In recent years, I've had several bad incidents of going back and re-reading old favorite stories (especially comics) and finding that they don't hold up well. The worst was the Byrne/Claremont X-Men (whose dialog now comes across as painfully trite), but it's happened more than a few times. So it was with some trepidation that I decided to re-read V for Vendetta. I'm happy to say that it holds up -- this is still my favorite graphic novel ever. I know that some people disagree, and I can see reasons why, but something in this book speaks to me with great power, on a variety of levels.
I find the characters and story painfully compelling. It's not pretty: this is a tale of broken people in a broken world. And it's rather odd having a central character who is persistently a mystery throughout, defined by his own oblique nature and style. But the tale has remarkable elegance, a structure as neat as that of Watchmen but far subtler, pulling the stories of several related characters together into a mat that weaves tighter and tighter as the story progresses.
The political message is just as germane as it was when the story was started 20 years ago, perhaps moreso; I may not wholly agree with it, but it's still a message worth considering. In the symphony of political expression, the instrument of anarchy is often dismissed casually, with scarcely a nod -- this contrasts that option against its opposite number of fascism. It's a one-sided and idealistic presentation, but no less intriguing for all that.
And then there's the heart of the book, a stretch that sends chills down my spine every time I read it. I can't discuss it in detail without spoilers for both the book and Masonry, but suffice it to say that Alan Moore demonstrates here (a decade before From Hell) an understanding of transformative experiences that goes beyond anything else I've ever read. I look at this story and see in it the frightening ideal that Masonic ritual is a pale shadow of.
I await the movie nervously. I am sadder than sad that it has been postponed -- the original opening date of Nov. 5, 2005 was the most karmically appropriate date conceivable, and it somehow seems like bad luck that the chance is going to be lost. It is certain that the movie will have to strip the story down and lose a number of the side-plots if it's going to work -- it's simply too big to fit into two hours otherwise. And the buzz is not wholly encouraging. Still, the trailers I've seen are so very *right* that I hold out some hope that they're going to be true to the spirit of the story.
Regardless of that, though, it's a book worth reading -- my personal definition of A-level work. It's just been rereleased in trade paperback, so it's easy to get, and I commend it highly. I've promised to loan my copy to a couple of people; once they're done with it, I can pass it around further if there is interest...