I know that I have read V for Vendetta before, and yet I really didn’t remember it at all? Was it so long ago and was I just too young to really grasp it at that time? Who knows, but now I feel like it is a pretty striking time for a re-read, given everything happening in the world today (though to be fair this has been happening in so many places for so long). I guess the last number of years have just really done a number on us all.
I’m sure by now most are aware of the general gist of this graphic novel which I’ve often heard to referred to as a “classic”, but in any case: V for Vendetta captures an image of dystopian England in the late 1990s (though at the time of publication, it was deemed to be a “near future” England) wherein a neo-fascist regime now has a hold on the nation, after the chaos of a nuclear war during the 1980s. But the mysterious V who was once a prisoner at a death-camp and experimented on has other ideas for trying to wake the public up and try to regain their freedoms.
These themes of people rallying behind a figure in times of chaos or perceived crisis, only to find that this soon turns on many and restricts freedom is all too telling today, the rise of past ideals of discrimination taking the forefront and governments seizing control in the name of “order”. Of course the first to go are the ones who deviate from the norm, and these marginalized groups are also often pit against one another, for if they were to join they may actually rise up. And this is what V is all about: getting people’s attention, becoming an idea to follow and letting them know that their leaders are indeed destructible and that the people hold more power than they think. Though are all of V’s method’s good? I wouldn’t say so, in particular with his treatment of Evey, but isn’t that the truth about most figures: we want to see them as perfect, when the reality is that everyone is capable of doing terrible things. But we always have a choice, don’t we?
“Everybody is special. Everybody. Everybody is a hero, a lover, a fool, a villain. Everybody. Everybody has their story to tell.”
This book is full of striking themes, but here’s the big problem: I may have forgotten a lot about reading this book previously not just because it was so long ago and I was so young, but also because I found it very confusing at times. This is from a combination of many of the characters working in office and/or their significant others drifting in and out with little more than a name and position, as well as the fact that a lot of them looked so similar I couldn’t keep straight who was who or working with which organization. I like to think that I pay attention to things when I read, but this was very difficult for me to keep straight in terms of the sub-plots which all weave together. And I do think that there is a significant mood and presence to be found in the artwork of David Lloyd, and a lot of the images to be found are quite dynamic, but it really isn’t my style, and I did find pieces difficult to understand what exactly was happening as the visuals weren’t always that clear.
Ultimately, however, V for Vendetta is a dark, often times upsetting, but powerful piece of work, flaws and all (like our heros, indeed). I think about our history and our world today and I know exactly how we got where we are, and I see resistance happening and just hope that it doesn’t let up, because as soon as we become complacent or turn our backs to what is happening, it can all slip away so fast. As said by Valerie, one of my favourite lines in this novel goes as such:
“I still don’t understand it, why they hate us so much.”
Fascist governments hate everyone who is different because they are afraid: they are afraid because they know that they are outnumbered, and if only we realized this, we could band together and bring everything down. And it’s time to continue doing exactly that, before we find ourselves somewhere we never expected. Art can be powerful, and this graphic novel makes me believe that.