I read the graphic novel V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd last year, and it really tempted me to re-try the American graphic novel genre. The amount of literary sophistication and social criticism is insane. I haven’t ever watched the movie, which is the version most people seem to have encountered first, but that does not stop me from praising this thing – it’s one of the few works that I liked even when I did not like any of the characters in the story.
I mean, the guy in the mask? He always recites iambic pentameter and Shakespeare and stuff, and has a weird thing for masks and stupid riddle games. Plus, his name is V. It’s one letter. Not exactly conventional.
The girl that follows him around, Evey, is kind of annoying in her constant denial of reality.
The bad guys, whose names I forget, were somewhat instrumental in the plotline, but really they simply give a face to the invisible enemy that V is really fighting against. In other words, V considers them small fry, and we do too.
The above statements represent my honest, purely emotional reaction to the characters in this graphic novel. However, they also represent a very, very, VERY simplified and unfair judgment of every single one of them.
V is masterful, in both design and in his constancy. He never wavers, never makes a mistake, and is singular in his purpose, and yet his superhuman invincibility and strength does not become a cliche like Superman. It instead functions as a way to identify him not as a person, but as an idea. The narrator states this almost directly – that it is pointless to find out whose face hides behind the mask of V. The mask itself, and the ideal it represents, is the true identity of this vigilante terrorist / anti-hero.
Evey represents the weak, helpless, conformist, emotional, human side in all of us. She bends to social pressure and is willing to follow false doctrines even when she knows they are wrong, because that is the easy way out. As she follows V around, she has no idea what’s really happening and does not understand what V is trying to do. I think she gets so frustrating and annoying because readers recognize this vulnerable, deplorable, foolish side of her in themselves. After all, none of us identify with V. With a lack of characters to identify with, the plot forces us to identify with a character we probably wouldn’t want to empathize with otherwise.
The work confronts us, reflects and refracts us, and attempts to glimpse at those dark corners of society and the human heart – in graphic novel form.
It may be time to re-evaluate that much-abused genre, yes?