Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Look back: V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore (1982)

Look back: V for Vendetta

A retrospective graphic novel review

V for Vendetta, created by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, is one of the best (if not the best) pieces from the late British comic-book industry, and stacks up as one of the high points in Moore's career.

Advantages: Brilliantly drawn, engaging, intellectual, a true piece of British literature

Disadvantages: Not as "inviting" to the reader as other works by Moore, such as Watchmen, so requires more effort
Britain used to produce a great deal of sequential art, but now most comics and graphic novels in Britain are produced in the US or are from East Asia. British creators now often have to break into the main publishing houses in America, namely DC and Marvel. While 2000AD and children's comics are still produced in Britain, they do not match the output (or market value) of the US comic industry. V for Vendetta is truly a British comic, in that it depicts British society (of the 80's, but nonetheless) with very British characteristics and settings.

Other reviews have listed the history of the publishing of this novel, as it passed between two different anthology comics. When it was re-printed, the black and white drawings were coloured in, and this is what is collected in the edition published by Vertigo. While the colour is very good in some places (such as the psychadelic colours in the Night, and highlighting the difference betweens dreams and reality) I would love to have seen the original, non-coloured format; the stark black and white offsetting the moral grey depicted in the story.

V for Vendetta is so brilliant and so recommendable for a number of reasons. It is a piece of dystopian literature, looking at how British Thatcherism could have developed into a fascistic regime following nuclear war. This theme is more relevant then ever today, as the spectre of war and fascism still hang heavily within Britain today. Its exploration of Fascist doctrine and Big Brother-style oppressive tactics are well conveyed through the combination of dialogue and imagery that only the comic format can truly deliver. It is also a love letter to Moore's beloved Anarchist theory, and how Anarchy can be used to fight oppressive government regimes.

Sadly, while the central character ruminates and expounds the virutes of Anarchy, the novel ends at the point Anarchy is achieved. We are not shown the consequences or results of this change in order; "Anarchy wears two faces; both creator and destroyer" says V, but how it acts as creator, and what it creates, apart from destruction, is not shown.

Many would argue that the central character is the enigmatic V, a super-hero, an anti-hero and a terrorist all rolled into one, dressed as Guy Fawkes but acting like Robin Hood as portrayed by Errol Flynn. But V is simply a catalyst, a plot device. His actions cause a spiral of events that affects every other character in the book. The book is at its most interesting when it depicts these various smaller figures, such as the despot slowly losing his mind and his various agents in the system locked in a political power struggle. The book portrays how this oppressive regime impacts upon marriages, upon civilians, upon psyches and how criminals and the two-faced use the situation to their advantage. Like the great pieces of dystopian literature, it explores all areas of the society.

The novel asks strong questions of the reader, especially how would you act? Many in the centre of the political system are not there because they are evil, but because they are trying to survive. V murders many innocents and destroys historical monuments in London, in order to free its citizen; is that just? The book is filled with questions and morally grey characters. Mr Finch is a detective for the government and is the one who kills our "hero", but is he then the villain? No, because he is doing what he believes is right in the name of justice.

This is a challenging piece of work. There are some inconsistencies and problems as it was one of Alan Moore's first works before he truly crafted his art (which can be seen in Watchmen and Swamp Thing) but it is a fantastically well told story, both evocative and emotive, exploring two conflicting ideologies in enga
ging depth.

Summary: Highly recommended. a deep thoughtful story about society and Britain

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