News of the recent events in London sent shivers down my spine — I read Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta a few months back, and while one is fact and the other fiction, I couldn’t help imagining a figure in a Guy Fawkes mask standing atop the Tower of London, cape billowing in the wind.
I only started reading graphic novels in the last few years, and I knew Alan Moore’s works are requisite for any graphic novel reader. And since I don’t read the superhero kind, and there’s only one unread Art Spiegelman on my shelf (Breakdowns — I should read that soon!), I mean to make my way through Allan Moore’s work, starting with V for Vendetta.
The first two issues of V for Vendetta actually appeared in black and white in Warrior magazine in 1982-1985. The magazine was cancelled, and DC comics reprinted the series in color in 1988, up until its completion, and has published collected editions since, including the current release (in paperback and hardcover) under the Vertigo imprint.
V is the title character in the series, a masked anarchist in dystopian Britain in 1997, which is depicted to be under an authoritarian police state. A nuclear war destroyed the world, and UK is still intact, but a fascist party has taken over. Opponents to the rule and other “undesirables” are summarily executed in concentration camps, culture is eradicated (no music, no art) and the government’s propaganda “Strength through Purity; Purity Through Faith” (very Toujours Pur, don’t you think?) is broadcast through the voice of Fate on the radio and posters on the street.
On the fifth of November, V rescues a girl named Evey Hammond from some fingermen on the street, and takes her up to a rooftop to watch his orchestration of the explosion of the Old Bailey Building. From there, V sets off a series of events that exact revenge from his old enemies, disarm the government’s regime, and remind the citizens take back the rule into their hands. This culminates in an explosive final act, a nod to Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder plot of 1605.
I found V for Vendetta to be a gripping read; the thought-provoking, cautionary tale sends a powerful message, pitting anarchy vs. fascism, culture vs. order, and ultimately, good vs. evil and forcing the reader to ponder the thin line between the stark opposites.
V is one of the most complex characters I have ever read, and certainly once of the most memorable. With both motivation and a mission, he pulls it off with both a haunting eeriness and uncanny flair (in iambic pentameter, no less! “Remember, remember, the fifth of November…”).
I like Evey Hammonds’s character too; her side of the story is a coming of age tale. As she learns more about V’s past, Evey’s own history unfolds, and her transformation from a naive girl into her own person is one of the most intense moments in the book.
David Lloyd’s artwork amplifies the themes of the graphic novel with the play on light and shadows, and his dynamic lines propel the story through the visual narrative.
For my first Alan Moore graphic novel, it certainly did not disappoint, and I am now excited to read more of his work. Watchmen? LXG? From Hell? Suggestions?
Tonight I sat down to watch the 2006 V for Vendetta film, mainly because my brother had been raving about it. And it reminded me, yet again, why I don’t like watching film adaptations before I’ve read the book… no scratch that, why I don’t like film adaptations in the first place.
While I can take how they updated the setting to a more contemporary time, even how the screenplay had its own agenda (e.g. pointing to America as the root of the nuclear meltdown, obviously lashing out at the Bush regime, which Moore himself found offensive, subsequently causing him to steer clear of further adaptations of his work), and while I (for the most part) appreciated the production values of the movie, I absolutely hated what they did to V’s character.
V is highly romanticized, turning into some sort of freedom fighter, which the original character is not. V is an anarchist, not a democrat, and although this is up to the interpretation of the reader, the film automatically thrusts V into some sort of heroic role. I thought the point of the novel was to push the envelope on the moral ambiguity of destructive acts, and the provocation of the idea of the end justifying the means. The whole exercise of critical thinking is lost to the film, and that was a huge disappointment to me.
And the ending was just jarring! I won’t tell you why, but if you’ve read the graphic novel and watched the film, maybe you’ll understand what I mean. I think the film’s ending automatically tacks on “Democracy rules” to the film, which, again, misses the point. And besides that, an insult to Evey’s character.
Bleargh. I’ll stick to the graphic novel, thankyouverymuch.
But wait, I did like this in the movie, only because it was so luridly absurd:
V for Vendetta, signed copy (half of it at least — I hope Alan Moore comes to Manila, too!), paperback, 4.5/5 stars
book #91 for 2011
V for Vendetta movie, 2/5 stars