||[Sep. 18th, 2008|10:35 am]
100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)
#71 V FOR VENDETTA – Alan Moore, David Lloyd
“All is misrule.”
V For Vendetta opens with a scene that’s common in comics – a young woman, a dark alley, menacing figures and a costumed saviour. The difference is that the dark alley is in an England that’s become a surveillance state, the menacing figures are secret police and the costumed saviour is a terrorist named V who wears a Guy Fawkes mask; a questionable hero with a flair for showmanship and speechmaking who is so theatrical he often talks in iambic pentameter and delivers an entire chapter as a musical number complete with its own score.
What begins as a costume fantasy for people who read Orwell evolves as it continues, becoming less a fantasy and more a treatise, a political education in comic-book form. Fortunately, Moore and Lloyd create a cast of compelling characters rather than just mouthpieces for competing political manifestos. In V For Vendetta’s dark future of the late 1990s (the comic began publication in 1982), England has turned to fascism, which only the anarchist V stands against. His ruthless tactics make him an uncomfortable protagonist, whose motives and methods are questioned both by Evey, the young woman he rescues, and Finch, the detective tasked with tracking him down. These three are the main focus, but they’re supported by a wealth of characters from all walks of life, from the gutter to the head of state. Each character has a viewpoint that’s explored to slowly build up a picture of an entire society and how it’s gone horribly wrong. Some are complicit and corrupt, some are merely opportunistic and others show their willingness to stand up for what they believe in.
Like 1984 or Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, V For Vendetta’s concern with a government’s reaction to terrorism makes it seem more relevant than ever today, but even without that its underlying message hasn’t aged. Where 1984’s moral is ultimately pessimistic, that anyone can be made to betray their ideals with the right motivation, V For Vendetta dares to hope and to show that there are some people – and not just the ones who wear masks – who will not be broken.