It’s tough to write about something that, inevitably, has already been written about in great depth numerous times. This week, I will attempt to do such that AND make it appealing.
We’ve spent the last three weeks looking at some of Alan Moore’s more popular works. I should say, really, most popular works that are perfectly accessible to anyone hoping to grab something new and great. Because if there is one debate that can occur at any time, it’s if Alan Moore really can possess the title of “world’s greatest comic book writer of all time in all aspects in all universe”…
Maybe not that exact wording, but it’s pretty close.
The man has written some of the most well known and well respected comic stories of the past thirty years. Even though his output as of late has slowed down dramatically at least on the comic book side. There is the fact that his books from the mid-80s are still selling super well is a testament to the craft that he brought to the medium.
I could also speak for the fact that movies, high grossing movies, have been created around his books is another testament to his skill. I’d feel wrong in saying that, though, since the movies rarely hold up to the source material. We saw that two weeks ago with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Now, we’re seeing that this week with V for Vendetta.
V for Vendetta is most widely known for the mask that it popularized for the world. The Guy Fawkes mask, now associate with anarchist movements, has been misused by computer hackers and radical movements against causes I’m not sure the people understood.
That’s beside the point, though.
I doubt many children and teenagers and young adults would actually wear the mask to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night. No. They probably acknowledged it as that mask from that movie that was based on that comic book graphic novel thing their friend once told them about.
The story itself, “V for Vendetta”, is from the mid-80s when Alan Moore reigned as king. It began publication in 1982 and, through a convoluted and non-important series of events, did not finish until 1988. His published works, Watchmen and Marvelman, were just garnering the acclaim they deserved and he wrote some of the best Superman and Swamp Thing comics of all time.
Our story begins in a dystopian future, where the land has been ravaged by nuclear war. The one strong, solid state is that of Great Britain, now a tyrannical, overlord society that watches everything you say or do or think. Our guide through the book is a young girl named Evey Johnson.
In the beginning, she commits a crime we would not consider a massive crime: curfew. Before the police, Fingermen, wrongfully arrest her, she is able to meet the enigmatic V. V, being our swashbuckling, slightly off, protagonist, is the driving force behind the book. Whether it’s his knife handling, his black cloak or even the mysterious way that he speaks, everything about him draws Evey in. V dispatches the Fingermen then, leading Evey to the rooftop, detonates a bomb in the corrupt British Parliament, effectively destroying the building
Now, to take a side not to discuss the art, I wish I was more familiar with David Lloyd’s artwork. Outside of V for Vendetta, I’m not privy to any other popular work he’s done. I’m sure he has, though, because the skill he brings to the first chapter alone was enough to keep me reading in the long haul.
The pencil and line work is so thick and dark that it clearly sets the mood for this apocalyptic world. Everything, from the offices of the British government to the streets of post-apocalyptic London carries with it dark undertones and harsh lines. The colors, though, are the most interesting part.
Faded as they may look, it does lend its appeal to the book. See, this is not the future of Star Wars or Star Trek or, heck, even Blade Runner. Even though the book was published in 1982 all the way through 1988, the “future” to them was 1997. Merely ten years away. Lloyd makes the artistic decision, however, to not make the future a bright, shining utopia of ease and grace.
No, Lloyd and Moore put their main characters, V and Evey, in a world that feels no different from ours. The colors display that, with faded and dying hues. Nothing shines. Everything feels mundane.
And that’s what the government would want you to feel. The white-only British government, referred to as Norsefire, is dealing with the after effects of V’s attack. From there, a revolution slowly builds.
It sounds good and all, but I decided to take a different point of view as I reread through the story. See, we’re supposed to find ourselves in Evey’s spot and witness this revolution against the corrupt government of England through her eyes.
Everything, even throughout the famous “prison” scene, we’re supposed to experience her wonder and pain. In the second half of the book, V kidnaps Evey and imprisons her in a prison akin to the one that he was trapped in for years. In this chapter, we learn the driving force behind this madman. We don’t know its V doing this to her at first, but eventually, it’s revealed. This scene perhaps carries the most weight throughout the story because it is so brutal.
The story is an adventure and a mystery, to be sure, but for one chapter, we see what inspires this type of vigilante.
I read it through V’s eyes. See, because in this dystopian future of England, the government has done away with homosexuals, non-religious thinking, foreign immigrants and political transgressors. Whatever V did in the time before the bombs dropped, ended him up in a prison similar to this one he creates for Evey.
If you pay close attention, here is where Moore lets us into his mind. Why he does what he does.
So why does the movie fail? The movie missed the harsh realism of the series. See, the directors of the movie (The Wachowski siblings) gave it a stylized, gothic-future look. Really? It didn’t need that. Film at night and make sure there’s lots of dirt and filth. That’s the future waiting for V and Evey. Nothing is shiny and everything has a secret.
I wish I could say more about the book. Unfortunately, the nature of Comic Matters is just to say enough to keep the reader hooked enough to want to go and pick up the book. Evey is drawn into a revolution she now fully understands, with a madman in a Guy Fawkes mask.
With V, his actions speak louder than his words.
Oh, and remember the 5th of November.
Next Week: We finish off our Alan Moore month, just in time for another themed month, by taking a look at some of Alan Moore’s best superhero stories. From the DC Universe Stories of Alan Moore, we’ll talk about “For the Man Who Has Everything”.
In addition to writing for the column “Comic Matters” for the Tucson Citizen, Bobby Acosta is also a 5th Grade Elementary school teacher, employee and frequenter of Heroes & Villains Comics/Game Store, and explorer of the importance of comics. He recommends each and every comic he writes about.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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