V for Vendetta
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
- This article is about the comic book series. For the film, see V for Vendetta (film).
V for Vendetta is a ten-issue comic book series written by Alan Moore and illustrated mostly by David Lloyd, set in a dystopian future United Kingdom imagined from the 1980s about the 1990s. A mysterious anarchist named "V" works to destroy the totalitarian government, profoundly affecting the people he encounters.
The series is set in a near-future Britain after a limited nuclear war, which has left much of the world destroyed. In this future, an extreme fascist party called Norsefire has arisen and is now the ruling power. "V", an anarchist revolutionary dressed in a Guy Fawkes mask, begins an elaborate, violent, and theatrical campaign to bring down the government.
On November 5, 1997 in London a mysterious cloaked figure wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, and calling himself "V", rescues a young woman, Evey Hammond, from a gang of secret police officers (known as Fingermen) who intend to rape and kill her. After dispatching most of the Fingermen, V heads to a rooftop with Evey and detonates a bomb at Parliament. V takes Evey to his secret underground lair, which he calls "The Shadow Gallery". Evey tells V her life story, describing the nuclear war of the late 1980s that, while it did not directly involve the UK, triggered a global social-economic catastrophe, indirectly resulting in economic collapse and borderline starvation. This eventually led to the fascist coup d'état in Great Britain, under the promise of restoring order. In order to smooth over their transition to power, the fascists scapegoated various "undesirable" groups - homosexuals, foreign immigrants, and left-wing liberals - ultimately killing millions of them in concentration camps. Evey's own father was rounded up as a political prisoner because he had once belonged to a left-wing student group, and she never saw him again.
The task of investigating V's bombing falls to Eric Finch, the head of The Nose — the regular police force — and an experienced investigator who serves the government out of dedication to his job rather than from political conviction. Through him, readers meet other figures in the Party, including the Leader, Adam Susan, a recluse who is obsessed with the government's computer system, Fate; Dominic Stone, Finch's partner; Derek Almond, head of The Finger -- the secret police force; Conrad Heyer, head of The Eye-- the visual surveillance branch; Brian Etheridge, head of The Ear -- the audio surveillance branch; and Roger Dascombe, in charge of The Mouth-- the branch in charge of broadcasting propaganda.
After destroying the Houses of Parliament, V confronts three other Party figures to accuse them of, and execute them for, past atrocities: Lewis Prothero, the propaganda broadcaster who serves as the Voice of Fate; Bishop Anthony Lilliman, a paedophile priest who represents the Party in the clergy; and Delia Surridge, an apolitical doctor who once had a relationship with Finch. V drives Prothero insane after incinerating his prized doll collection before his eyes; he kills Lilliman by forcing him to consume a cyanide-laced communion wafer; and Dr. Surridge dies from a lethal injection (however, because Surridge had expressed remorse for her previous actions, she experiences a painless death). By the time V kills Surridge, Finch has discovered that all of V's victims worked at a concentration camp near the village of Larkhill, and alerts Derek Almond to V's plans. Almond surprises V attempting to escape from Surridge's home. Unfortunately for Almond, he had forgotten to reload his gun after having cleaned it earlier that same night, and V kills him.
Finch begins to read a diary kept by Dr. Surridge discovered at her home. It reveals all of the victims' previous histories with V during his time as an inmate at the Larkhill camp. V was an involuntary victim of a medical experiment run by Dr. Surridge in which he was given hormonal injections with a drug called Batch 5. Eventually V, known to the camp's staff as the "Man from Room Five", began tending a garden with camp commander Prothero's approval, using related chemicals to later break out of the camp while attacking camp guards with homemade mustard gas and napalm. V, the only prisoner to have survived the death camp, chose to eliminate its surviving officers to prevent the government from discovering his true identity. Finch notes that while V made sure Surridge's diary was easy to find, he had also ripped out pages that may have contained information about his identity.
Four months later, V breaks into Jordan Tower, the home of the Mouth, to broadcast a speech that calls on the people to take charge of their own lives. He escapes by forcing Roger Dascombe into one of his Fawkes costumes; the police then gun Dascombe down. Finch, in going over the crime scene, is introduced to Peter Creedy, a petty criminal replacing Almond as head of the Finger. Creedy blithlely dismisses V, whom Finch has come to respect, and makes a crude remark about Dr. Surridge, provoking Finch to strike him. Following the incident, the Leader sends Finch on a forced vacation.
Evey has developed a strong attachment to V, but has begun to challenge his methods. After a confrontation in the Shadow Gallery, she finds herself abandoned on a street, unable to find V. She is taken in by Gordon, a petty criminal with whom she becomes romantically involved, and they cross paths unknowingly with Derek Almond's widow, Rose; after the deaths of her husband and Dascombe (with whom she had been forced into a relationship for financial reasons), Rose is forced to work as a burlesque dancer, and consequently grows to hate the Party. Creedy begins organizing a private militia, hoping to use V's destabilization of the Party to mount a coup against the Leader.
When the Scottish gangster, Alistair Harper, murders Gordon, Evey attempts to kill him, but is abducted and accused of attempting to murder Creedy as he was meeting with Harper. In her cell, between multiple bouts of interrogation and torture, Evey finds a letter from an inmate named Valerie, an actress who was imprisoned for being a lesbian. Evey's interrogator finally gives her a choice of collaboration or death; inspired by Valerie's courage and quiet defiance, she refuses to give in, and is told that she is free. Evey learns that her imprisonment was a hoax constructed by V designed to put her through an ordeal similar to the one that shaped him. He reveals that Valerie was another Larkhill prisoner, who died in the cell next to his; the letter that Evey read is the same one that Valerie had passed on to V. Evey's anger finally gives way to acceptance of her identity.
The following November, exactly one year after the Parliament bombing, V destroys the Post Office Tower and Jordan Tower, killing Etheridge and effectively shutting down the Eye, the Ear and the Mouth. The subsequent lack of government surveillance causes a wave of violence and hedonism that is violently suppressed by Creedy and Harper's street gangs. Meanwhile, V notes to Evey that he has not yet achieved the land of Do-as-You-Please, a functional anarchistic society, and considers the current situation an interim period of mere chaos in the Land of Take-What-You-Want. Dominic realizes that V has had access to the Fate computer since the very beginning, explaining his foresight; this news accelerates Susan's descent into insanity.
Finch travels to the abandoned site of Larkhill, where he takes LSD. His hallucinations show him his past life, where he was the lover of a black woman who was sent to the concentration camps for her race. His hallucinations also have him act as a prisoner of Larkhill who is soon freed, like V, giving him an intuitive understanding of him. Returning to London he deduces that V's lair is inside the abandoned Victoria Station. V confronts Finch as the latter enters the station, and lets Finch shoot him. The mortally wounded V returns to the Shadow Gallery and dies in Evey's arms. Evey considers unmasking V, but decides not to; instead, she assumes his identity, donning one of his spare costumes.
Meanwhile, Creedy pressures the Leader to appear in public, in an attempt to usurp control of the government. As the Leader's car drives past during a parade, Rose Almond assassinates him. Creedy tries to take his place, but Harper, bribed by Conrad Heyer's wife Helen, kills him. V sends a surveillance tape to Heyer of Helen and Harper having sex. He responds by beating Harper to death with a wrench, but not before Harper wounds him with a razor. His wife finds him but refuses to get medical help, leaving him to bleed to death while placing a closed-circuit camcorder in front of Heyer; allowing him to witness his own exsanguinations on a nearby television. This leaves the key Party officials all dead; only Finch survives, who soon leaves after he comes to terms with his own dissatisfaction with the Party.
Evey appears to a crowd as V, announcing the destruction of Downing Street the following day and telling the crowd they must "...choose what comes next. Lives of your own, or a return to chains", whereupon a general insurrection begins. Dominic, struck on the head by a stone, loses consciousness as he runs for safety, seeing Evey disguised as V before he passes out. Evey destroys 10 Downing Street by giving V a Viking funeral with an explosive-laden Underground train containing his body, sent to detonate beneath the desired location. Dominic awakens in the Shadow Gallery, as Evey dressed in her mentor's Guy Fawkes costume, introduces herself as V, apparently to train Dominic as her successor. As night falls, Finch observes the chaos raging in the city and encounters Helen Heyer, who has taken the company of local homeless people for survival after her car was turned over and her supplies stolen. When they recognize each other, Helen embraces Finch, saying they could raise a small army and restore order. Finch silently pushes Helen away and she angrily responds with a torrent of homophobic slurs. He leaves her and the tramps to climb down an embankment onto an abandoned motorway and sees a sign reading "Hatfield and The North". The final panel shows Finch walking down the deserted motorway, all the streetlamps dark.