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VINE VOICEon April 8, 2001
This is a classic work, as dense and as demanding as any novel, and perhaps the closest to literature a graphic novel has ever come. It could only have flowed from the pen of the great Alan Moore, whose Swamp Thing and Watchmen revolutionized graphic storytelling. He and Eddie Campbell have done wonderful work here. I merely write to correct a couple of errors in other reviews.
First, jplatt@webspan.net says this is only the first part of From Hell. The pictured edition does, I believe, contain the entire story, although there are single comics containing single chapters and other trade paperbacks containing fewer chapters than the above pictured edition. If you buy the pictured edition, you are getting a complete story from beginning to end. I read the above edition and found nothing missing -- it goes from before the first murder to after the last.
Second, editor Rob Lightner says that Moore believes, and wants us to believe, that Jack the Ripper was the Queen's physician and part of a Masonic conspiracy to kill the mother of Queen Victoria's grandson. I think this misses the point. Moore loves to make connections between things (see, for instance, his ongoing series Promethea), and the Masonic conspiracy gives him a lot of room to weave in the various aspects of the Ripper legend. I don't know that he necessarily believes it any more than he believes, as shown in From Hell, that the killer was able to predict the future while he was gutting his victims. Moore is a storyteller and his story contains many fantastic elements. It would be a mistake, I think, to attribute to Moore all the opinions expressed in this fine work of fiction.
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on November 12, 2001
The most recent offering from Alan Moore, the author who, alongside Neil Gaiman, was responsible for bringing comic books to their fullest potential as art on par with novels, From Hell is a brilliant, moody, and well-researched re-telling of the Jack the Ripper story. Moore takes an interesting twist on the story - and one he himself admits that he believes is false - but the point of the book isn't so much a whodunit as a treatise on the combining of fact and fiction into myth, and the nature of sensationalism and crime in the 20th century.
From Hell features an amazing cast of characters and the story is told in sixteen chapters - two of which are a prologue and an epilogue. Moore weaves historical facts together to form a cohesive story, and draws on dozens of sources, both Ripper-related and otherwise. From Hell suggests that the Ripper was, in fact, William Gull, Physician Ordinary to the Royal Family and a member of the Freemasons (this fact is revealed very early on in the book, unlike the movie which IS a whodunit). Where high-level criminologists like FBI profiler John Douglas (inspiration for the Crawford character in Silence of the Lambs) seem to think that the crimes were motivated by a fear of women, Moore focuses on the calm, ritualistic nature of the murders, and the important connection between the victims - that they all knew each other.
Although in this book the crime itself was a Masonic ritual, I think it should be noted that Moore isn't trying to smear the Masons, and that should be obvious to anyone reading From Hell. His contention, one that more or less fits the 100-plus years worth of facts, is that William Gull was gradually going insane and had visions about Masonic deities - shreds of old ritual from Freemasonry's past that he blows out of proportion and begins to manifest, at least in his mind. There was nothing anti-Freemason in this book, but I realize people have to find something to get bent out of shape about.
The crowning achievement of this volume isn't the way Moore creates a perfect fit for Gull as the Ripper, but the appendix at the end in which he details the painstaking amount of research that went into this work. He has a reference for nearly every factual detail, and readily admits when he makes things up or dramatizes certain events for the story. It's an excellent resource for Ripperologists and scholars interested in Moore's book, and its inclusion is what makes From Hell such a fascinating read.
I absolutely recommend From Hell, especially if you enjoyed the film - the book is far more detailed, and doesn't sacrifice any historical accuracies to make a better story, as the movie did. If the film is a starting point, this graphic novel is the logical conclusion. Get it today; you will not be sorry you did.
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on May 2, 2000
After his success with Swamp Thing, Watchmen, and half a dozen other projects, Alan Moore went into self-publishing, beginning Lost Girls, Big Numbers, and From Hell. Sadly, the first two remain unfinished (possibly indefinitely), but the third well makes up for it.
The exhausting amount of detail is the first thing one notices. From street philosophers, to royal courtesans and favorites to who had the most popular literature at the time, Moore has done everything humanly possible to make the book disturbingly accurate. His footnotes are almost a book in and of themselves.
The take on the Jack the Ripper murders, while off-putting to the weaker stomachs among us, is psychological horror coupled with intrigue, sordid love affairs, and human perversity in almost every form. If you want to feel novacaine-numb good after reading something, pick up a Superman. If you want to be disturbed, challenged, and perhaps educated a bit, read From Hell.
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on April 22, 2002
Those who only know of FROM HELL from the 2001 film adaptation will more than likely be shocked to encounter this dense, layered, and sometimes profoundly disturbing piece of source material. Alan Moore, whose writing on such titles as WATCHMEN and TOP 10 is universally lauded, took it upon himself to create the definitive "Jack the Ripper" narrative, skillfully weaving fact, supposition, and outright invention together in one massive tale.
Eddie Campbell's artwork is bleak, scratchy, and perfectly mood-setting, working in dark harmony with Moore's writing. Even those who feel they "know" the Ripper story as well as anyone will be surprised at this very different, compulsively readable, take on the murders, and the players (allegedly) involved. So masterful is the synthesis of art and words that by the time one has finished the last page, it's hard to realize this IS fiction, and not the true tale.
The trade paperback edition gathers together the entire, serialized FROM HELL story, and also features extensive annotation from Moore concerning the sources, inspirations, and creative decisions that came to make the final product. Readers will find themselves anxious to read these end notes -- just another layer in a VERY complex, but not confusing, story -- and then hurry on to the next chapter, the next murder, the next revelation. FROM HELL is, by any standard, a masterwork.
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on October 25, 2001
Prostitutes are at the grimy bottom of the social ladder in almost any society. Their murders are neither uncommon nor usual causes for alarm, but in 1888, a string of slayings of this loathly population in Whitechapel, one of many atrocious slumps of Victorian London, shook England to its core. The vile acts of Jack the Ripper, the sickening surgery he performed on five whores, made proud English society question what kind of a monster could arise from its cracks. Jack's escapes from the police and an entire city searching for him forced London to question its competency. The wild curiosity the killer, the first tabloid star, drew made England question its taste. The savage and sick nature of his act, the boastful letters he sent to the press and police (one letter contains included a human kidney) caused many to question the entire human condition. In 1888, the first serial killer, that disturbing, shocking, sexually motivated type of killer was unleashed on the world.
Over one hundred years after the Ripper killings, Alan Moore, puts the events of autumn 1888 under his literary microscope with a comic book masterpiece, From Hell, and makes them as shocking, stomach-turning and frighteningly thought provoking as they were in 1888, in ever. Moore, a practical Ripper historian who fills forty-two pages of this volume with research notes, analyses the historical, intellectual, societal, psychological and metaphysical importance of the Ripper killings.
Moore, joined by appropriately sketchy art of Eddie Campbell, narrates the theory that the cadavers found laying in pieces in Whitechapel once belonged to a gang of prostitutes who bribed the crown with knowledge of a secret marriage between Queen Victoria's grandson and a Catholic commoner. Royal physician, Sir William Gull, disposed of the women and takes a few creative liberties.
All characters in From Hell are beyond compelling: Gull, a Freemason and Hannibal Lector-type intellectual who reaches the darkest regions of the human mind and spirit, which are revealed to also be the most profane. Mary Kelly, Gull's final victum, who is made brutally aware of the futility of her life's station and the harshness of her world as she watches her friends die one by one and waits for her turn. Frederick Abberline, the Scotland Yard inspector assigned to the Ripper case, whose traditional morals of merit are tested as he wades through the steaming dung of society.
In most comics, traditional morals are seen as a virtue, but From Hell is no ordinary comic book. It travels down the societal ladder in an attempt to step higher on the philosophical. It is a masterpiece, a gracefully narrated epic that splashes in the grime of history and moral netherworlds with a deep sense of poignancy.
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While Alan Moore will go down in comics history for Watchmen, his painstakingly researched synopsis of Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel Murders is almost as equally great. Moore teamed up with artist Eddie Campbell to show us the horrific dread and gloomy atmosphere of a city in terror of a killer. Thanks to Moore's great writing, the reader is drawn into this massive story from the first page on as we are introduced to the killer himself (his identity based on Moore's own research along with specualted opinions and hearsay) and Campbell's scrathy yet beautiful black & white art sustains the atmosphere of From Hell perfectly. Eventually it would be made into a film starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham, and even though I liked that as well, this graphic novel beats it on every level (if you liked the film I strongly suggest checking this out, and I guarantee you'll love this). The characterizations, dialogue, art, and riveting storyline keep the reader interested up until the final panel, and whether you like comics or not this is an essential read no matter who you are.
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on February 7, 2003
From Hell is Alan Moore's brilliant fictional interpretation of the Ripper crimes of 1888, told mainly from the perspective of the murderer himself. Moore's meticulously researched work - almost every major event can be attributed to one or more historical sources, some more trustworthy than others, and all listed in the fascinating endnotes - operates within the framework of the theory known as the "Royal Conspiracy", which suggests that Jack the Ripper was actually a deranged physician, Sir William Gull, operating to silence a group of East End prostitutes trying to blackmail the royal family. That's a sensational suggestion, and Moore makes things even more extravagant with his literary interpretation of the crimes as a symbol of the era's sexism and oppression; in the world of From Hell, Gull uses the murders as an opportunity to create an enormous work of ritual magic, with the purpose of keeping womankind enslaved for all eternity.
In so short a summary, a premise of that sort sounds like typical comic book fodder - in the worst possible way. But From Hell is no penny-dreadful account of a mad doctor slashing wildly at buxom streetwalkers. Moore refuses to exploit any of his characters: the prostitutes who are to become the Ripper's victims are shown as strong-willed individuals trying to make a living under truly hideous conditions; Gull is a brash, brilliant man, typical of the Victorian upper classes, whose underlying prejudices are grotesquely brought to the surface after he suffers a stroke early in the novel. No character here is a caricature - they're all real people, right down to relatively minor supporting figures like Gull's harried, ambitious coach-driver Netley. And the novel's depiction of Victorian London, aided immeasurably by Eddie Campbell's stark, scratchy black-and-white artwork, is so horrifically authentic and immersive that while reading the book it's hard not to get lost in the world it creates. Moore avoids simple exploitation of the shocking story by populating his utterly convincing world with heartbreakingly believable characters.
What distinguishes this work from most historical fiction is its bold use of fantastic elements to create a work of a much broader scope; they transform it from a mere exercise in historical research into a commentary on the nature of history itself. Gull wants to use his acts of murder to magically shape the course of the following centuries, and sure enough, as he begins killing he also begins to experience increasingly vivid and disturbing visions of the future he is in the process of creating. With this notion - the "architecture of history" - Moore matches form to content; using his powers of historical dot-connecting, he shapes a London full of eerie synchronicities and coincidences, reflecting the Ripper's belief in an overarching shape and symmetry of time.
From Hell's only real weakness is simply the logical conclusion of its main strength - Alan Moore is so dedicated to his vision of London that at times he overindulges his passion for historical pattern-finding, describing his discoveries in long passages that, while consistently fascinating, could occasionally stand some trimming down. Gull's visions begin as fleeting supernatural experiences and vague senses of deja vu, but they rapidly spiral out of control until he is almost completely immersed in them, seeing everywhere the history he has created with his work. From Hell's brilliance is obsessive enough that one must wonder whether its author had a similar experience.
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on February 23, 2013
Pros
-Some chapters genuinely played like a movie in my head, when I was able to seamlessly read through the panels it played like a movie in my head .
-Shockingly brutal and graphic unlike any other comic I've ever read.
-500+ pages gives plenty of story, way more to this story than just a serial killer that murdered prostitutes.
-Black and white illustration gives a matching feel for the story.
-Jack the Ripper speak very concisely so I was actually able to understand what was written in the book. These are the chapters my first pro comes in.

Cons
-I have one major con and that is the font. The font is very difficult to read especially because they speak in an old English accent and Moore will spell out exactly how the word was said (kind of how a dictionary spells the pronunciation). Also with many uneducated characters in the book the words were purposely misspelled to emphasize the character's dialect. Not to mention one character who was physically deformed and physically couldn't speak properly. One quote from that particular character - "yeff..wem I wof in buh fide-foh buh poafpuh arpift dwoo ip ab a fingle tufk. Bhey caw be buh 'Eweffub Mab' ip wof moft cwuel" Now imagine this with a bad font, makes it all the more frustrating. I felt like I was learning how to read all over again trying to sound out all the words and make sense of it. Although it picked up in the end when "Jack the Ripper" made more and more appearances I really had to struggle to even get there, I was conscious of myself reading which really took away from the imaginative experience.
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on November 24, 2001
FROM HELL is writer Alan Moore's and artist Eddie Campbell's stab (pun intended) at Jack The Ripper. But this isn't your usual story about the Whitechapel murders. Alan Moore doesn't conceal the killer's identity until the very last page, he reveals it in chapter two; FROM HELL is not about who the killer was. FROM HELL is a treaties (worthy of a ph.d) about why the killer did what he did, how he did it, and about all the people who knew about it; Mostly, it's about the latter. Alan Moore is a serious conspiracy theorist (respect...); His conclusion is of Royal connection, police corruption, and Freemason involvement. Everybody has got their hands dirty; London is presented as a decrepid and rotten society. I have not yet seen the filmadaptation of FROM HELL, but I've read that there is a shot in the film which "begins with the London skyline, pans down between towers and steam trains, and plunges into a subterranean crypt where a Masonic lodge is passing judgement on one of their members" (from Roger Ebert's filmreview). This is what the story is about; A society that is ruled by the few; By the men who hides in the shadows; By the true architects of history (as said in FROM HELL).
Alan Moore tells a story that sends you spiraling into madness, into the mind of the killer and the society of the killer; Into Hell. The sketchy black and white drawings of Eddie Campbell conjurs up a world of filth, and not the romantesized version of Victorian England that we have all grown accustomed to; "London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained," (from Sir Arthur C. Doyle's A STUDY IN SCARLET). Both Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell have based their work on an impressive amount of research; FROM HELL is about as accurate as any other non-fiction book about Jack The Ripper. But this implies that FROM HELL demands that you're intrigued by the circumstances surrounding the case, and that you don't mind reading through hundreds of pages with long dialogues that are weighed down with facts; If you're only after a quick scare and a murder mystery, then you'll probably be disappointed with FROM HELL. Its audience are the numerous 'ripperologists'. If you fit into this latter category, then you'll relish FROM HELL.
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on July 27, 2006
This "comic" dissects the most famous unsolved crimes in history, peeling away their layers of misogyny, class stratification, abject poverty, imperial machinations, conspiracy, magic, and madness like so much flesh and sinew. Each chapter approaches the topic from a different angle, focusing here on the hidden Masonic architecture of the British capital, looking there in detail at the lives of the Ripper's victims. The basic plot is that the Ripper is one Sir William Gull, royal physician and Masonic magician, who is killing these women to keep them from blackmailing the Queen's grandson, Prince Eddy. To reduce the story to this plot, though, is to miss its incredible richness and intelligence.

Those looking for the definitive Ripper "solution" need to continue their searches elsewhere. As author Alan Moore notes in the second appendix, "Jack is not Gull or Druitt. Jack is a super-position." Instead of presenting the typical cops and robbers version of a played-out murder story, Alan Moore uses the Ripper to reveal the banal horrors of everyday life for the poor women and children of Victorian England and to indict a male culture whose callousness and brutality was matched only by its religious and aristocratic hypocrisy. In Moore's novel, the Ripper is not merely a doctor conducting Masonic rituals whilst ostensibly ridding the Crown of a handful of blackmailing whores. Rather, the Ripper is the entire miasma of modernity, the calculated technological horrors of 20th century condensed into four murders, one year, one decade. Jack is the man who leaves his wife and two children to be with their midwife, he is the royal brat whose dalliances have disastrous consequences for the little people, he is the media bent on selling papers by peddling gore and hysteria.

The erudition of the cultural commentary in the volume is staggering. A review of the 42 page monstrosity of an appendix reveals the manifold reasons behind each frame of each page of the story. It all boils down to this: "Five murdered paupers, and one anonymous assailant. This reality is dwarfed by the vast theme-park we've built around it. Truth is, this has never been about the murders, or the killer nor his victims. It's about us, our minds and how they dance. Jack mirrors our hysterias. Faceless, he is the receptacle for each new social panic."

This book is a work of literature, easily on par with such other classic graphic novels as Maus, Persepolis, or Fagin the Jew.
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