Once a month for the past few months I’ve been attending a book club at my local comic book store, it’s called “Books Without Pictures” and has focused on novels, now they’ve started up another club, called “Books With Pictures” we’re we read a comic book/graphic novel/whatever you want to call them. Our first meeting centred around Alan Moore and David Lloyds “V for Vendetta”.
Both David Lloyd and Alan Moore provide an introduction to the book and its hard not to look at the political climate we currently find ourselves. They mention tabloids voicing ideas of concentration camps in order to deal with the aids epidemic of the 80s (when V for Vendetta was written), now we have a climate where the US are seperating families they don’t want living within their borders and where, in the UK, the atmosphere is such that everyone is turning on each other dependent on whether you voted Remain or Leave and the disinformation we are fed from our politicians and media is such that once you delve into the content of V for Vendetta itself, its not difficult to see that the world Moore and Lloyd have created becoming a reality, even without a third World War to create it.
It’s literally impossible to not hear the broadcasts of Fate ending with the line “Make Britain Great again”, and not immediately think of Brexit, UKIP, Farage. Of course it was Margaret Thatchers electoral campaign slogan long before the European Referendum was even a twinkling in the eyes of our politicians, and of course V was written as a response to Thatchers Britain.
Very early into the book V blows up the Houses of Parliament whilst reciting the nursery rhyme “Remember, Remember the Fifth of November”, as the events take place between 5th November 1997 and 5th November 1998. The Houses of Parliament, underneath where Guy Fawkes was discovered protecting barrels of gunpowder intended to blow up the House of Lords and kill King James I as part of the Gunpowder Plot. My thoughts during this moment in the book turned to how we see those events now, I always felt the way I was taught about it at school was a little confusing and my memory of those lessons is very shady, however, I wonder how relevant it is now? Halloween seems to be the focal Autumnal celebration now and Bonfire Night has fallen down the pecking order, though when I was a kid it was most certainly the other way round. Kids would pull Guy’s along on their sisters toy prams or go-karts and call out “Penny for the Guy” and families and neighbourhoods would have big gatherings to let off fireworks, now those firework displays are extravagant but authority run affairs and I wonder, has its lost its meaning? Also, what was its meaning, was we supposed to be celebrating the discovery and failure of the plot or is it a celebration of a right to protest? I’m not entirely sure it would have been i. originally allowed or ii. celebrated quite as long as it were (from 1605 to present) if it was the latter, but it does seem to me that Alan Moore wonders this very thing in the article printed in the back of the book.
There’s alot of uncomfortable moments within these pages, the treatment of Evey throughout the book borders on abuse, she eventually takes up the mantle of V during the closing moments, but her journey to get there is rather tortuous. First she’s rescued from an attempted rape by V, he takes her back to his “Shadow Gallery” but provides her with no answers and it does feel like she’s kept prisoner by her grattitude towards him saving her, she then offers to help his cause and is put in a position where her youth and sexuality is used in order to lure a bishop whom V has an agenda against into a false sense of security.
Later she questions his methods, unhappy that she has been used in order for V to kill the Lilliman (the bishop) and is then abandoned by V. She finds herself in the company of Gordon Deitrich who takes her in, the pair live together for some months and eventually form a relationship that is short lived when Gordon is murdered. She tries to take revenge on Gordon’s murderer but is caught before she can enact her plan and imprisoned and tortured for information on V, which she refuses to give. When ultimately, after months of physical and mental torture, a threat is made on her life, she states she’d rather lose her life than her beliefs, it is revealed that it had been V doing this to her all along in order for her to learn the ordeal he was put through at the hands of the people who ran the Larkhill Resettlement Camp where he had been experimented on (and where the people he has murdered all worked).
It’s during this time that I really began to wonder just what V is up to, everything that comes from his mouth is hidden in riddles, rhymes and quotes, he gives the impression that he wants to overthrow the current government and bring about his view of Anarchy (wherein people rule themselves), but his actions are born of revenge and mirror those of the very people he is fighting against. The character, and our worlds adoptation of his mask, would have you believe he is a freedom fighter, but he himself is not above imprisoning, torturing and killing people to get whatever it is he wants, not to mention him spying on people using the governments own monitoring systems.
Once the bigger elements of V’s plans are put into place there are some really excellent moments, during this period The Eyes (video surveillance), The Ears (audio surveillance) and The Mouth (radio broadcasts) are all nullified and the people of Britain are given three days where they are able to do whatever they please. Of course, this leads to rioting and looting, but there’s one moment amongst all of this, where a young girl, out delivering newspapers, utters the word “bollocks” out loud, her parents are around to hear her and she knows that The Ears cannot hear her, she can’t get into trouble, and feeling free she begins to repeat the word louder and louder, amongst all of the oppression prior to this moment and the chaos that comes from V’s actions, this one little girl has that moment we all have when we’re younger where we suddenly realise that we can swear outside of our parents earshot and not get in to trouble for it. Maybe thats Freedom.