MOORE AND DAVID LLOYD - V FOR VENDETTA. 1988 DC Vertigo.
A classic Graphic novel which was recently filmed. England in the mid 1980’s has been taken over by a Totalitarian regime. (No, not Thatcher, but pretty close). Protests have ended the UK nuclear programme, so we have been spared from an atomic bomb holocaust that has claimed much of Europe, but we have lost the war. The Government is very much operating on an Orwellian Big Brother system. A broadcasting system (The Mouth) runs all propaganda communications. The Finger is the state police pointing accusations at everyone. The Nose is the infiltration, and electronic surveillance network. This system seems to have the country sewn up. A young girl, Evie, driven from desperation to prostitute herself, finds out that her first clients are undercover Finger-men. They plan her immediate execution, but a mysterious masked hero in a fixed grin Guy Fawkes mask rescues her. At first, it looks as if this is going to be a Batman type story set against the background of a Fascist state. As the Houses Of Parliament explode behind him and the figure known only as V points out that he did it (succeeding where Fawkes failed) the reader realises that something much darker is going on here. V takes Evie to his lair, where there is still music, books and art, as he destroys more institutions, including The Old Bailey and the Post Office Tower (before it became the Telecom Tower). He also kills leading government officials. Evie finds herself a pawn in one such killing. She is shocked by what V does. The second part of the book deals with back-stories for Evie and the never unmasked V. He was a survivor of terrible concentration camp experiences in a Mengele type operation, and he briefly inhabited room V (Roman numerals for 5 – fitting in with the 5th November date of his boldest activity). He also subjects Evie to a complex illusion in which she is convinced that she is also a victim of the regime in such a camp. She learns from this that V loved a woman called Valerie who died there in room IV (four) though he never met her. Book three takes the anti-hero as villain theme to a dark conclusion. V has plunged the country into chaos and anarchy by wiping out the State Apparatus, and he has become an enigmatic folk hero. Kids scrawl V on walls. However, he is killed and dies giving Evie instructions for his Viking funeral. This is done when she takes on the mask of V, and sends his body on an underground train filled with gelignite to blow up Ten Downing Street itself. A highly political story – almost an invitation to terrorism and fighting for freedom, through an enigmatic, half insane figure straight out of Dr Phibes. V is not an easy read, and possibly overlong and repetitive at times, but its bold themes, have become all the more relevant in the post 9/11 era. One of the most controversial of all comics.
© Copyright. Arthur Chappell
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