After challenging me to read Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, (a book of 1,462 pages) my husband thought he’d give me a break and get me to read a graphic novel. So he gave me his copy of V for Vendetta. *shakes head* Husbands…
Ah, graphic novels: where dialogue and art give birth to new twists on old fables. Where complex ideas can be boiled down to a single panel. Where a symbol becomes a story, lines and colour the in-between-the-lines. I have only recently in the past year and a half started my love affair with comic books and graphic novels, and this was the first time I had ever read one so politically charged as V for Vendetta, written by the same Alan Moore who gave us Batman: The Killing Joke (one of my favourite Batman graphic novels and probably with the deepest exploration of Batman’s dark side of any graphic novel or comic book I have ever read – highly recommended). It was illustrated by David Lloyd, and while I’m not familiar with much of his other work, I know after having attempted to work on a graphic novel with an artist myself, how difficult it must be to translate all of Moore’s ideas into a single visual panel box, especially since Moore and Lloyd wanted this book to be more about the visuals and with less sound effects and unnecessary dialogue than most graphic literature had in the early eighties, so I take my hat off to him for that.
Since this graphic novel was made into a movie as recently as 2005, I was genuinely surprised that its creation was begun in the summer of 1981, and truly impressed how far ahead of its time it was as far as politics and symbolism in graphic literature goes. Many of the comic books in the ‘80s and ‘90s are very blatant, in-your-face and extreme, but usually only in the way of sound effects, big explosions, fight scenes, and often expounding upon very basic plot points and themes. People like Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman (check out his version of the Sandman comics if you want to see tons of symbolism) changed this a lot, and things are much more symbolized and have deeper meaning and are more daring in the comic book/graphic novel world today because of them.
The concept of anarchy was explained artistically and with a romanticism that undermines the cold nihilistic nature of pure destruction. As V tells Eve, ‘Anarchy wears two faces, both creator and destroyer; thus destroyers topple empires, make a canvas of clean rubble where creators can then build a better world.’ Allusions to various films, songs, and books, (especially Confessions du Révolutionnaire by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon – available on Amazon, I checked!) or other literary works by William Shakespeare or Thomas Pynchon are peppered throughout, and all the reader has to do is follow the rabbit trail to his or her own education/enlightenment. As a reader, I found this fascinating, and must admit that the concept of self-government and working as an independent state unto myself is most appealing.
I love the way V speaks, so poetic and courteous, in a world where all is cold and art is gone and machines watch your every move (doesn’t sound too far off sometimes, to be honest). Here is my favourite example of his eloquence:
V: THE PIECES CAN’T PERCEIVE AS WE THE MISCHIEF THEIR ARRANGEMENT TEMPTS: THOSE STOLID, LAW-ABIDING QUEUES, PREGNANT WITH CATASTROPHE. INSENSIBLE BEFORE THE WAVE SO SOON RELEASED BY CALLOUS FATE. AFFECTED MOST, THEY UNDERSTAND THE LEAST…
Personally, however, I cannot subscribe to the fact that the destroyer (V) does things like blow up the Parliament buildings to clean the slate of society, not because I’m all that attached to symbols of power, but because of the little people and my belief in the power of free choice. There are hundreds of people who work in those buildings, many of them most likely night staff. How many innocent people had to die so V could continue his vendetta, without a choice, without knowing why they died, what good it would do anybody, what their families were supposed to do next, how they were supposed to survive without those lost? How many Mrs. Almonds were there out there, not because of the fascists, but because of V? Dying for a cause you believe in is one thing. Dying to further someone else’s cause that you know nothing about is another. Also, since I have been a member of the human race for a while and have had many experiences that have shown me its seedy underbelly, I think that while the concept of anarchy is appealing, the practice of it is impossible, because of its reliance on human conscience and on respecting the boundaries of others, which I have no confidence in any person for maintaining for very long when it means they can’t get what they want.
Over all, I give this work 4 stars out of 5, and highly recommend it.