Saturday, October 20, 2012

I Reads You Review: V FOR VENDETTA #1


WRITER: Alan Moore
ARTIST: David Lloyd
COLORS: David Lloyd, Siobhan Dodd
LETTERS: Jenny O’Connor, Steve Craddock
32pp, Color, $2.00 U.S., $2.95 CAN

So much for going out of print. DC Comics recently published a gift-box edition of the V for Vendetta trade paperback that includes the book and a plastic Guy Fawkes mask. This arrives about three years after DC Comics published a pricey “Absolute Edition” of V for Vendetta.

For those who don’t know: V for Vendetta is a comic book series written by Alan Moore and drawn by David Lloyd who provided most of the art for the series. The series is set in a dystopian, near-future United Kingdom after a nuclear war. It imagines a view of the 1980s and 1990s that is different from the same time period in our world. The series focuses on the activities of a mysterious masked revolutionary who calls himself “V.” Using elaborate methods and a theatrical style, “V” works to destroy the totalitarian government that rules over the U.K.

V for Vendetta originally saw publication as a serial in Warrior, a black and white, British comics anthology (1982-85). Warrior was cancelled in 1985, and V for Vendetta remained unseen until DC Comics began publishing V for Vendetta as a comic book series that reprinted the Warrior material in color and also published the new material that took the story to its conclusion. DC eventually collected the entire series, including some additional material, in trade paperback form under its Vertigo imprint.

I first read V for Vendetta back in the mid-1980s when I came across some issues of Warrior in the bowels of a comic book shop. I read both the V for Vendetta comic book series and the first trade paperback edition released by DC Comics. Since then, I’ve been meaning to read it again, but always put that off. The release of the gift-box trade encouraged me to re-read, at least, a little of V for Vendetta, although I didn’t buy the gift-box. Yes, I did think about buying that, but it seemed like a waste of money, really.

V for Vendetta #1 (September 1988) contains the first four chapters of the story (now called a graphic novel). In Chapter One: The Villain, we meet V and wannabe prostitute, Evey Hammond. In Chapter Two: The Voice, The Leader, ruler of fascist England demands that his subordinates find V after the mysterious figure blows up the Houses of Parliament. In Chapter Three: Victims, enter investigator Mr. Finch after V abducts the Voice of Fate. Chapter Four: Vaudeville, after Evey recounts her life and her experiences of the time the world changed, V passes judgment on the Voice of Fate.

When I first read V for Vendetta all those years ago, it left me stunned or, as people often say, I was blown away. Even after reading American Flagg!, comics by Moebius, and a smattering of independently published science fiction and fantasy titles, I was still not prepared for what V for Vendetta offered. A quarter-century later, the writing still engages me, and Lloyd’s elegant art, with its uncanny touch of realism without being a slave to realism, impresses me even more. Moore’s story and Lloyd’s art come together to create a graphical narrative that recalls Film-Noir and makes the story seem as much a mystery as it is a science fiction story.

In hindsight, we can take exception to this series’ ideas on how a limited nuclear war would effect the environment and the likelihood of how humans would live in its aftermath (or even survive it). Still, V for Vendetta seems like a reasonable scenario – from a socio-economic and political point of view. Reading it now, however, I think Moore’s character writing (along with Lloyd’s art) sells this series more than the near-future concepts, ideas, and setting.

Of course, the character, “V,” is remembered for his style and the theatrical manner in which he went about his activities. I think that the series works because all the characters, to put it simply, are interesting. There is such a sense of the melodramatic about them, with Moore heightening each one’s personalities and quirks so that they become visual cues. The Leader’s moodiness and rash temper, Mr. Finch’s blunt way of carrying out an investigation, and Evey’s near-hysterical survivor’s guilt are played for maximum effect. The characters are why V for Vendetta does not seem like just another post-apocalyptic tale. Instead, it reads and feels like a grand tale of politics and revenge that plays on the comic book page as if it were played on a stage.

Yes, V for Vendetta is still great.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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