Friday, September 14, 2012

Reader's Diary #868- Alan Moore (writer) and David Lloyd (illustrator): V for Vendetta

Growing up in Newfoundland, November the 5th meant Bonfire Night. Everyone would head down to the beach for a giant fire of boughs, old boats, and in later years— but still before environmental awareness— tires. Smaller fires were lit for the younger kids to roast wieners and marshmallows. It was always a great time.

I was a teenager before I'd even heard of Guy Fawkes. Even then I wasn't exactly sure who he was. I supposed we were celebrating how he blew up the British Parliament. I guessed that at one time we must have hated the British Parliament. I supposed and guessed wrong. Apparently Guy Fawkes failed and that's what the Guy Fawkes Night/ Bonfire Night celebration was supposed to be about. Oh well. Any excuse to eat charred, processed meat on a stick.

 V, the guy on the front isn't Guy Fawkes, but wears a Guy Fawkes mask and keeps the spirit of sabotaging authority alive. I don't support terrorism by any stretch of the imagination, but I like the idea of resistance, protest, and standing up for a cause, even against one's government. Moore and Lloyd try to make it even more palatable by making the government a totalitarian state; post-apocalyptic Big Brother sort of stuff.

Yet I think few would declare V a hero, or even a folk hero. His tactics are often violent and despite a relationship of sorts with a woman named Evey, he is often condescending and cruel, always putting the ideal above the individual. Very obviously, Moore and Lloyd wanted to keep the character enigmatic. Not only do we never find out the identity but we also never see him without his mask. This means his emotions are delightfully, frustratingly, always hidden from view. I thought this approach quite novel.

I didn't, however, love all aspects of the book. Too often V's speech is long-winded anarchist manifesto crap and at times he seems to be more of a mouthpiece for Moore than a believable character. (Could it be Moore behind the mask?) And the art work? Well, I love the mask, but wasn't wild about the rest. It's kind of dark and blotchy, but seems to be more the result of cheap production than stylistic purposes. Some of the minor characters looked so much alike it was difficult to tell them apart. The colourization, apparently added by DC Comics after the original black and white run, is dreadful. Faded newspaper dreadful. If ever a book was in need of a retouched reprint, this is it.

Still there's enough food for thought in the book to make it worthwhile and there's a bit near the end that reminds me of those lines in the Joe Hill song:

"The copper bosses killed you, Joe, 
They shot you, Joe," says I.
 "Takes more than guns to kill a man," 
Says Joe, "I didn't die,"
Says Joe, "I didn't die."

 For reminding me of Joe Hill, any problems I had with the book are completely forgiven.

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