Monday, December 5, 2011

Alan Moore and David Lloyd: V for Vendetta

Picked this up at Powell's, figuring it was time I started giving myself more than a nodding acquaintance with some of the English language graphic novel landmarks.  I expected great things from this.

And I have to say, I was a bit disappointed.

Art:  I like the mostly outline-less heavy black art.  It has something of a German expressionist woodcut feel to it.  I hate the pastel colorings, though.  It's an interesting idea, but has nothing at all to add to this particular story.  (I know that it was originally published in b&w and it was the American reprint that added the colors, but it was Lloyd himself who did them:  I don't blame Vertigo.)

Story:  A classic, to be sure, with that familiar literate pithy excoriating Moore writing.  But to be honest, as a script it got a little talky in the last third, not to mention preachy.  The ideas were pretty clear already, and V eventually goes from being a charismatic enigma to an annoying blowhard.  (I grant that part of this may be Moore's intention.  But I doubt all of it is.)

Overall:  This suffers from a known issue with ambitious graphic novels where the script and art are by different parties:  both are trying to raise the stakes independently, and they do that by each honing their individual craft, and in the process destroying a lot of the comics-ness of the thing.  (I think McCloud talks about this, although not w/r/t this title.)  That is, Moore's writing is brilliant but way too much for the medium - too many words, too much literary posturing.  I have fewer issues with Lloyd's art (color aside), but I feel like he's trying to cram so many panels into each page to keep up with Moore's monologues that the stories can't really get going in a comics way.  Thus, script and art are independently quite fine, but for me at least don't really fuse together in the way that the best comics do.

But then again I'm probably spoiled by manga.  I mean, I guess I was expecting this to be, according to the hype, one of the most sophisticated, complex, and adult comics of all time.  But there are a half-dozen things running in Morning alone right now that beat it on those counts.


Matt said...

I think you are spoiled by manga here, and also by being a grown-up. I know that there were many books I found mind-blowingly profound and important as a teen just because they were my first contact with certain ideas or images. Now that I'm older and those ideas/images are a part of me, the books don't have anything to offer me any more. I think that V would have been in that category if I'd read it at a younger age. As it is, I read it in my twenties (after already encountering the ideas in it in other ways) and my reaction was quite similar to yours.

I recommend you check out Watchmen next. That is one that I think DOES live up to the hype.

Tanuki said...

Yeah, Watchmen is the real deal. I actually read that back in college, round about when it was new, and it blew me away. That (and Elfquest, I'll admit it) were the first comics I read seriously - I never went through a superhero comics phase as a kid.

Anyway, Watchmen was a foundational text in my dorm - we'd go around quoting Rorschach to each other. And I went back to the comic (exsqueeze me, Graphic Novel) a couple of years ago, when the movie came out, and it didn't disappoint.

Have you read others of Moore's work? I have my eye on From Hell next.

Matt said...

I read From Hell and remember being impressed with it as an achievement (although more for the texture and craft than for serious novelistic world-depth, if you know what I mean) but kind of drained and sickened by, you know, Jack the Ripper.

As for other Moore stuff, I really love and recommend The League of Etc., especially volumes 1 and 2. I read the Killing Joke and a couple Tom Strong books, and both of those were... fine. I think that TKJ might suffer from V syndrome a bit, because by the time I read it I was already familiar with who knows how many versions/retcons/etc. of the Joker, including "serious" ones -- no doubt it was more amazing at the time it was released.