It’s a little strange that V for Vendetta has had such a resurgence in popularity today given that its terrorist hero is prone to saying things like “Violence can be used for good.” Set in the 1990s, its relevance today is unsettling, tackling subjects like freedom, tyranny, and fascism. Set in a totalitarian Britain that pairs the dystopian state of George Orwell’s 1984 with the brutality of Nazi Germany, it makes heroes out of the treasonous by calling up our repulsion for historical fascist atrocities, but also by relying on us to recognize how fascism can inch into everyday life in the name of security.
The story is set following a nuclear conflict which left the nation intact but badly bruised. Mirroring Hitler’s ascent over the ashes of the Weimar Republic, the Norsefire party seizes power in Britain and restores order at a horrible price. That is, until a stylish terrorist in a Guy Fawkes mask codenamed “V” appears on the scene to tear the new order down.
V, a scarred survivor of the worst of the internment camps formed by the fascists, is undeniably insane, but he has the spirit of a poet and the mind of a genius hidden behind his Guy Fawkes mask. He singlehandedly leads a campaign of terrorism against the corrupt powers-that-be, and there are several dazzling passages as “V” explores both V’s perspective on life and his history as well as the more sordid characters who comprise England’s new corrupt power structure. Along with his reluctant accomplish Evey (a 16 year old who is introduced to us as a struggling prostitute) he terrorizes and inspires the people of Britain to rise up and fight for their freedom.
Like a lot of people, my introduction to this work was through the movie. While the movie and graphic novel differ in some respects (the character of Evey for example) the tone remains fundamentally the same and the graphic novel has an eerie tone that the movie tried to mimic. Even if you didn’t like the movie, this book is worth picking up