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Alan Moore's V for Vendetta continues to be a 'pièce de résistance'

Sayantan Ghosh
Sayantan GhoshNov 11, 2022 | 18:30

Alan Moore's V for Vendetta continues to be a 'pièce de résistance'

An iconic panel from V For Vendetta featuring an iconic quote (photo-Vertigo Comics)

There hasn’t been a fifth of November ever since I first read V for Vendetta that I haven’t thought of the phrase: “Remember, remember the fifth of November of gunpowder treason and plot.” Hence, it only made sense that it is written about this week.

This pathbreaking comic first appeared in serialised form in the British anthology Warrior and was later completed and published by DC Comics. It’s set in a near-future United Kingdom ravaged by a nuclear war and overtaken by a corrupt, totalitarian political party that now runs the nation as a police state. 

Moore’s and Lloyd’s vision hits upon a fundamental thought that when a government fails to care for the needs or freedom of its people, it often eventually leads to mere anarchy. V, our antihero, and one of the most cleverly named literary characters ever, is a dreaded, disfigured, wounded man with a past and a plan who’s viciously murdering government officials. But he is no ordinary nihilist, and his plan swings into motion when he rescues a young girl from being assaulted on a dark, desolate street of London one night.

Cover for V For Vendetta's collected edition (photo-Vertigo Comics)
Cover for V For Vendetta's collected edition (photo-Vertigo Comics)

The volumes can be read as a response to any period in history when right wing conservatism, and wide-scale censorship have been on the rise. The cyclical nature of fascism has ensured this work has remained relevant over the decades in some corner of the world or another. 

V is a self-declared boogeyman, a ruthless vigilante who’s placed in the shoes of a hero in this story simply because he’s up against powers that are far more powerful and sinister in comparison. He’s a warrior who leads a people into an unarmed fight against systemic oppression and injustice, but also a showman with a design for how the battle must be taken to the enemy’s gates: “It’s everything, Evey. The perfect entrance, the grand illusion. It’s everything.” – V tells the girl in one scene.

Moore and Lloyd gave us a crime noir, a protest fiction, and a comic book superhero origin story, all in one book. The Guy Fawkes mask introduced in V for Vendetta has now become a universal symbol of dissent. That’s how far-reaching the socio-cultural impact of this work has been. V may have chosen madness over civil debate and chaos over order, but it’s only shown as a responsive reaction to an extreme situation. It’s the idea at play here that’s the key takeaway, and like the graphic novel’s most popular line reminds us:

“Behind this mask there is more than just flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea... and ideas are bulletproof.”

 

Last updated: November 11, 2022 | 19:19
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