V for Vendetta is one of those comics that transcends comics and gets accepted as genuine literature. Alan Moore’s story is about a masked vigilante who rebels against the oppressive dictatorship that the UK has become. And he wears a Guy Fawkes mask because you have to look cool if you’re going to fight the government.
The story is set in the UK a few years after a nuclear war. Society collapsed and a group called the Norsefire takes advantage of the chaos and establishes itself as the new government in charge. If you are trying to assume total control, it’s only natural that you would eliminate your enemies or any threats against you, and so the Norsefire purged the UK of foreign immigrants, left-wing liberals, homosexuals and put them in concentration camps.
Only one prisoner managed to escape and he decides he wants a little revenge. He dons a cloak and a Guy Fawkes mask, and has an unnatural obsession with the letter V and the number five. In the beginning of the comic, our masked vigilante saves a young girl named Evey from a sticky situation. He takes her to his underground lair and begins teaching her how to become free, while showing off his bombing abilities and literary prowess.
It soon becomes clear to the Norsefire that they have a terrorist on their hands and they have to stop him. Eric Finch, the head of The Nose (the police force) , is assigned to track down V. We start to see how the party works. We meet the Leader, a shut-in named Adam Susan, who spends all day with his beloved computer system, Fate. There’s also The Finger (the secret police), The Eye (the visual surveillance branch), The Ear (the audio surveillance branch), and The Mouth (in charge of propaganda).
V starts killing a bunch of seemingly random people with ties to the party. Finch discovers a link between the victims – they all worked at a concentration camp. He finds a diary from one of V’s victims and learns about a mysterious prisoner known as the Man from Room Five because he was locked in a room with a roman numeral V on the door. The Man from Room Five escaped the camp using improvised explosives and vanished into the night. Finch deduces that this prisoner became the masked vigilante. He just has no idea who his true identity is.
V continues wreaking havoc on the Norsefire of the next few months and years, all the while continuing to teach Evey how to be free and what it means to be free. While V is terrorizing the party, the party is becoming divided and there’s a lot of bickering and backstabbing and attempts to seize power. V’s continued assaults on the party makes the oppressed masses start to stir and fight back. The party must try to deal with a potential political uprising in addition to warding off V’s victories.
Finch goes a little off the deep end and starts to think like V. He figures out where V’s hideout is and confronts him He wounds V mortally and V ends up dying in Evey’s arms. She doesn’t unmask him, she instead decides to don the cloak and the mask and assume his role. His ideas will live on through her, he lives on as a symbol.
V is one of the most unusual characters in comic history. You never see his face, you never learn his identity. And neither do any of the other characters. V could be a hero, he could be a villain. He could be sane, he could be totally crazy. He’s a little bit of everything, and he’s always an enigma.
Alan Moore’s depiction of dystopia is very reminiscent of Nineteen Eighty-Four. David Lloyd’s fantastic illustrations are perfect for this story. Although some events are over-the-top, the artwork keeps everything grounded in reality. It makes everything seem not just possible but inevitable. The art and the story are perfect compliments of each other.
If you liked Nineteen Eighty-Four or Fahrenheit 451 but wish there was more violence and nudity and a masked vigilante, you would probably like this comic. They made a film version that doesn’t really translate well, but it has Natalie Portman in it and she’s nice to look at. It’s not a terrible movie, but it sucks compared to the comic. This is a good comic, it’s a smart comic, and it’s an important comic.
Critically Rated at 14/17