A true classic, though surprisingly obscure and hard
to get a hold of two decades after its beginning, V For Vendetta stands
as an example of Moore's writing genius, as well as his early mistakes.
While a thoroughly enjoyable, intelligent, and thought-provoking comic, V doesn't
hold a candle to Moore's epic masterpiece, Watchmen.
V tells the story of an anarchist trying to
re-ignite a free society in a totalitarian British regime left after
a global nuclear war. There are many inventive details of the society,
but I was disappointed in Moore's reliance on concepts borrowed from
other bleak fictional futures, namely, 1984, as well as real events.
I felt the fascist society was too similar to Nazi Germany. I
felt it was too evil, too clearly wrong, and as such did not produce
sufficient moral dilemmas for the reader. One of Watchmen's great
strengths was that it left you wondering if the actions of the villain
were justifiable for the greater good. It had a much more robust commentary
on ethics, technology, and social satire.
Sadly, a simple flaw exacerbates the unreality of Moore's
future Britain - an easily avoidable flaw common in post-apocalyptic
future scenarios. The story, written in 1981, is set too close in the
future, 1998. This is often excusable - nuclear annihilation seemed much
more probable then, of course - but too many details ground the story
in a specific time and just turned out to be drastically wrong. Of course
no writer can predict the future, but some of the best science fiction
writers have come eerily close, as in Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and
Huxley's Brave New World. By dealing in generalities and not setting
a specific date, these classics are even more relevant today. Likewise,
though 1984 does have the aforementioned problem eponymously,
no other part of the book dwells on a certain date or recent technological
trend, focusing more on timeless psychological ramifications of the eradication
of independent thought. The scariest regimes come about slowly through
increasing public ignorance and apathy. Sudden takeovers by fascists
seem much more isolated and doomed to failure, at least in this genre
of harsh futures.
However, Moore's well-known strengths in plot and characterization
mostly balance the shortcomings in the social description. His characters,
as always, are likeable and believable. The story was originally serialized
in six-page segments, making for easy reading and concise plot events
with many cliffhangers and dramatic revelations, and plenty of subplots,
Overall, the book is quite enjoyable as an exciting
story. But its depiction of a bleak totalitarian state - however relevant
and intelligently-written - dates the book and has already been done.