Describing where V for Vendetta lies in the comics cannon is tricky. Without wanting to over-state its importance, this particular reviewer considers it as fascinating and enjoyable a piece of serious science fiction as George Orwell’s 1984 and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. On our first reading, all those years ago, it really felt that big, that important and that much of a classic. Rereading it, despite the fact that the dark near-future predictions remain thankfully off mark, the dystopian vision remains as horrific and potent as ever.
We won’t expose too much of the story, as the unfurling mystery is a roller-coaster ride of twists and turns. It’s set in a fascist, post-apocalyptic Britain, with a cowed population ruled by a police state that, like Orwell’s, is always watching. Like a modern day Guy Fawkes, the story’s lead character (known only as ‘V’) is committed to bringing down the government of his day. We see his plans unfold through the eyes of Evey Hammond, an innocent and impressionable young woman V rescues from the clutches of a corrupt police force.
Because all culture is controlled by the state, V is a cultural oasis, allowing Alan Moore to flex his erudite muscles, quoting liberally from literature, music and other media. This can be overwhelming at times, though it serves the purpose of enhancing the stark difference between the sparse official media controlled by the state and church, and the rich cultural heritage that is kept hidden from the populace.
David Lloyd uses gorgeous subtle shading throughout the book, creating a gloomy London bathed in an inky wash. At times this can evoke a sense of noir thirties nostalgia, again showing the debt it owes to George Orwell, while simultaneously twisting everything into a gloomy futuristic world of overt control.
This book has an eloquence and beauty to it, stemming from both the writing and the artwork, both of which are at the peak of their craft. The book remains one of Alan Moore’s finest works, no mean feat considering we consider Moore to be up there amongst the all-time best writers to grace comics with their work. If you’re interested in the medium, this book is an absolute must. And if you’re new to comics, this provides an excellent place to start for anyone who likes edgy science fiction thrillers, especially if they like their sci-fi to come with a little politics, a little culture and the odd explosion.