Sunday, 5 May 2013

V for Vendetta

I like the V for Vendetta film. I like the fact that it encourages you to believe, just for a moment, that it's cast the chubbier half of Fry and Laurie as a crusader intent on bringing down the government. I like the fact it's cast Mr Blocker as the Prime Minister. Most of all I like the fact that its relatively slender running time means that things actually happen fairly early on.

None of this is a knock on the original text. I like the comic book original version of V. It's just that, well, Alan Moore is pretty self-indulgent and takes forever to get moving with his plot or any sort of coherent revelations regarding his masked protagonist.

This is a fairly common problem with Moore. He’s going to do things at his own pace and nobody’s going to stop him. The issue is particularly prevalent with V for Vendetta. I suspect this is because Moore started writing the strip for British indy anthology comic Warrior towards the beginning of his career. Bigger publishers tend to have more of an idea of how many issues they want written and Moore has become less self-indulgent, or perhaps just better at getting his ideas across more quickly, as his career has gone on.
V for Vendetta is an alternate future dystopia story (set in 1997 it could now be considered an alternate history tale). British society has fallen apart in the wake of a devastating and unseen war, with totalitarian regime Norsefire having swept into Westminster to restore order. We follow the story of eponymous freedom fighter and culture vulture V as he trains young Evey Hammond to join him in his fight to restore freedom to Britain.
Given that it was written during the 80s it’s safe to say that it was at least partly inspired by Moore’s feelings on Thatcher’s government. Seems that Thatch inspired quite a few highly regarded comics of the decade. She wasn’t all bad.
Some plot elements don’t quite sit right. V’s origin for example. It’s revealed in flashbacks in the latter half of the collected volume but feels lacking in drama. It’s not something that needed revealing. That it is and there’s nothing of any particular interest behind it detracts from the momentum of the story.
Better is Moore’s world building. I’ve singled this out as a strength of his before and this book is a solid example. While the plot meanders and becomes bloated with extraneous information Moore drops in hints as to the country and world at large. He gives a solid idea of how the new British government is structured without going into endless details on the subject or revealing it all in reams of text. He tantalises with hints rather than trying to force you to care about his world, which is a good approach.
The book’s lasting legacy is probably the Guy Fawkes mask. It’s worn throughout by V as a symbol of his anarchist ways (and also to disguise his features). Along with the cloak and 17th century style hat it creates quite the iconic image. His face being obscured throughout the story means the mask becomes his real face, instantly recognisable to anyone who’s read the book as a symbol of V’s morals and beliefs.
Never ones to miss a trick DC (the owners to the publishing rights of the title) released V masks when the film came out in 2006. They caught on in a big way. Naturally they’re a hit at fancy dress parties but they’ve also become a regular piece of kit for anti-establishment protestors. It’s a nice touch, but you have to wonder if the irony of paying DC, a pretty big corporation, to take a stand against big corporations has struck them. Probably not.
For the record Alan Moore approves of this development (of course he does). He's less approving of the film adaption. That's the case with any of his work that makes it to cinemas but in this instance he's not alone (in fact he rarely is).  Most people think V is a shoddy film that works better as a book. I think both have their merits, although the comic has more (and Moore) to offer.
V for Vendetta is a very good example of Moore's early work. Reading it you can certainly see that he was already beginning to develop into a leading voice for the comics industry, a man with his own ideas and a vision for how to use the medium to send a message. It was equally as clear that he was interested in heroes, just not necessarily the conventional caped kind. The disjointed, lackadaisical narrative stops it from being an easy read but not from being an enjoyable one.


No comments:

Post a Comment