So, I recently had an urge to watch V for Vendetta for, oh, NO CONCEIVABLE REASON.
I used to really like V for Vendetta. Not love it, mind you. I knew enough even then to recognize a lack of substance behind the flashy Matrix-style posturing that the Watchowskis continue to deploy to this day, trying to capture lightning in a bottle one more time (for the record, The Matrix is to this day one of my favorite movies). But rewatching it now, even with the added seasoning of recent events (or maybe because of them), it was simply too shallow to scratch any itch I was having. Fortunately, movies aren’t the only way to get at a story.
I first came across the original V for Vendetta graphic novel after the movie’s initial release. That was over a decade ago, my entertainment tastes having yet to mature. So when I picked it up, with its less than flashy art, much more subtle story, and bizarre structure, it didn’t grab me. Each chapter can be read as a short story, as self contained as the Unlife interludes used to be and roughly the same length. But put it all together, and you get a dense and layered read, with larger themes that construct a complicated web of subtext and character development impossible to recreate in a 2 hour movie format – though a BBC or Netflix series could work.
Which has been proven elsewhere. Watchmen, another Alan Moore original adapted for film, had the same problems. So many plot points had to be covered to keep some semblance of a structured story that there was never a moment to let the story itself sink in. As a result, much less time is spent soaking in the characters and living in their world, arguably Alan Moore’s greatest strength as a writer. Moore’s material is better when you have time to absorb, pause and reflect. The movie format just doesn’t work for his stories.
So, when 2017 me felt unsatisfied by the movie adaptation, I took another crack at the book. I made a point to read slowly, soaking in Alan Moore’s words and intent, always taking time to put the book down and think about each chapter before moving on to the next.
I wasn’t looking for closure or reflection in regards to our current political climate. The occasional “Make England Great Again” line was jarring, as was reading about the progressive erasure of those who are black, gay, dissident, or just different than the white men in power, but overall… the book and the characters are their own people. As much as they may echo reality, they feel very removed because, again, the story isn’t about the plot. It’s about the characters and the world – specifically, theirs. And for the most part there are only 2 characters, Evey and V (3, if you count England as a character, which I do). The others, the antagonists, the ones in power, are in their own bubble, most never even meeting V directly, though they feel his presence as he unravels them all. The bad guys are more poetic cautionary tales, while V himself is an archetype, and Evey is a scared girl that grows up and becomes more than she ever thought she could be – that very archetype.
I could go on endlessly about this book, but if I haven’t convinced you to read it by now, more enthusiasm from me probably won’t help. Instead, I want to end on three quotes that I felt truly captured what I was looking for and what this book offers.
- “Artists use lies to tell the truth while politicians use them to cover the truth up.”
- “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.”
- “There’s no flesh or blood within this cloak to kill. There’s only an idea. Ideas are bulletproof.”
Just… read it. It’s amazing.