Through the help of Goodreads, I’ve vowed to read 100 books in 2013. I’ll really read anything that interests me, but I am making it a point to work my way through acclaimed/culturally important texts. Acclaimed authors I haven’t read before, much hyped books, and the source materials for movies that I enjoyed.
That is how I ended up in possession of graphic novels V for Vendetta and Wanted.
I have wanted to read V for Vendetta for a very, very long time. Ever since I saw and enjoyed the 2005 movie adaptation. I had always figured it would be the first graphic novel I ever read. Well, it lost out to the adaptation of Richard Matheson’s Hell House, and then I proceeded to read all of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman stuff and I never forgot about V, but it just kept getting pushed back for impulse picks and Spanish/Latin American magic realism novels. V for Vendetta was picked up not as a risky book, but as a sure thing, something I could not wait to dive into and consume. My average reading time for a graphic novel is about 12 hours. It was much, much longer for V for Vendetta, and not in a good way.
How did I loathe thee? Let me count the ways:
- THE ART: I hated the artwork in this. In some of the Sandman novels, I have preferred certain styles over others, but never hated them. The art in V seriously detracted from the story for me, as I was left unable to tell the brunette male characters apart. There weren’t enough women in the comic for me to have that problem with.
- IT’S TEDIOUS: Even several Aleister Crowley references couldn’t keep the plot from dragging, and occasionally being confusing.
- THE CHARACTERS SUCK: V has characterization, they try to give Evie some characterization but they ultimately failed, making most of the characters indistinguishable in dialogue and action, as well as art.
And yet, even at my most frustrated and annoyed, the book has intellectual merit. I can see why it’s frequently used in classes on graphic novels, it raises just as many (if not more… and better) questions about humanity as books like Lord of the Flies. It has intellectual merit! I was discussing some of the questions with my best friend while I was reading, like is V an actual terrorist, or is he just labeled as one because the government needs to control people’s lives? When, if ever, is violence justified? Things like that.
The strongest scenes in the book are the ones that were adapted directly to the movie (Valerie’s story, Evie’s imprisonment, etc), and I think the movie’s addition of the St. Mary’s virus really enhanced the story and provided a decent back story for the totalitarian government. Changing the character of V from a hard anarchist to someone wanting to free the people from the totalitarian government made him a lot more accessible to me, though that characterization wasn’t a problem for me. I don’t have to agree with anarchist principals to enjoy characters who are anarchists. Changing Evie’s age and occupation made a lot more sense for a cinematic release (otherwise the media focus would have been (Actress) Plays Child Prostitute!). And if we’re being fair, I had a hard time keeping some of the male characters straight in the movie, but the cast seemed significantly parred down from the books.
It’s an unpopular opinion, but V for Vendetta was just much more accessible and enjoyable as a movie.
Speaking of accessible movie adaptations… let’s talk about Wanted.
Wanted was everything I didn’t know I wanted in an action movie, and everything I didn’t know I didn’t want in a comic. The movie is “loosely based” on the comics, so I wasn’t so sure what to expect, but honestly even with the “loosely” warning, I have No Clue how they got from point A to point B.
Here are the things that are similar:
- There’s a character named “Wesley “
- There’s a character named “Fox”
- There’s an organization that’s called “The Fraternity”
- Wesley hates his job, his girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend, and the dad he never new dies and suddenly he’s recruited by this organization.
- There’s definitely some “above the law” stuff happening, but in a really different way…
- That’s it.
The first few scenes/panels match up almost perfectly, and then the road forks and one of them goes down “Willingly Suspend Your Disbelief Boulevard” and the other takes you into a back alley, punches you in the face, and runs off with your lunch money. Actually, given the context of the book, that is way, way to mild a scenario.
In the original, literary incarnation of Wanted, Eminem is sad with his office job, then Ron Jeremy dies, and then Halle Berry shows up and introduces our unhappy white rapper to the world of the Fraternity, which is not a group of morally-questionable assassins, but an organization of super villains (We happen to be spending our time with the North American chapter of this group). While the movie was a fast-paced story about Mr. Tumnus learning to be an assassin and being unknowingly manipulated by a shady system, the comic book is about what happens after superheros are vanquished, the collective public’s memory has been wiped, and super villains organize to just… have fun doing whatever uncouth things they want? And then another bad guy comes in and kills a bunch of them and suddenly everyone is wanted for all the raping and murdering and dimension hopping they’ve been doing, because their diplomatic immunity has run out? Much like an episode of Entourage, the set up for a plot and conflict is there, but then they opt not to go anywhere with that. This is exactly what happens in the comic. The stakes are suddenly that the fraternity has been exposed while someone makes a power play, and in addition to hunting down the guy responsible for shaking up the status quo, they authorities are now on their tales. But that’s all resolved in a few pages, and everything goes back to normal.
The movie at least was fun, and I didn’t feel the need to scrub myself clean from all the gross that was piled on. At least the art was enjoyable.
The kicker in all of this is that I didn’t like Wanted (aside from the art) but I actually did like it better than V for Vendetta even though it raised a grand total of zero intellectual questions, and I like those things.
I’ve always said that I’m an adaptation purist. I think that when someone is adapting another work to film, it is their responsibility to stay as true to the source material as possible. Wanted the movie ended up being enough of a different story that a few name/opening sequence tweaks would have made it completely unrecognizable from the comic, so I’m not sure why they chose to have it based off of anything.
Still, both of these source materials make me rethink that unwavering stance of mine.