This is a review of Alan Moore’s graphic novel From Hell.
Alan Moore is the British comic writer, who has written such book as V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing, Miracleman, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and of course Watchmen.
I first accounted the prologue of this comic in the Anthology book Taboo in 1991. To be honest, at that time, reading it out of context as a lone story I did not “get it” Still, I collected the next two issues of Taboo and then………it was canceled. From Hell however, would continue on a couple of years later as its own comic. This book did not have a regular release schedule and sometimes it would be years till the next issues. Therefore I stopped collecting……….and never followed the story after the second issue (the fifth chapter).
Years later Alan Moore would finally complete the book and it was collected in its entirety in 1999 published by its artist Eddie Campbell.
From Hell is the story of Jack the Ripper. It is a historic fictional tale set in the time and place of the original killings, 1888, London (Whitechapel).
Alan Moore has created an engrossing tale about the Jack the Ripper murders of five prostitutes who were killed and mutilated. Jack the Ripper is considered by many to be the first serial killer. It has remained a focal point in history due to the fact that the killer was never caught and his identity never revealed. There have been many speculations and theories about the killer and Alan Moore explores one of these theories in his story.
The story that Mr. Moore has expanded on, within these pages is that the murders occurred to cover up the birth of a child by Prince Albert with a Common woman Annie Crook, and that the five women tried to blackmail the royal family to keep it quiet.
From Hell is rich and complex in story and character motivations. We are introduced to an abundance of characters, so much so that From Hell reads like an assemble cast, never focusing on one or a few characters but expanding on many. Every character is given their reasonings for their actions and some historic evidence for these actions.
It is very important to note that this is not a murder mystery. We are aware of the killers identity from nearly the beginning. It is this knowledge which most of the story comes from……. We as voyeurs are allowed to watch as different characters have their own ideas about the killer and his identity.
The artist for the series is Eddie Campbell, who also published the collected volume.
It is noted that one of the reason I had so much trouble “getting it” with the original prologue is the artwork. Eddie Campbell artwork can be best described as scratchy in nature. The characters are not drawn clearly and in many cases I can only tell apart the characters when their names are mentioned in the story. However, it does fit the story in many cases, giving an older feel. Also Mr. Campbell does a very good job recreating Victorian England. Would I ever seek any of his other work out ? NO.
Here I must mention, that From Hell, is very much for adults, with many adult themes. Above murder and killing there is much nudity and also scenes of homosexuality. I would like to point out, that none of this is done for shock and that it all has to do with character motivations. Meaning it is all about the story.
Also included in the book are two Appendix, the first being text which Alan Moore explains page by page his sources for the story elements and his reasoning for using them……..it is amazing, to see all these different books (facts and speculations) on the Ripper murders used to create his own work of fiction. The other appendix is a graphic representation of all the theories of the Ripper murders even ones not used as part of the book.
Is From Hell a good comic………. Yes, it is probably one of the best things Alan Moore has ever written. It is one of the best examples of the use of comics as a real grown up medium and not just Superhero stuff.
Who should read From Hell, anyone who enjoys a good story and does not mind the adult themes within.
From Hell: The Movie
So………………There is a movie with the title From Hell, it is about the Jack the Ripper murders…….it is set in Victorian England……………run run away as fast as you can.