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Voila! In view humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the "vox populi" now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin, van guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition! The only verdict is vengeance. No doubt this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply say that it is my very good honor to meet you, and you may call me V.
~ V introducing himself to Evey and his most famous quote.
V is the titular protagonist of the dystopian graphic novel V for Vendetta and its 2005 film adaptation of the same name. He was deliberately created to be a character that could be viewed either as a hero or villain depending on the personal feelings of the reader/viewer: which Moore believed was an important aspect of the story he was trying to tell.
To many, V is an incredibly dangerous but ultimately heroic freedom-fighter and protagonist, fighting to free the world from the oppression of the fascist and tyrannical Norsefire organization (who parallel in many ways the Nazi Party at the height of their power): yet V, in the original comic, was more of a terrorist anarchist using far more brutal means.
Very little is known about V, with one of the exceptions being he has a background in the military. Early in his life, V was captured and put in Larkhill retirement camp in room V (probably how he got his name) where he is experimented on and tortured. While there, the woman held captive in the cell next to his, Valerie Page, had written her life story on toilet paper about how she was captured and tortured for being a lesbian, and passes the message through the wall connecting theirs. She was executed later. This broke V, and he burnt down the camp and escaped, but not before getting badly burnt himself in the process. It is implied that the experiments also had an effect on his mind.
At the beginning of the graphic novel, V comes to save Evey Hammond after she is nearly beaten and raped by three of Norsefire's "fingermen". Taking her into his care in The Shadow Gallery, V then goes after and captures Lewis Prothero, the former commandant of the camp and the voice for Norsefire's computer FATE, and drives him insane. He later seeks out the sadistic pedophile Bishop Anthony Lilliman and, with Evey's help, entraps him and forces him to consume a cyanide-laced communion wafer. Finally, he seeks out Delia Surridge and, because she was remorseful for her actions, gives her a peaceful death via lethal injection.
It is shown that he has been systematically killing all those involved at Larkhill with the exception of Prothero who remains incurably insane. He also broadcasts a message over the nation's communications with the declaration that every citizen is at fault for permitting the Norsefire government to step in.
Over time, he begins to groom Evey into becoming a successor after initially throwing her out for questioning him if he could be her father or not. However, his method of doing so entails kidnapping her while disguised as Norsefire agents and torturing her for information on the threat of death. When Evey chooses to die over revealing anything or pledging loyalty to Norsefire, V reveals himself and declares her to now be closer to understanding true freedom. Despite her initial hesitation, Evey ultimately dons a Guy Fawkes mask and cloak as his ally.
In the underground tunnel, V prepares a subway train full of explosives to crash upon his future command. This train is discovered by Detective Eric Finch, who manages to shoot and fatally wound V. In his final words, V requests that Evey continue on and that she give him a "Viking funeral". Understanding, Evey places V's still masked and cloaked body in a glass coffin aboard the train and sends it forth, crashing and exploding at its designated point. As the new V, Evey then takes in a young Norsefire agent with the intent of training him to make sure people like Susan will never hold power ever again.
V is also shown singing a song called "This Vicious Cabaret" which details his intents as the story develops. This fits rather well with his theatrical nature.
V was an enigmatic figure who speaks eloquently and was an impeccably sophisticated, obsequizzous and talkative gentleman, with an exceptionally wide vocabulary, and particularly showing a fondness for quoting Shakespeare, and had an encyclopedic knowledge of old English literature. Also, V loves to act with a flair of theatrics. For example, as he abducted Prothero, he ushered the man through a stage-like setup of Larkhill while dressed in a clownish Vaudeville attire. In another particularly poignant scene, he stands before the statue of Lady Justice and enacts a pseudo-rendezvous between ex-lovers, declaring that he has found a new mistress in Anarchy after she "whored herself" to Norsefire and leaving Lady Justice a "farewell present" of an explosive.
In the film, V demonstrated an intense capacity for hatred underneath his serene exterior. While in captivity, V described hate as the only thing he seemed capable of - it fed him for years until he finally lost all capacity for fear, creating an unnervingly stoic manner. He is completely unfazed by physical threats from others, from being held at gunpoint by several armed men, to having explosives strapped to him.
V was completely calm, reserved, and unexcitable in nature, and never lost his temper once throughout his appearances, and even when in intense pain he spoke softly and calmly. V was also pathologically obsessive and psychopathic, and his one and true goal throughout the story was to avenge himself upon key members of Norsefire. However, he had an incredible ability for justifying his actions, and throughout he truly believed that what he was doing was right and that the men he is fighting are evil and deserving of his vengeance. He is capable of love, despite his ruthless and almost emotionless character, and though he cannot remember anything that happened to him before his captivity he described Evey as his one true love. After the confrontation between him and Evey in which he tried to justify himself and she stormed off, V was shown breaking down, unmasked, and sobbing.
V was also shown to have a rather playful side to his personality, mock-dueling a suit of armor with a sword whilst watching his favorite film The Count of Monte Cristo.
Powers and Abilities
Strength: V himself had no superhuman abilities due to the book and movie having a more grounded tone but does have top human strength, easily picking up and throwing around fully grown men with his bare hands.
Resilience: V was barely slowed down by being shot multiple times, allowing him to kill multiple men effortlessly before collapsing and succumbing to his wounds minutes later.
Genius Level Intellect: V demonstrated an intelligence in varied subjects, most notably manufacturing. He was able to craft a mask that warps his voice and covers his eyes so well that even the best analysts at the English government's disposal were unable to identify who he was.
Weapon Improvisation: In his time as The Man in Room V, V was able to escape by combining common garden chemicals to explode his cell door.
Agility: Since his time in Larkhill, V had developed an incredible athleticism in addition to furthering his intellect with knowledge and written materials banned by the Norsefire government.
Hand-to-hand Combat: V was incredibly skilled in all forms of ranged and close-quarters combat, ranging from knives to swords, as well as blade throwing.
The multiple villainies of nature do swarm upon him... And fortune on his quarrel. But all's too weak for brave Macbeth... Well, he deserves that name.
~ V's first words when saving Evey from a band of thugs. He is directly paraphrasing Macbeth here, specifically Act I Scene II
The only verdict is vengeance.
~ V whenever he has acted.
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.
~ V's slightly anarchistic mentality.
Remember, remember the fifth of November. The gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.
~ V's goals when it comes to the fascist British government (tear down and rebuild).
V: I told you, only truth. For twenty years I sought only this day. Nothing else existed... until I saw you. Then everything changed. I fell in love with you, Evey. Like I no longer believed I could. Evey: V, I don't want you to die. V: That is the most beautiful thing you could have ever given me.
~ V's final words as he dies in Evey's arms.
V had a habit of speaking in words that start with his letter V as well as quoting Shakespeare (mainly Macbeth, most likely because that's a play about vengeance and revenge which he desires).
Even when he isn't directly quoting Shakespeare, he is always saying Old English words like "verily."
V's true face was never shown and was always disguised by some contrivance or object. During his suit up "scene" in the very first issue of his miniseries for example, we get clear shots of his gloves and hair but his mask is already on when we get a head-shot where he is fastening it on. We do get to see a physical profile of V without his mask but it's a backwards distant shot and his upper body is caked in shadow.
This was an intentional creative decision on the part of Moore who wanted V to be an everyman who gained the will and ability to stand up to fascists. Removing his mask and seeing his face would defeat the point.
Ironically, this style of disguising his face is similar to what happened to Norman Osborn as the Green Goblin at the end of his debut issue Amazing Spiderman #14 where his face is obscured by a mirror.
In popular culture, V has become the unofficial mascot of Chan culture as well as the wider "Anonymous" movement which in itself is seen as a controversy.