The Comics Get Serious logo

V for Vendetta. Written by Alan Moore. Illustrated by David Lloyd with Steve Whitaker and Siobhan Dodds. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 1988, 1989. 286p. $19.95. ISBN 0-930289-52-8.

Science fiction, alternate history

Adults, teens; some nudity, mild profanity, adult situations

In the not-so-far-away future of 1997 (this title was first begun in 1982-1983), England has been spared from nuclear destruction by timely disarmament. However, the country has been taken over by "Norsefire," a facist, racist regime that has restored peace at the cost of personal freedom, privacy, and the removal of undesirables. They hold England through a combination of the Fate computer, the secret police, and the complacency of the population.

Evey Hammond, who saw her father taken away in her youth, makes a desperate attempt to sell herself to earn a little money. But she chooses the wrong john--the man is a Fingerman, one of the secret police--and is nearly raped and murdered before she is rescued by a mysterious man in a smiling mask, pointed hat, and cloak. The man swiftly dispatches the Fingerman and his colleagues, blows up Parliament, and spirits Evey away to his underground hideout, the "Shadow Gallery." Speaking largely in rhyme, quotation, and lyric, he identifies himself only as "V" and introduces Evey to his large collection of banned and suppressed books, music, art, etc.

As Evey grows to understand and to love V, he busies himself with murdering or destroying the minds of several important people. What is his vendetta against them? Why does he seem to have extra-human abilities? Is his motive simple revenge, or something much greater? As his actions begin to lead to the collapse of the Norsefire regime, its key players struggle to stop him, and struggle for power against one another. And Evey discovers that V has a role for her to play that is like nothing she's ever imagined.

I was pilloried in a review for leaving this title out of my book, so here it is. Considered a classic of the comics genre, it was presented as the follow-up to Moore's luminescent Watchmen, and as such is perhaps treated with more reverence than it deserves. Not that it's bad--I don't think Moore is capable of bad work--but I approached it with great excitement, read it twice, and came away disappointed.

For one thing, I don't care for the art. It's too soft and fuzzy for this sort of story. The human figures aren't always well distinguished from one another; several times I got confused as to who was being featured at the moment. The odd pastel colors and overuse of solid black don't help the clarity of the panels either. Sometimes it's all but impossible to tell what's being depicted.

For another thing, the Norsefire regime is not depicted effectively. There are no trappings, i.e., symbols, uniforms, obvious policemen, to make the English cities look oppressed. (Late in the book one of the characters laments that the regime never adopted symbols, but it seems unbelievable to me that they wouldn't, especially in a quasi-Nazi regime, and especially given everyone's reliance on the Fate computer and the "Voice of Fate.") Such things as spy cameras are talked about more than depicted, and the people in general never seem to be watching themselves in case they say something dangerous. Thus, much of the power of the story was diluted for me.

A minor problem was that the Scottish character's accent was all but indecipherable, and that's not because I'm American; I have no problems with the Scots accents of the characters of George MacDonald Fraser. There are ways to spell dialect that are better than others.

This is not to say that the book is all bad. Moore's writing, of course, is impeccable. The character of V is at once mysterious and sympathetic. Several of the major characters, including Evey and Mr. Finch, the detective determined to catch V, undergo profound and believable changes as the book progresses. When the art and the text deal directly with the atrocities perpetuated by the Norsefire regime, the story becomes a lot more powerful. The subtle (and not-so-subtle) references to the musical Cabaret were appreciated by this Broadway fanatic (though the depiction of revolutionaries in front of a torn Les Miserables poster was a little obvious, I thought). The various meanings of the letter "V" and words that begin with "V" are handled cleverly.

Overall, I enjoyed reading V for Vendetta, but I didn't find it very compelling. Recommended for Moore fans and people who like behind-the-scenes action in spylike settings. For readers new to Moore, there are better titles to start with, such as Watchmen or Miracleman.


Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


Return to The Comics Get Serious archive

Return to The Comics Get Serious main page

Return to Rational Magic Current Issue

Return to Rational Magic Home