|Submitted by Pete |
(Dec 08, 2005)
This Graphic Novel, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd has a strange history. In its first incarnation in 1982, it was serialised in the short lived UK magazine Warrior in black and white. The magazine was forced to fold and V was left unfinished for several years. Eventually it was completed around 1988 and was published as a series of individual chapters. Finally it was collected into a complete book. Because it was in black and white originally, the colouring in the completed version is rather dark but it fits with the darkness of the storyline.
This story needs to be experienced by reading it first hand, no review can capture the compelling nature of this powerful masterpiece, which from beginning to end grips you and involves you with the characters, the terror and injustice. V is a true comic book character, but represents a cause that has you rooting for him and Eavey until the end of the book.
Written in the 80s it has dated a little but it is still a chilling story of what might have been and still could be.
It is set a little in the future, 1997 - well it was the future back then - and England is under an extreme Nazi-like totalitarian government. This has come about after Britain has left NATO and isolated itself from both America and mainland Europe.
A nuclear war destroys Africa, then Europe leaving England alone with no imports and no friends. We are not told what happened to America or Russia but the war is followed by famine and riots and political anarchy and in the ensuing chaos the Fascists gain control of the country.
The new government introduce all the trappings of a totalitarian state, secret police, concentration camps and purges.
All the people they describe as undesirables are rounded up and taken away. This includes any one who opposed them politically, left wing activists, peace marchers, black families and homosexuals. All these victims go to the concentration – sorry ‘resettlement’ camps where they are eventually exterminated, or used for medical research.
About four years after these terrible events, a kind of oppressive stability is achieved but life is hard for the general populace who live in fear of the secret police.
Into this background comes Eavey Hammond, broke, just turned sixteen and trying a clumsy attempt at prostitution in a desperate attempt to earn some money.
Unfortunately for her she propositions some ‘fingermen’ members of the secret police who are on vice detail. Being above the law themselves, they declare their intent to gang rape and then kill her when they are interrupted by the appearance of a tall black cloaked figure. This is the main character V, who is wearing a smiling mask and is dressed as Guy Fawkes. When he appears, whilst quoting Shakespeare, he effortlessly kills three of the five police and escapes taking Eavey with him.
Shortly afterwards the houses of parliament are destroyed in an explosion and a firework display appears in the sky.
This is the start of V’s Vendetta. From now on he is unstoppable and one by one he assassinates all the most powerful leaders of the party in a single-handed attempt to bring down the government.
Who is he? Where does he come from? How does he do what he does?
These questions are answered bit by bit as Finch head of the fingermen slowly unravels the case. Meanwhile V’s Vendetta continues unabated.
A link to V emerges as Finch finds out that V’s victims had at one time all been staff at the notorious Larkhill concentration camp. A camp where an exceptional prisoner was kept in room five. All the doors were numbered with roman numerals, so door five had a ‘V’ on it.
V is enigmatic, you never see his face even his victims recognise him only when it is too late. His identity is never revealed and you are left unsure who he is.
After her rescue, Eavey stays with V who shows her his meuseum of culture from before the war that the Fascists have suppressed and he attempts to educate her in books, music and poetry.
She wants to help him but when she does, she becomes frightened and upset and in response to this, V abandons her. After living safely for a while with a decent man she met, she is eventually picked up by the secret police and is tortured in an attempt to get to V.
She very nearly breaks but she finds a hand written message left by a previous occupant of the cell which relates the life and feelings experienced by this prisoner. The story it tells so moves Eavey, she resolves to die rather than submit to her torturers.
I will not reveal how it ends, but I will just say that there are some surprises and the end is perhaps not what you want, but like real life, you never know how things will turn out in the end. Because of this book’s strange history, I had to wait five years to read the ending but it was well worth the wait. It has reappeared on the shelves again because of the Movie version, so get your copy. Alan Moor is always worth reading.