impulse to freedom. V is not a superhero, even if the medical experiments have somehow made him more than human. Sometimes we forget that a lot of our heritage, both culturally as well as politically, comes from England, and on one level this work reminds us of our English roots.
It is ironic that Moore tells his story as a graphic novel because traditionally your comic book superhero is essentially a fascist vigilante. However, Moore succeeds in finding the perfect context to turn the traditional approach on its head. Most people have no conception of what is meant by the term "Fascism." They equate the idea with Hitler, although it was coined by Mussolini, and Hitler means Nazis, Anti-Semitism and Concentration Camps. Of course, Moore knows better. Fascism is based on the "struggle" for "order" wherein the ends justify all sorts of means. This dynamic clearly runs counter to the democratic ideals of "liberty" and "property." Historically, then, we are confronted with the monumental irony that although the Fascists lost World War II, the Cold War was on one level the triumph of Fascism, a period where we allowed all sorts of travesties, from the McCarthy witch hunts to Nixon's executive orders in the name of "national security." Moore brings the idea of fascism home. If you cannot recognize it in England's green and pleasant fields then you are never going to recognize it when it walks down Main Street in your hometown, U.S.A. Don't you think you should?
David Lloyd is the artist for the "V for Vendetta" series, although Tony Weare did the art for "Vincent" and some additional art on "Valerie" and "The Vacation." Notice the pattern? All of the chapter headings in each issue begin or at least include the letter "V." Lloyd's peculiar style is particularly well suited to this particular storyline. It is odd and a bit off, just like the world it is depicting. Lloyd, Siobhan Dodds and Steve Whitaker did the coloring, and I give them special mention because there is a carefully constructed style that also fits the mood and tenor of the tale.
British writer Alan Moore earned his place in the comic book writers' pantheon with his seminal turn on Swamp Thing in the 80s, part of the triumvirate of Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, and Moore who transformed lowly comic books into a respectable artistic medium.
And, like Miller and Gaiman before him, Moore found that the only way to carry on once you've thoroughly changed your industry is to do do it again and again in new and novel fashion.
Thus, I give you "V for Vendetta," the absolute furthest thing from "Swamp Thing" and "Watchmen" imaginable.
Moore almost singlehandedly restored the creepy cool of EC horror comics with his run on "Swamp Thing." He redefined the superhero genre with "Watchmen." With "V", Moore abandoned the conventions of both genres and embraced gritty Orwellian scifi.
"V" is set in a Britain which has embraced Fascism following a nuclear conflict which left the nation intact but badly bruised. Mirroring Hitler's ascent over the ashes of the Weimar Republic, the Norsefire party seizes power in Britain and restores order at a horrible price.
That is, until a stylish terrorist in a Guy Fawkes mask codenamed "V" appears on the scene to tear the new order down.
"V for Vendetta" marks a major departure from comic book style. David Lloyd's cinematic style plays like a storyboard for a film; gone are the motion lines and Batman-esque sound effects so familiar to comic readers. Lloyd also dispenses with one of the comic writer's main crutches for exposition---the thought balloon. The story is thus relayed entirely by motion and dialogue, deepening the inherent mystery of the plot as we try to comprehend the master plan of the inscrutable antihero "V".
As with "Watchmen", Moore has layered his tale with enormous depth, making subsequent readings a must to truly comprehend all that's going on within the plot.
If you're interested in seeing what the comic art form is capable of when geared toward an adult audience, rush out and grab a copy of "V for Vendetta" today.
Based on plot and artistry, "V for Vendetta" deserves five stars. Alan Moore's alternate history throws the reader into a chilling fascist England where the champion of liberty is the poetic, deranged vigilante, V.
England has somehow survived the consequences of humanity's self-destructive myopia, but it has not survived intact. Facism rules the day, and England has been generally "purified" of minorities, homosexuals, and other officially-targeted degenerates.
But plenty of officially-sanctioned degenerates abound, and they form both the upper and lower echelons of this new England. That is, until V strikes a blow for chaos, for liberty, and for freedom. V, a scarred survivor of the worst of the internment camps formed by the fascists, is undeniably insane, but he has the spirit of a poet and the mind of a genius hidden behind his Guy Fawkes mask. He singlehandedly leads a campaign of terrorism against the corrupt powers-that-be, and there are several dazzling passages as "V" explores both V's perspective on life and his history as well as the more sordid characters who comprise England's new corrupt power structure.
Many of these scenes are captured by Moore with startling visuals and poetic images. This is a dark-yet-colorful graphic novel -- nothing like Frank Miller's zebra-esque "Sin City" stories. Lurid colors combined with creepy darkness evoke the corruption that is the brave new world.
Unfortunately, this review is of the paperback edition of the story, not the story itself. The paperback edition of "V for Vendetta" is, quite frankly, too darn small. Several panels feel crimped and crammed in, and I felt a lot of eye strain as I tried to explore the details of some of the more intricate panels. This is particulary important for a very "talky" graphic novel, where often much of the panel is given over to dialogue boxes, even further reducing the artist's available space for the artistic elements.
While I would strongly recommend reading "V for Vendetta," particularly in advance of the blockbuster movie, I strongly recommend avoiding the paperback edition and hunting down a larger hardback copy.
on September 3, 2003
If you ask most people who the greatest living writer in comics is, they'll reply without hesitation Alan Moore for his role in taking comics beyond their ordinary roots and single-handedly expanding the potential of an entire medium. If you then ask what work of Moore's best exemplifies this contribution, most will again not waver before responding that Watchmen is not only Moore's greatest work but quite possibly the best comic book ever produced.
And in the case of Moore's gift to comics, these people would be one hundred percent correct. It is not possible to laud this man and his genius enough. However, in naming his best work, they have fallen short. Yes Watchmen is brilliant, and yes it is quite possibly the best exploration of the superhero that has been or can ever be written. But Moore's best work? Not by a long shot.
And no, his best work is not either of his tenures on Miracleman or Swamp Thing, as groundbreaking and innovative as those runs were. Nor can it be found in painstakingly researched books like From Hell and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which are crafted with such time and care that they require extensive notes to fully grasp all the details dropped in by this master craftsman and his collaborators.
Rather, Moore's best work comes in the form of a novel about the fascist government in the England of the future and the man who rebels against the system, a man named only V. The book is V for Vendetta, reprinted today by DC from their ten-part series of 1988, which in turn was made up of reprints of work originally seen in England in the early 1980s in the magazine Warrior as well as new material to close the story out. It is not only my favorite graphic novel but quite possibly also the best work written to date in this medium.
Now admittedly, I am quite biased in claiming it is the best comic ever written, because my love for it is so deep. V for Vendetta marked a first for my collection, as it was the first book I owned as both individual issues and in trade paperback form. I have given away my trade paperback before, only to buy a new copy when I missed it so much. I hope to someday own the original Warrior issues and I would be more than happy, should DC ever decide to release a hardcover version, I would pay top dollar for that as well.
It is also the only comic book I read repeatedly. I have probably read V for Vendetta at least ten times if not more, and I know that I shall read it again. Very few books I read in any form are deemed worthy of repeat perusals. Breakfast of Champions is one, A Prayer for Owen Meany another, Catch-22 yet another-these are all books that I come back to many times to read again and again, gaining new perspectives on both the text and myself each time we cross paths. And V for Vendetta is among them, a book I cannot go more than a year without opening anew.
Shall I give you tons of reasons why I think it's so brilliant? Shall I tell you of the deep philosophical mind of the main character V, a man who takes a meaningful stand against the system for the betterment of mankind? Shall I inform you of the beautiful portrayal of Evey, a young girl who has lost all to the system and whom V takes under his wing? Shall I tell you of David Lloyd's exquisite artwork which makes the cityscapes of London seem familiar and which, through the use of his muted colors, creates an almost tangible atmosphere of the dim, dull existence of life under this fascist regime?
No. Instead I shall choose not to spoil your reading experience and leave you to discover these things for yourself. Just one warning, though: do your damnedest not to cry when you read Valerie's letter, composed on toilet paper. It gets me every time.
on March 19, 2006
I've read it about ten times and each time I still find myself moved, shocked, impressed and always coming away satisified. Truly a great novel
If you are trying to find out about the plot before you read, STOP. Just order the thing. Moore creates an incredibly intricate universe of characters that are both likable and believable.
AS I SAID: If you're interested in seeing what the comic art form is capable of when geared toward an adult audience, rush out and grab a copy of "V for Vendetta" today.
on May 12, 2006
This is an early example of the graphic novel, and it is really amazing how quickly the form of the graphic novel matured. There are some important points in this story that most politicians or Hollywood filmmakers still have not grasped: a fascist government does not appear overnight, and it most often enjoy great public support - at least in the beginning - since it brings order; we don't need masked heroes, they are just a mirror of ourselves; the collapse of a totalitarian government leads to a new chaos, which can easliy lead to a new totalitarian government; the rulers do not see themselves as evil - they think they perform a public service, and servants of the government are not necessarily evil, they might just see the alternative as worse.
The novel has a quite complex structure, with plenty of flashbacks, a sudden break in the narrative about two-thirds into the story, and a an end that is not so much an end as a the beginning of a new story.
The story is more believable because of its strucure: we get to undersdtand the society the protagonist live in, and how it began. The characters are really three-dimensional, except for some deliberately shallow ones. The pain, madness and suffering of the masked fighter are very carefully developed.
I have not yet seen the film, but the directors appear to have tried to change the story a bit to keep the message intact, but more applicable to our own age and times.
on July 7, 2005
Befitting its lofty reputation in the graphic-novel genre, Alan Moore's V for Vendetta is a masterwork, a morality play of epic proportions, taking place in a possible futuristic England (actually, it's the late 1990's, but it was futuristic when the story came out) and bringing to life its author's frightful dystopian vision of a country on the brink. David Lloyd's darkly minimal artwork perfectly mirrors the rot lurking under the orderly façade of Leader Adam Susan's fascist regime, a façade Moore's story penetrates to reveal the ugly truth that things are much as they are in any other society. Corruption, intrigue, and double-dealing still rule the day, whether it be cops taking advantage of a naïve teenage girl trying to earn some extra money working a corner, the ambitious wife of a party official paying off a gangster to help ensure her husband's rise for her own ends, or a dirty old Bishop using his position to arrange for illicit sexual encounters with girls a bit, er, on the younger side.
However, there a couple of true believers out there, namely Susan, who's abandoned any hope of luxury in order to devote his life to the Nordic race; and V, the book's title character, the unidentified terrorist trying to bring down the order that Susan and his followers have created to clear the way for a new, voluntary anarchist order. It's the conflict between these two men and all they represent that frames the story, and while much of the attention is focused on V, there can be no V without a Susan, and the central tension between their ideals is always present.
Now, the term "terrorist" has certainly acquired a decidedly negative connotation in this time and place, conjuring up images of Muslim fanatics piloting airliners into skyscrapers and planning God knows what else, and V does indeed commit some actions that could be considered reprehensible. But as anyone who pays attention knows, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, and V seeks to bestow on the people of England the kind of freedom that few ever talk of, let alone achieve. Hiding his visage behind a smirking Guy Fawkes mask, V is a sort of mix of the Phantom of the Opera and Fight Club's Tyler Durden, offering the people of England the tantalizing prospect of liberation from the prison that they themselves have created. Transformed both physically and mentally by his harrowing tenure in one of the government's relocation camps after the post-Cold War ascension to power of the fascist Norsefire Brigades, V has now dedicated his life to performing stunning acts of violence and subversion, hoping to rouse the people of England from the comfortable chains they currently wear.
Now, at this point it becomes necessary to distinguish between license, which many people the world over have, and freedom, which requires the kind of sacrifices that people in affluent societies like ours rarely contemplate. In this country, we talk of "freedom" (and launch wars in its name) while simultaneously paying confiscatory taxes and obeying ever-more restrictive laws, but V offers the real thing: the freedom that comes from having nothing to lose, from being ruled by principles rather than possessions. It can be gained in strange places, such as the "prison" where V's young protégé Evey discovers hers, but it can never be bestowed or taken away from without.
Of course, V for Vendetta leaves unanswered a crucial question, namely: do people really want freedom of the sort that V holds out? Or do they just want order, comfort, and stability? Under the rule of Susan, the people do have order, and uniformity, and propaganda disguised as entertainment (or is the other way around?) and a landscape unblemished by the sight of the yids, the darkies, the nancy-boys, and the beatniks. Sad to say, that may be all they really want. In V for Vendetta, V and Susan represent the two conflicting poles of mankind's desires, and it's not at all clear which one will win out. It does, however, make for a pretty rousing read.
on July 14, 2006
This is a review for the paperback version of Alan Moore's graphic novel "V for Vendetta", purchased in April 2006.
I am a comic book fan and have copies of Alan Moore's other works, in both comic and graphic novel format, all of which I would highly recommend, but I have to say that I was very disappointed in the production quality of "V for Vendetta" graphic novel in paperback. The paper used in the book is newsprint quality (or something very close to it), and as a result the artwork reproduces terribly. All the images are faded and washed out...from the dialogue bubbles to the characters expressions to the backgrounds. There is no richness in the colors at all. It makes for a very disappointing read, all the more so since Moore is so detailed in his writing, you can't see any of these nuances in the bleached out artwork.
I'm surprised that DC would charge so much for something that is produced so poorly. Especially since they have done a perfectly fine job with his other works.
Anyone looking to read this work would be far better off i) finding a copy at a local public library, ii) buying the hardcover version (which reproduces the artwork much more faithfully), or iii) getting the orginal comic book series off an auction website. But stay away from this paperback graphic novel - even at the discounted Amazon price, it is a waste of money.
on April 4, 2004
Written in the early 1980s, V for Vendetta tells of an England in the then near future of 1997-8. A limited nuclear exchange devastates much of the world while England is directly unaffected. However, the enormous economic and political ramifications of the conflict hurl the nation into anarchy. Out of the ashes arises the fascist Norsefire regime. Sure they restore order to the fallen country, but this is clearly a case of the serum being more lethal than the poison. This new government sends blacks, homosexuals, Jews, and other minorities to death camps. The culture of the pre-War world is now deemed as evil and subversive. A corrupt police force is implemented with the authority to murder suspects if they wish instead of adhering to ideals such as due process. The average citizen is forced to work for starvation wages, and sometimes to crime just to survive. Freedom, democracy, and privacy are as archaic concepts as the world being flat. Then comes V, whose motto is the title of my review. Translated from Latin it means: "By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe."
Replete with Guy Falkes regalia, V seeks to bring about an end to the Norsefire party through a series of assassinations, bombings, and kidnappings. At first, they appear to be revenge against everyone who worked at the prison camp where V was held. Instead, the plot turns out to be more complicated and planned out than anyone could possibly imagine. V doesn't strike the Norsefire at their body, he strikes for their heart - and never misses. He has a contingency plan in the form of 16 year-old Evey Hammond, a girl he rescues from corrupt cops when she is forced into prostitution by her intolerably low wages. Of course, Evey doesn't agree with all of V's methods; but it is through him that she learns the very essence of freedom, and how she may be the true hope of England in its darkest hour.
VfV is not just a great graphic novel, it is required reading period. So what else can you expect from Alan Moore, who also brought us Watchmen, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and a lot of other things that raised the bar for the comic book medium. I especially love the repeated use of the letter "V" throughout the story. Beware, there is violence, objectionable language, and a little nudity. The violence is really nothing when compared to a title from Marvel's MAX line. The language is pretty much the same thing you'd hear from a PG-13 movie. And the nudity is not for the purpose of titilation, it represents the symbolic idea of freedom. Even with my warning, VfV merits nothing except extreme recommendation from me.
Wow. Can this really be twenty years old? In many ways, it's a story that could have come from the current day. A brutal, totalitarian regime has installed itself in the UK. They have installed Orwellian surveillance of the population, an apparat for monitoring the cameras and microphones, and a secret police with powers of summary justice, to enforce their iron rule. First, they purge the music, books, and culture of the old ways. They, they round up the homosexuals, "darkies," and other threats to the white sameness of their populace. Some are deported; others are turned over to death camps and to sadistic medical "experiments." The human test animals were transformed in bizarre ways, and died in droves.
All but one, test subject five. He was transformed, too, in ways that the prison keepers never detected. At least, not until he blew it up around them and burned the ruins. Then, he vanished. So, over the next few years, did those who staffed the prison - dead one after another. Number five, roman numeral V, had been transformed into vengeance, against his torturers and against the government that institutionalized that torture.
The story is what makes this comic. The artwork does a workmanlike job of carrying the story and the characters within it - for better and (more often) for worse. The recent movie changed this story in many particulars, but kept the story largely intact. Despite the differences, or because of them, both versions work well.