30 November 2009

Review: V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta is the second Alan Moore book I've read, and further proof that I need to keep delving into the graphic novel/long-form comic genre. The first Moore I came across was the highly-recommendable Watchmen that I read earlier this year, and should probably write about at some point. But V for Vendetta was also pretty enjoyable. I'm glad I read it second, as I'm not sure it would have (by itself) convinced me the genre was worth the effort.

First, let me address the storytelling. Alan Moore is a superb writer, and his stories are compelling, well-paced, and enjoyable to read. V for Vendetta is set in a dystopian England of 1997-8. There has been some sort of calamity (probably nuclear) that has left much of the world destroyed. In this event's wake, a fascist regime has taken control of England, let by "The Leader" who has control of bureaus of intelligence and propaganda called "The Eyes" "The Nose" "The Ears" and "The Mouth." The regime has culled minorities from England, but those who are left lead fairly normal lives.

Yet there is one man who is willing to stand up to the tyranny of the government. He was the victim of hormonal testing in one of the concentration-style camps, and he is single-handedly attempting to bring about revolution. What's interesting about V (our main character), is that he doesn't hope to bring about Democracy, but rather Anarchy, which he sees as the ultimate path to freedom. By systematically killing the leaders of the fascist regime, V hopes to bring this about.

There's a lot to be said in this book about the debate of how best to achieve freedom. Is it, like V proposes, through total Anarchy that begins as chaos and eventually ends in self-policing? Or is it, more traditionally, through some sort of social contract? I truly don't think that V's anarchist ideals could ever work on a large scale, but perhaps in a case where the only sustainable government is a brutal one, there ought to be no government. The book also delves into what might become of the world if nuclear war were to occur? Sure, it's a cliched topic, but one that never ceases to interest me.

But I can't give this book the high praise that I will eventually laud on Watchmen. I think it's because of the artwork. David Lloyd's art here is at times stunningly beautiful, make no doubt about it. The idea to set the "Vicious Cabaret" scene tilted 90 degrees from normal and with music running throughout was brilliant (see the picture below for an example). My problem is that the characters aren't very distinguishable. In Watchmen, you could tell any character from any distance. In V for Vendetta, I was often trying to figure out who people were by their hairstyles. I appreciate the detail that allows me to see specific hairstyles, but I think that characters ought to be readily identifiable for ease of reading. If I want to go back and marvel at the detail around them, that's fine. But slowing every frame to figure just who is talking was tiring at times.

Overall though, I think this is a book I would recommend. Don't let it be your first graphic novel though. I thought Watchmen was a great choice as a first, but Kat at FoBoBlo (who knows way more about this stuff than I do) thinks otherwise. Looking through our GChats, I can't find what she recommended as a first instead (Kat, maybe you can comment and help?) but I know it definitely wasn't Watchmen. I pretty much ignored her on that one.

ANYWAYS. Go ahead, read something and get into graphic novels, and then pick up a copy of V for Vendetta. It's well worth it: great story, and despite my nitpicking, some really fantastic artwork at times.


  1. 1) Thank you for not saying "after the jump" :)

    2) I think your blog post had more words than the "book".

  2. 1) You're very welcome.

    2) Quite possibly. I think my Watchmen review might be even longer when I get around to it.