A man known only as “V” begins a plan to bring chaos and anarchy to a Britain which has been taken over by an oppressive fascist regime. Sixteen year old Evey Hammond finds herself wrapped up in V’s plot and must decide where her loyalties lie. Meanwhile, the police detectives are trying to hunt down the terrorist before he can complete his goal of overthrowing the government.
Sometimes it’s really important whether or not you see the film or read the novel first. I saw the Wachowski sisters’ interpretation of V for Vendetta when it debuted in theaters in 2005, and it remains one of my favorite graphic-novel style movies. It sparked a fierce debate in my family about the definition of a terrorist versus a freedom fighter. It also gave us the memorable quote that “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people”. For a seventeen year old girl whose government had just invaded Iraq under false pretenses and was busy wiretapping everything in sight, this movie felt important. I went in knowing that the plot for the source material, Alan Moore’s hugely popular graphic novel, was very different. Maybe I just wasn’t prepared for how different it was.
The titular character in Moore’s novel is not a hero, nor is he fighting for a noble cause. At best he is an anarchist, who doesn’t seem to mind if innocent people get slaughtered next to the ones he has deemed guilty. He is manipulative and abusive towards Evey, who in the novel is an illiterate sixteen-year old who opens the novel by soliciting a man for sex. The Supreme Chancellor Adam Susan (Suttler in the film) is portrayed here as a mentally confused, weak minded man who relies solely on a highly advanced computer program to run the government. I much preferred the film’s interpretation of Suttler as a fanatically religious dictator.
I can admire the graphic novel for trying to highlight moral ambiguity and the prisons that people make for themselves. I’ve read a few of Moore’s novels, and his characters aren’t meant to be heroes. They’re meant to be fucked up individuals who are ultimately going to choose to further themselves over some noble idea of humanity. This is honestly a closer mirror to modern society, and Moore doesn’t shrink away from it. Taken on its own, away from the film adaptation, this is an amazing book.
I guess that I just felt deflated while reading it. Sometimes it’s nice to have heroes that are fighting for liberty and freedom as well as for revenge. It’s comforting to have a clear-cut idea of who the goodies and the baddies are. In 2018 as the world seem to be edging closer and closer to the abyss, I wanted the graphic novel to be a closer match to the film. The fact that it wasn’t is more a reflection on my current state of mind than a criticism of the novel itself.
My rating: 3/5
Note: It helps when reading this novel to have a basic understanding of British slang. Much like Mark Twain, Alan Moore writes the English language as it is actually spoken in that part of the world. One character has a thick Scottish brogue, and I actually had to read his dialogue aloud in order to figure out what he was saying.
Happy reading everyone!