V for Vendetta: A Retrospective (Part Two)
The original release format for V for Vendetta was a ten issue comic book series, published between 1982 and 1989. The wait for the series to tell its full tale was a long one, but also a rewarding journey. Fast forward to the present day where the book has seen numerous editions and reprints, and with the release of a collected edition the books format changed slightly; the ten issues were now broken down in to three separate books, akin to individual volumes. The decision to split V for Vendetta into a three part format was not made in order for the story to be easier to follow, instead it was a stylistic choice that better complemented the complete story. Each part focuses on a specific element of Alan Moore’s tale, elements that blanket each section of their respected book. Book one, titled ‘Europe after the Reign’ (and the focus of Part One of the retrospective) is very much about the ideology that Moore wishes to convey. It is a foundation that has the purpose of teaching the reader what sort of world V for Vendetta is set in. Book two, ‘This Vicious Cabaret’, is where Moore and David Lloyd introduce the use of imagery into the storytelling. Due to the ethereal nature of this section, the story feels more placid even though the powerful moments are greater than those of book one.
As book two begins, there is a real sense of change in the status quo. V, having undermined the Norsefire governments control, provides a play on current events through song, giving a brief overview of the state of certain characters.
The depiction of V using a magic trick to make a rabbit disappear, in which Evey shows sadness at the fact that it has gone, symbolises what Evey herself is going through. V questions Evey’s desire for the rabbit to return, asking her whether the rabbit is content in its new surroundings, but V’s hand is forced and he brings the rabbit back. Much like Evey being content with her earlier life despite it not being her choice, the rabbit is then brought back but its cage is now absent. This signifies that while the rabbit (Evey) has found a form of freedom, she is now without a home in both a literal and allegorical sense. V as a beacon of freedom has only given Evey a bumper, an illusion in a sense as to how liberated she really is. The shedding of the cage is not necessarily important, as it is a form of running as opposed to standing for what she truly believes in.
As ‘This Vicious Cabaret’ continues on, the premise of the book acts as a transitional period. With book one acting as a catalyst for future events, book two weighs up the cost. The Norsefire government is looking all the more weak, and it is through the depiction of V’s temporary takeover of Jordan tower, the HQ for the ‘Mouth’, that you are given a real view of V’s personal thoughts on the way that the nation has behaved. Like many of the previous moments in V for Vendetta, those panels come across as a commentary from Alan Moore. His disdain, there for everyone to see, for how society rues the problems surrounding the country’s predicament, yet it was their votes and choices that granted Norsefire a stance of power. Alan Moore writes these scenes with conviction, with V spurting quotes such as “It was you! You who appointed these people! You who gave them the power to make your decisions for you!” At the time of the book’s writing, in 1980s Britain, it is hard not to think of the hatred aimed at Margaret Thatcher and her regime, and it is with that and the commentary from Moore, that a feeling of disgust in which he has for the hypocritical complainers. V’s dialogue, ever the dramatist, is patronising to the point of it treating the audience as children. His opening line for the broadcast is “Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…” A well known ad-lib from the children’s radio programme ‘Listen with Mother’.
The significant set up of such a standout section of the graphic novel is that V uses a public device, beating the government with their own stick and utilising the powerful media division to belittle those who show support, regardless of whether they be willing or reluctant. It is a very meta moment, with V acting as Alan Moore’s spokesperson for non-conformity. Just as V expresses disgust towards the fictional public, Moore displays the same distaste for the British public. Those panels in particular emit one of the many overarching messages that V for Vendetta wishes to deliver. To set in motion a change of perception, in reality, for the reader.
Though these sections are lasting, and continue to wreak consequence throughout the rest of the story, it is the conclusion to V’s Jordan Tower takeover that wields the most bite. As the broadcast ends, the police force raid the tower and seemingly kill V. However upon inspection of the body, it is revealed that a dressed up Roger Dascombe was the true victim. Dascombe, the eccentric and indulgent member of the ‘Mouth’s’ staff who never usually felt repercussions, is now dead. Although in the grand scheme of things, it is a small kill that racks up the ever growing body-count, but the message of this specific character is used to demonstrate the loss of the power that the ‘Mouth’ has over the people. In a sense, Roger Dascombe was more of a plot point, in both his position in the Norsefire government’s heirarchy and in his newest relationship with Rosemary Almond.
Rosemary’s importance to the story is ever prominent in ‘This Vicious Cabaret’. Her prominence stems from the death of her abusive husband, Derek Almond. A man, and leader of the ‘Finger’, killed by V in book one. Derek Almond’s death is almost in line with Evey’s liberation via V in ‘Europe after the Reign’, with Rosemary freed from Almond’s abuse due to his death. However, Derek Almond’s death brings about a new leader of the ‘Finger’, named Peter Creedy. Creedy is a harsher man than Almond. Despite Creedy not directly affecting Rosemary, he is a cause of further despair for her. Creedy plays into the role of the mythological creature, a hydra. Just as the ‘Finger’ loses a head, it spouts another only this time more deadly. Creedy’s unapologetic methods leads to the death of Roger Dascombe, a man Rosemary had recently become involved with. After this it becomes strikingly obvious that she has not escaped the fear and caged mentality that is forced upon her.
A central setting for book two was less London and the city, but instead the dank streets and suburbs where small-time gangsters and corrupt police could be found. The story follows Evey as she sets out on her own after V has deserted her, visiting a cabaret club with her new friend Gordon. At face value the cabaret club can be looked at as a place of entertainment for many of the characters, but the cabaret club is used to depict the world at large. It is full of vast personalities and contrasting sides, but also featuring all the prominent promiscuous activities that may be found at a normal cabaret club. The women dancing are nameless, and faceless for the most part. They represent the public at large. There to entertain the corrupt government in power, placed on a pedestal and judged by those who watch them. The crowd, full of men such as Peter Creedy, frolic and drink, amusing themselves at the sight of these faceless people degrading themselves for simple pleasures.
Evey, Gordon and Rosemary’s presence at the cabaret club signifies how others can be dragged into this world, very much aware of the trappings found amongst it but unable or unwilling to act on that awareness. Evey notices Rosemary across the room, and after a brief pondering as to why she sits alone, she presumes that a friend has arrived to keep her company. The reality of it is that Rose’s card has been declined and has been asked to leave the club. The club’s symbolism is central here as the atmosphere provides a barrier in Evey fully understanding Rose’s predicament. She can only look on and assume, much like the real world, where the good people assume that everything is okay from afar. Evey is happy in her surroundings with Gordon, oblivious to another person’s plight.
Sadly Evey’s comfort is short lived, and Gordon is murdered. Now out for revenge, Evey is only stopped in her tracks as she is captured and sent away to a prison. Her situation leaves her broken, and her dialogue synchronises with her imprisonment; simple, short and devoid of emotion or personality. The cell is the embodiment of her life, being fed through the small aperture of the prison cell, Evey’s only company lies with the rat who frequents the hole in the wall. Subdued by the lack of freedom awarded to her, she no longer has the ability to express. Alan Moore uses this to display the freedom that we lose when oppressed and how it affects us as a natural human being. The shaving of Evey’s hair is a sign of this, as it is a natural part of being human, yet here, Evey has no control over who she is and the degrading nature of this imagery provides a comparison to how much independence she has lost.
The most important aspect of Evey’s imprisonment is in how it becomes an experience for her. No matter how traumatic or crippling, Evey must learn to stand up for what little humanity she has left. In the prison cell beside her, a woman by the name of Valerie begins to pass notes to her, telling the story of her past life before confinement. Within those small descriptions of a finer life, Valerie expresses her love for Evey. Never having known her truly, she explains that integrity it is the most important part of being human, claiming “It is the vest last inch of us… but within that inch we are free.” As Evey continues to read the small notes delivered to her from Valerie, she realises one essential lesson that Valerie herself has learned. The lesson in how no matter how much the cell knows her, it knows not of that final inch.
Through Evey realising what true freedom is, she is able to combat the isolated nature of her confinement. Furthermore, it is in Evey’s reluctance to adhere to the forceful requests of her captors that results in her stubbornly stating “thank you… But I’d rather die behind the chemical sheds.” The growth that Evey has felt has given her an epiphany, as she finally realises what true free-will and choice truly mean; not letting the oppressor break your resolve, and standing up for what you believe in. David Lloyd’s depiction of Evey is haunting in nature. The once beautiful complexion found in her naturally young face is now replaced by a gaunt, tired and emaciated series of facial expressions. Despite the loss of everything Evey held dear to her; her father, her mother and her human rights, it is in a small section of the book that Evey learns true acceptance for who she is.
In truth, however, Evey’s confinement was attributed to a fake setup by V, who has imprisoned her in a roleplay environment in order to show her what he believes in and what he is fighting for. V’s opening line of “welcome home” as Evey enters the Shadow Gallery after becoming free is a reference to her standing in the rightful place where she can live without fear. The Shadow Gallery epitomises the society of old and through Evey undergoing the persecution, her realisation is that so much has been removed from society’s right to live freely. The anger that Evey feels towards V is unlimited, rejecting claims of V’s love for her, but V explains what Evey already knows; “You were already in a prison. You’ve been in a prison all your life.” The final moments of ‘This Vicious Cabaret’ are substantial moments, as Evey cements her transition from the current world, the world without free-will, and into a world that V wishes to guide her.
Keep checking back for the third part of the retrospective, focusing on book three ‘The Land of Do-As-You-Please’ in the coming days.