V for Vendetta
written by Alan Moore
illustrated by David Lloyd
While Alan Moore remains best known for his work on the influential comic series/graphic novel Watchmen, the 1980s were an incredibly productive time for the subversive writer. Among a slew of successes came what is arguably Moore’s second biggest work, V for Vendetta.
The three-part story follows the actions of a person known only as “V,” who dons a Guy Fawkes mask as he preaches anarchism and carries out a one-man war with a totalitarian government in what was then considered the “near future,” the 1990s. But like most stories that deal with the “not-too-distant future,” V for Vendetta has much in common with current situations in the world, and as much has arguably stayed the same, the story remains relevant today.
V first appears as a Batman-like character, emerging masked from the shadows, striking fear in the enemy as he rescues a young girl, Evey Hammond, from corrupt cops who plan to rape and kill her. That’s about as far as comparisons to the Bat go. V speaks as though raised on Shakespeare and proudly proclaims responsibility as the Houses of Parliament explode and fireworks light the sky. He apparently has no qualms about killing and destroying.
As the story unfolds, we learn more about V’s background, as Evey learns more about the ideals of the masked man. V isn’t through after the Houses of Parliament. There is a bigger plan, and the powers are scrambling to do everything they can to keep the propaganda rolling and bandage the damage V is doing to their ideals.
At its core, V for Vendetta advocates terrorism, or at least presents someone referred to as a terrorist as a protagonist of the story. He kills, bombs, and brainwashes in the name of his ideals. But that is what Moore challenges throughout. Is terrorism in the face of oppression “terrorism,” in the negative sense, or is it patriotism if carried out in the name of a wakeup call to bring things back to the people?
There is an important battle brewing throughout the story involving “Fate” and “Justice.” V for Vendetta is a book about ideals. This terrorist is someone who, literally in this sense, has been imprisoned, experimented upon, and tortured by his government. He wants freedom, not only for himself—he already has a slice of that in his subway dwelling—but for everyone. And he’s fighting for it, breaking down the walls to give others the opportunity to do the same. He is like the protagonist of 1984, but he’s willing to blow things up to change the world rather than run until he eventually gets a metaphorical bullet to the head.
The art of David Lloyd is unique, to say the least. The images strike a realistic tone but are often shaded in white, blue, and sometimes yellow tones that seem to deprive the panels of some detail. It is a style that may not work for many readers.
But at the core of things, V for Vendetta is about the ideas it presents. In a three-book arc, Moore creates a cinematic story that entertains and, more importantly, will leave readers questioning their ideals for years after the last chapter is read. It is another fantastic entry into the world of subversive comics by the industry’s best.