Thursday, December 13, 2012

More Moore part 4: V For Vendetta

V for Vendetta (1982-89)

V for Vendetta was one of the Alan Moore stories I had read prior to starting this read-through, and when I first read it about 5 years ago it was the one I was least impressed with. The message is a good one of course, that security is not worth the price of freedom is something we should all remember. Mostly I was disturbed by how people latched onto the character of V, a somewhat superhuman anarchist, without worrying that he is a rather disturbed, vicious man who slaughtered innocents wholesale while he was freeing his country from fascists. I've softened my stance since re-reading the book though...while V for Vendetta is far from Moore's best work, it is an excellent start in the pulp genre that will take over so much of his latter-day projects, and as the average public's first proof that he can work outside of the superhero sphere and still craft a nuanced, gorgeously-written, impactful story.

Unlike Marvelman, V for Vendetta is readily available at the time of this writing, and considering Moore's celebrity, it's doubtful that will change anytime soon. As such I'll make this review a little simpler, mainly going through what works and what doesn't work in the story. The most obvious thing that words is David Lloyd's artwork, his use of color is incredible, soft, haunting watercolors give the book a dreamlike quality, as if the whole work is just a fever-dream of a Britain that might have been. It instantly distinguishes itself from contemporary work, even many comics put out today can only hope to emulate it.

For all my earlier complaining, V himself is another high point. He speaks like a Shakespearean in a book populated by beaten-down modern-day Britons, an enigmatic, flamboyant swashbuckler who speaks every line like he's on a stage. V is brutal and uncompromising, but that's the point and the beauty of his character: he's not someone to emulate, he's a dark mirror of Adam Susan, the leader of the fascist party ruling Briton during the events of the book. Both men do what they do because they must, for the good of the people of the country they love. The story wouldn't work as a simple good-vs-evil parable, in fact when you read between the lines it is V who does all the reprehensible things during the course of the story; Norsefire themselves are left to simply observe the populace, paranoid and ready to fall at a moment's notice. V for Vendetta isn't here to give us answers, it simply presents choices and leaves us to figure out what we want to get out of it.

The one thing that still doesn't work, even after the re-read and reevaluation of the material, is the 'real' protagonist of the story, Evey, though this might surprise some who haven't read far into the story. Evey is the surrogate for the audience, the young girl who is saved from a despicable fate by V early in the story and is gradually worked into his plans. She exists to ask the questions we would ask if a masked lunatic wanted us to pretend to be an underage prostitute for a lecherous man of God, and toward the end of the book she has an extended sequence where V tortures her to show her what Norsefire is capable of. It's easily the best moment of the book, uncomfortable enough to make your flesh crawl, and you feel for both Evey and V for having been put through this harrowing journey. Outside of the obvious problem, whether it's ever justified to torture someone until they see your ideology, it's what comes after that ruins her arc for me: Evey as a character becomes pretty uninteresting once she loses all her emotional baggage (a plague that effects most Final Fantasy heroes as well). She goes from a character we can relate to to essentially another V, seemingly unconcerned that this man just starved and tortured her for what felt like ages. I know that it was setting up that V's power was in planting ideas of change, and that he is a symbol which can't be killed and others could take up, but Evie herself loses the endearing qualities she had and simply espouses V's rhetoric for the small remainder of the story. It does pick up in time for a pretty explosive final issue, but between V and Marvelman I'm starting to get the feeling that Moore had trouble with middle sections of his early work.

In the end, V for Vendetta comes off as a very accomplished second work, showing that Moore was far from a one-trick pony and could deconstruct the pulps as well as he could Silver Age superheroes. Even with the lackluster middle section the book is still a home run and simply cements Moore's reputation as a comic writer who could do new things with the medium.

Best quote: "Noise is relative to the silence preceding it. The more absolute the hush, the more shocking the thunderclap."

Up Next: My friend E. T. in Skizz 

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