Brad's Reviews > V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
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Apr 09, 10

bookshelves: graphic-novel, anarchism, comic-books, dystopian, sci-fi
Read from March 30 to April 08, 2010, read count: 11

Alan Moore's V for Vendetta is to his Watchmen what Tolkien's Hobbit is to his The Silmarillion: an inferior work of superior satisfaction.

I should point out before going any further, however, that I am in no way suggesting V for Vendetta or The Hobbit are anything less than classics. As works of literature both are vastly superior to most books written, particularly within their genres. They simply don't match the literary heights of their more lofty relations.

But this is about V for Vendetta, so here's my take on its inferiority and superiority to the Watchmen:

Inferiority -- While both books are set in fascistic dystopias (either parallel or near future), Watchmen's world offers us greater depth of history, an engrossing mythology that raises the tale's believability despite its fantastic elements, while working on multiple levels of theme, meaning and artistry. It is dark, sinister, unrelenting, hopeless and utterly genius.

Superiority -- Yet V for Vendetta is no slouch as a work of art. After all, any story dealing with terrorism/freedom fighting in the last 25 years that dares to make the terrorist/freedom fighter a hero is a work worth reading.

More importantly, however, V is a powerful and convincing character. S/he makes it clear that anarchy is not about chaos but a different form of order without law. S/he is a wounded being whose rage can be tempered with mercy; s/he is a teacher whose love can lead to the torture of her/his student(s); s/he is an artist whose art is change. And all of this makes her/him a far more likable character than folks like Rorschach and Comedian, making V for Vendetta vastly more accessible than its cousin.

V for Vendetta also has a slightly more hopeful finish than Watchmen. There is a tiny possibility that the change begun in fascist England will continue in a positive direction. After all, the mantle of V refuses to die, which is a heck of a lot better than Ozymandias' forced utopia just waiting to explode into a violence far worse than any that has come before.

I can close the cover on V for Vendetta and feel refreshed, whereas I usually close the cover on Watchmen and feel the need for a scalding shower to steam off the filth. The former is much more satisfying than the latter.

I have to admit that I enjoy V for Vendetta more than Watchmen. I am more likely to pick V up when I am feeling nostalgic for my comic book youth. I am more likely to read V for "fun." But I have no doubt that Watchmen is the superior work.
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Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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message 1: by David (last edited Apr 11, 2010 01:26PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

David Katzman Have you read the outstandingly bizarre graphic novel series The Invisibles by Grant Morrison? It's his greatest work and a brilliant epic...as long as you have a strong stomach for the weird.


Brad My stomach is steel , brother. I haven't read it, but I will. I am going to add it to my to-read right now.


Miriam any story dealing with terrorism/freedom fighting in the last 25 years that dares to make the terrorist/freedom fighter a hero is a work worth reading.

Do you feel like trope is common inverse to the degree to which the system being resisted identifies with that producing the story? Sorry, that's convoluted. What I mean is, I think there are in fact many stories that make the freedom fighter the hero, particularly in the fantasy genre. There both sides are imaginary and usually at least cosmetically unlike contemporary Western society, so any reader can easily ignore any relevancy to reality (if there is any). There we are usually rooting for the underdog, or the nicer guys. But the more closely the oppressors resemble anything real (as they do in Moore's work) the more both writers and readers shy away from identifying with the resistance. Do you think that's accurate?


Brad Oh yeah, absolutely. The fantasy hero's most culturally impactful manifestation, at least over the last thirty years, is the Rebellion in Star Wars. The Empire is cosmetically far enough removed from our Western society to make the rebellion -- who are really terrorists by any contemporary definition -- into the heroes, the underdog heroes, that we pull for. They are the "nicer guys," as you say, and we can embrace them, and we are much more willing to look at all the abuses of the Empire -- and there are many -- and say, "that makes them evil."

I think if the Emperor wasn't some strangely scarred, superpowerful Sith, and if his chief thug wasn't walking around in his black armour, and if there wasn't some mystical force at work and energy swords, our society would be completely uncomfortable with the Rebellion's actions. Thos stormtroopers would suddenly be "just doing their jobs," keeping the peace, protecting the good people of the Empire, etc. etc.


Miriam Star Wars is exactly the example I was thinking of! I don't think the similarity of the Empire to the US was an obvious when it was released, but now...

I've noticed with films and books set in contemporary America the preference seems to be for a Lone Hero (or small group) rather than an organization of Freedom Fighters/terrorists, and it usually turns out that some corrupt individual(s) was misusing power, and when good governmental whoevers find out they stop them. Of course, if it really is the government being evil or oppressive there isn't much anyone can do about it, and that doesn't make for a very satisfying story...


Brad I have a work in progress that is connected to this theme. I really need to get back to writing it again.


Miriam Yeah, you should!


Brad Maybe in the new year.


Brad Yeah, you're right, Elizabeth. Luke's initial dream was to go to the academy, where he probably would have become a Tie pilot, considering his aptitude for flight. The books take it one step further and have Han Solo actually graduate from the academy at the top of his class, only to be dishonourably discharged for his refusal to force Wookies into slave labour.

I am not sure that our concept of terrorists and terrorism have changed all that much, though. So long as the terrorists are our friends or we decide that we like what they're fighting for -- if we support them -- or we are the terrorirst, the terrorist acts become freedom fighting or defense rather than terrorism. The polemics just seem more intense to me, taking on a Cold War style us vs. them edge.


message 10: by Miriam (last edited Dec 28, 2011 10:22AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Miriam I thought Firefly did interesting things with this as well. Obviously the viewers sympathies are with the Serenity crew, but it isn't at all clear that the Alliance (that's what the central core worlds with civilization were called, right?) is bad or that its power is illegitimate. Of course that example isn't about terrorism, since the crew is mainly trying to be left alone.

I don't think any of us have commented on collateral damage yet? In V for Vendetta V seems pretty carefully to only go after people s/he knows are guilty -- one of the things I thought Moore did well was contrasting the perception of the general public watching highly controlled TV and adoring these sleezebags with the reality of personal interactions with them. But it would be harder to make sympathetic a character who advocating, say, blowing up schools as an act of defense.


message 11: by Brad (last edited Dec 28, 2011 10:18AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brad Battlestar Galactica did some great stuff with it too. Sci-Fi seems to be the one place that is really dealing with this sort of stuff today (as it and Fantasy usually do when social commentary needs to get out there). So much safer.

I haven't watched any Firefly, but I have been meaning to for ages. I'll get on that, Miriam.


message 12: by Brad (last edited Dec 28, 2011 10:57AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brad It's interesting that V is more assiduous about avoiding collateral damage than, say, Frank Miller's Batman, whose actions and battles cause plenty of unrecognized collateral damage. Most interesting, I suppose since the two of them seem to be at war over the political views.


Miriam Unacknowledged collateral damage is one of the things that often bothers me in epic fantasy. You know, how there will be a huge war with thousands of peasant recruits and foot soldiers killed over what is essentially a personal issue between Important People? Obviously that is realistic, but that doesn't make it acceptable.


message 14: by Brad (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brad I feel exactly the same way. It taints my relationship with epic fantasy.


Miriam I just wish more authors thought critically about what they were presenting. It seems like genres that are considered "just for fun" (like fantasy, romance, mystery) don't bother. Obviously the better ones do!


message 16: by Mari (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mari I think your definition of literary merit is a bit off kilter. "The Hobbit" is a far superior work to "the Silmarillion". "The Hobbit" is a nuanced and well framed story. "The Silmarrillion" is nothing more then navel gazing.


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