Written By Jake Garner
From Hell, another one of Alan Moore’s well distinguished series, really puts the ‘graphic’ into ‘graphic novel’. I recently decided to give the entire series another read as it had been a few years since I last took the gruesome voyage and journeyed through the streets of Whitechapel. Rereading the edition that was published in its entirety in 1999 rekindled my approbation for the book. I know I might be biased here as a huge Moore fan, the man’s writing is nothing short of pure genius, but there is something about From Hell that really sheds a mystical and magical light upon the legendary murders of Jack the Ripper. Perhaps one of the most notorious string of killings to ransack the late nineteenth century, Moore’s interpretation on the bloody fiasco gives the reader a look at the killings through the eyes of Jack himself, the monstrous Sir William Gull. For a graphic novel to be as successful as From Hell, it requires a writer that is willing to give his complete attention to its creation. Moore has done his research to say the least, not only in regards to the whole mythos surrounding ‘Jack the Ripper’, but the royal and Masonic elements that entwine themselves within the story too. For example, the title itself, From Hell, is a product of an original letter that was received by the authorities in the year 1888, containing the same title itself. Many historians believe that this letter is a genuine reaching out from the killer himself. There are so many Easter eggs that Moore incorporates into the story to give it a unique feel, drawing upon historical records and recordings along the way.
So how is the story actually brought to life? Through the work of Eddie Campbell of course. The artwork within the book is inimitable. I have never seen artistry work in harmony with the writing as efficiently as in the pages of From Hell. To be frank, it is drawn quite simplistically, in a sketch book way that brings the grisly details of the Whitechapel murders to life, almost like a biro pen scribbled on a clean sheet of white paper. Each panel gives us enough to draw upon as the reader, and the grainy feel to the art compliments the macabre tone of the story-line. For me personally, it is rare to see the writer and artist, of any given book, work in such synchronisation. Usually, either the artwork exceeds the story telling, or the story-telling trumps the artwork. There truly is equilibrium to be found within this graphic novel’s five hundred and seventy two pages, each of which is fantastic.
From Hell has come a long way since its original home at Taboo, a comic book publication that housed the first several issues of the series. Due to its success, Campbell and Moore moved away from Taboo and made the project its own entity. Between 1991 and 1996, From Hell was published within ten individual volumes. It wasn’t until 1999 that it was published as a complete trade paperback under Eddie Campbell Comics. Since then it has been published again in the UK and USA under two different publishers. Like a Whitechapel whore, From Hell has certainly made the rounds, though this isn’t a negative, just a portrayal of its popularity.
There are many themes to be found amongst the pages of From Hell, royal scandal, Masonic secrets, and most importantly, strange misogynistic murders. It would be quite unintelligent to give you guys some sort of synopsis of the story here. All you need is a strong gut and an open mind to enjoy the book, therefore, all I can suggest at this point is to fasten your shoes tightly and take a wander down the bloodstained streets of Whitechapel.