Genre: Superhero Comics
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Vertigo (October 12, 2005)
Length: 296 pages
My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.
When I picked up this graphic novel (after years of telling myself I’d get to it one of these days), I really wanted to love it. Watchmen by Moore is one of my all-time, favorite graphic novels, so I always envisioned V for Vendetta being another masterpiece of comic writing along those same lines: not only entertaining but enlightening as well. Unfortunately, I was immensely disappointed by this graphic novel.
Now, to be fair, I hate overtly political literary works. If a writer wishes to explore political themes in the framework of an interesting and compelling story then I am fine with that, but I personally do not enjoy stories that are only about politics. And for those of you who have read V for Vendetta, you already know that this graphic novel is 100% a work of political theology. It preaches. It prods. It shouts at you to pay attention. But no matter V’s incessant soliloquies, it utterly falls flat.
Probably the majority of the blame for V for Vendetta’s failure goes to the fact that in order to have a story you must first have a character, and V is not a character but a political ideology given human form in his iconic black suit and white mask. He is an idol to anarchy, wrapped in pop culture coolness to make anarchism an attractive viewpoint.
And to make this political theology even more appealing, Moore squares him off with the most repulsive opponent he could concoct: an ethnocentric, homophobic, pedophilia, racist, anti-science fascism that drapes itself with religious justification for its inhumane actions.
No matter his opponent, however, V quickly proves himself to be insane. (Whether his insanity is mild or extensive is up for debate, I suppose, but there is little doubt that he is not going to pass a psychological evaluation without getting several diagnoses.) He kills when he needs to. He blows up things when he deems it appropriate. He tortures – both physically and emotionally – his foes and friends alike when he believes it serves some greater good. And he shows no regret for any innocents who might be harmed in the aftermath.
Revolutionary behavior, I hear some of you saying. Perhaps. Yet, V never seems to have any rhyme or reason to his madness. At least not one that he sticks with. There is no desire to fix the problems of the world, but rather an all-encompassing desire to unleash chaos so that it may spread in a wild conflagration until anarchy is obtained and, somehow, remolds society into a chaotic utopia. Sure, apparently innocent people will get harmed , but, ultimately, all the world’s problems are these people’s fault anyway, so why shouldn’t they suffer for their poor choices.
To describe the story that unfolds here as convoluted is to be gracious to its famous writer, because this tale is filled with ambiguity to the point a reader has no idea if V is a “good” guy, a “bad” guy, or just some mentally deranged person running around killing people and blowing things up for fun. He will aid a person one page only to set them up for horrible things to happen to them the next. He will give a grand soliloquy on the need to “Vomit up the values that [have] victimized me” one moment, then turn around and exhibit his new, enlightened values by torturing his “supposed” friend to induce a level of insanity comparable to his own. Honestly, V’s display of anarchist morality becomes a tiresome exercise in futility.
The sad truth about this graphic novel is that V for Vendetta is a work of political proselytism. A piece of demagoguery whose message takes precedent over the actually story being told. V more an avatar for anarchy than a real revolutionary attempting to better the lives of his fellow men and women. This graphic novel is not inspirational. It doesn’t expand your mind by forcing you to analyze your current political leaning. Rather, it is just another piece of political ideology, where the writer frames the narrative in his terms so that only his viewpoint is attractive, and as such, it is better left undisturbed by those seeking a true story.