V For Vendetta. by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, was my introduction to the world dystopian fiction. Far from being able to comprehend the sheer page count of the weighty Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, I plumbed for its four-colour alternative, a powerful, enigmatic and anarchic middle finger to 1980s Tory Britain.
The story is about Evey Hammond, a young woman who is saved from attackers by a masked vigilante, known as V. It soon becomes clear that V has grand plans for London – he destroys Parliament and begins to take apart the corrupt government, piece by piece, while Eve observes, fascinated by the will and motives behind her new benefactor. As she’s drawn further and further into his existence, her perceptions of the surrounding world are clouded.
V For Vendetta is the first ‘dark’ comic book I’ve ever read. By that, I don’t mean any old comic that slaps ‘mature content’ on its cover because there are a few unnecessary splatters of blood or surprise moments of partial nudity – the book covers intense, mature subject matter in adult fashion, with the kind of sophistication I wasn’t familiar with upon the time of reading (I’d only read superhero comics prior to V). Entire chapters are action-free, ruminating on political philosophy and how it’s determined by human nature, while unsympathetically portraying its political figures as hypocrites and hateful figures.
I was 16 when I read V For Vendetta – the pacing of it illustrated to me that comic books could be more disciplined than relying on double-page explosions with big KRAKABOOMs on every page. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but sometimes the mind demands more.
More than that, however, it contains at least one of the most unexpected twists in the history of the medium, so well-structured is the storytelling of Moore and Lloyd. I find it remarkable that it took seven years for V For Vendetta to be published in full – were I reader of the book from the start, that’s the kind of situation that would’ve driven me insane as a reader. Instead, I read it in three days in March of 2005, and it set a standard in graphic storytelling that few other books have matched.
V For Vendetta is available in collected editions from DC Vertigo in the US and Titan Comics in the UK.