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By Patrick McNair May 29, 2017 - 5:39 PM print

"Remember, remember, the fifth of November." These words, relating to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, served as the inspiration for the Alan Moore graphic novel, V for Vendetta . Set in a post-apocalyptic and dystopian version of Britain, a lone terrorist named V (dressed in a Guy Fawkes mask) stands against the fascist state, seeding anarchy to topple the totalitarian regime and take revenge against his former captors. In V for Vendetta , Moore explores themes of anarchism, fascism and identity, with the story itself featuring a densely packed narrative and multiple plotlines (the latter displayed prominently in Watchman ). The comic was adapted into a film in 2005, directed by James McTeigue, written by The Wachowskis and starring Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman.

The Setup (Comic and Movie):

Following a nuclear holocaust, devastating most of the world, the fascist Norsefire party has risen to prominence, turning the United Kingdom into a police state. Only a mysterious individual named "V" stands against the party, who aims to trigger an elaborate plan to topple the government and bring democracy back to the people.


The Breakdown:

The first chapters of V for Vendetta appeared in the British anthology comic, Warrior between 1982 and 1985. When Warrior was cancelled in 1985, a number of other publishers approached writer Alan Moore and artist David Lloyd to let them publish and complete the story. In 1988, DC Comics released a 10 issue series that reprinted the Warrior stories, followed by new material that brought the story to completion. V for Vendetta was later reprinted as a trade paperback under DC's Vertigo imprint. The idea for V for Vendetta began when Warrior editor Dez Skinn wanted Moore to create a dark mystery comic strip in the style of the Marvel UK Night Raven character. Initial discussions centred on a masked vigilante set in the US in the 1930s, before moving to a then future Britain, with a heroic anarchist as the protagonist. The character's identity would remain a mystery, only referred to as "V" and his mission duel natured by seeking revenge against his former jailers by destabilising the dictatorship. Lloyd came up with the idea of the Guy Fawkes mask, thereby invoking the Gunpowder Plot (a thematic element present throughout the story).

V for Vendetta opens up on Guy Fawkes Night in 1997 London, where a financially destitute 16-year-old Evey Hammond runs afoul of the secret police known as "The Finger." As they prepare to sexually assault her, Evey is rescued by V, a cloaked man wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, who kills the Fingerrmen and blows up the House of Parliament. V takes Evey to the "Shadow Gallery", his underground lair, where she tells him her life’s story. Meanwhile, Eric Finch, the head of the regular police force, investigates V’s terrorist activities, including the psychological torture of radio propagandist Lewis Prothero, the forced suicide of a paedophile priest and the murder of Dr Delia Surridge (a former lover of Finch). Finch discovers a connection between the targets: they all worked at the Larkhill resettlement camp, where it's revealed through Surridge's diary that V was a former inmate and victim of Surridge's experiments, who destroyed and fled the camp (having been horribly disfigured in a fire) and is now eliminating the former officers of the camp. Finch reports his findings to Adam Susan, the reclusive government leader, who suspects that V is planning a much larger attack.

Several months later, V breaks into Jordan Tower to broadcast a speech urging the people to resist the government, killing Roger Dascombe, the head of the Norsefire propaganda department. Evey has moved on with her life, beginning a relationship with an older man named Gordon, however, Gordon is murdered by Scottish gangster Ally Harper. Evey tries to get revenge by interrupting a meeting between Harper and new head of the Finger, Peter Creedy (who is trying to buy support for a coup d'état). Evey tries to shoot Harper, but is suddenly captured and imprisoned. In the midst of interrogation and torture, Evey finds an old letter from an actress, Valerie Page, who was executed for being a lesbian, which inspires Evey’s resolve. When the interrogator gives Evey a choice between collaboration or death, Evey refuses to collaborate and much to her surprise, is released. The imprisonment is revealed to be a hoax constructed by V so that Evey could experience a similar ordeal to the events that shaped him at Larkhill. Initially angry, she soon forgives him, understanding that he was only mentally preparing her for the events ahead. V divulges that he has hacked into the government computer system, Fate and has been emotionally manipulating Susan, who has formed a bizarre romantic attachment to the computer.

The following 5th November, V destroys the Post Office Tower and cripples the three government agencies of the Eye, the Ear, and the Mouth. Creedy violently suppresses the revolutionary attitude V has inspired amongst the public, while V admits to Evey that he still hasn't completed his mission of a functional anarchistic society. Finch travels to the abandoned Larkhill facility and takes LSD to put himself in the mind of a prisoner, to give him an understanding of V’s experiences. Returning to London, Finch deduces that V’s hideout is inside the derelict Victoria Station. Finch confronts V, with the resulting brawl ending in V’s death. Evey takes up V’s cause, dressing as him and destroys 10 Downing Street by blowing up an underground train containing V’s body. The government falls apart as the top officials kill each other, squabbling for power and Susan is killed during a public parade. Evey abducts Dominic Stone, Finch's protégé to train him as her successor, while Finch himself stumbles down an abandoned motorway, observing the chaos.

The film adaptation streamlines the narrative by removing a number of subplots and characters. For instance, Roger Almond, the head of the Finger and his wife Rosemary do not appear in the movie. Instead, Peter Creedy, who in the comic becomes Almond’s replacement after his death, is already the head of the secret police. Subsequently, Susan's death in the comic at the hands of Rosemary does not occur. Evey Hammond in the comic is a 16-year-old factory worker, while in the movie, she is a twentysomething woman who works for the British Television Network. The character of Adam Susan becomes Adam Sutler in the film (portrayed by John Hurt) and is executed by Creedy, having made a deal with V for V’s surrender in exchange for Sutler's death. Sutler's romantic attachment to the Fate computer is also removed. V dies in a battle between Creedy and his men and it is the Houses of Parliament that is destroyed during the film's climax (instead of at the beginning). Evey and Gordon do not begin a relationship as the movie version of Gordon is gay and is later executed by the government. Finch does not embark on an LSD fuelled trip to Larkhill and is recast as a reluctant hero, whose faith in the Norsefire party is slowly eroded to the point where he allows Evey to destroy Parliament, with V’s body on the train.


V for Vendetta is an engrossing tale of anarchy versus fascism and the story of a corrupt government against a singular individual. The reader never finds out who V really is and very little is revealed about his past. Moore envisioned V as an enigma, whose actions ought to be questioned. There are clear parallels between the Norsefire regime and the Nazi party, both organisations ruling through fear and are highly xenophobic (the film offers a number of visual similarities). The various government organisations engage in a constant power struggle and yet all obey the same leader. There is also the irony of V using violent means to take down a violent tyranny in order to achieve a free society. As with most adaptations of his work, Moore distanced himself from the film of V for Vendetta after Warner Bros. failed to retract a statement about Moore’s supposed endorsement of the movie. Moore also condemned the adaptation for removing the key theme of fascism versus anarchism and replacing it with liberalism versus neoconservatism, feeling that it completely changed the narrative of his original story. The use of the Guy Fawkes mask in V for Vendetta was adopted by the hacker group, Anonymous and has seen widespread use in demonstrations across the world. V for Vendetta is a must read, with many thought-provoking themes and a richly packed narrative. It's definitely one for the collection, along with the movie that, while different, offers a similarly powerful story.

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