V for Vendetta is a ten-issue comic book series from the 1980s. It inspired a pretty good movie, and parts of it have even been embedded in popular culture through protests and hacking groups (think Guy Fawkes masks). A few weeks ago I finally tracked down and purchased the complete series in graphic novel form, and I must say it was great. It far surpassed the movie, and far surpassed my expectations. Just like the movie, the graphic novel (henceforth to be simply known as the “novel”) is one of revenge and revolution. However, thanks largely to a much, much longer format, the novel is far richer.
Take the characters for instance. Whereas V is by far the dominant character in the movie, the novel has more of an ensemble cast of characters. It features many characters that do not bear a mention in the movie at all, many characters and character aspects that were melded in the movie have their own chance, and many characters that do appear in the movie are explored much further. However, there are also some character aspects in the novel that are rather unfortunate. For example, while the character of “Evee” is a protégé and an eventual an equal to V in the movie, in the novel she is really nothing more than a mindless and spineless pawn. The population writ large also play a less central role and are less powerful in novel, and certain aspects of characters like Mr Creedy, who is quite menacing in the movie, are rather less of a force in the novel. But the most startling differences are with the V himself. While he comes across as half deranged in the movie, the line between crazy and brilliant are even more blurred in the novel. In the novel, V is often downright bizarre. He makes a great many cultural references in the novel, some of them outrageous and out of sync with the story, some of them brilliant. All in all, I would say the longer form allows for much more interesting and fun characters.
When it comes to the story, there are also quite a few differences. With the increase retinue of characters comes many side adventures and story/character arcs not seen in the movie. Some aspects of the storyline are also markedly different as different storylines are moved around and given to different characters, and the two stories (the novel and the movie) are set in different times and have different contexts. However, for true fans of the movie, do not worry, the bones are all there.
Finally, something very different for me was the artwork. The artwork throughout is brilliant. I have never been much of a comic book or graphic novel buff, although I did have a few Batman comics when I was young. But there is none of that chincy “piff”, “pow”, “boom” crap here. The artwork is dark and foreboding, and brilliantly conveys the mood and tension found throughout. The illustrations convey a world very similar to how I imagine the world looks through Tim Burton’s eyes. The visualization is quite unlike that of the movie, a difference similar to that of the Tim Burton Batman movies when compared to the Joel Silver ones. Further, I must say, if not the content, the illustrations are probably not suitable for children.
All up, this is a very good story. I would venture to say it is better than the movie (as most originals are). And it isn’t just one for fans of comics and graphic novels. I am not much of a fan of either, and I loved it. Anyone who loved the movie, loves political or post-apocalyptic stories, or likes stories that look at the world from a different angle will like this novel. It is proper literature, and should be treated as such. I would recommend to all and sundry.
Title: V for Vendetta
Author: Alan Moore
Illustrator: David Lloyd
Pages: 296 (Paperback)
Josh’s Rating: 4/5
Originally posted @ Sakalabujan Magazine