From Hell – Alan Moore

 from hell
(This review was previously published in Books and Lesser Evils)

From Hell by Alan Moore once again proves my earlier statement.

“…Alan Moore is a graphic novel God…” me.

He is. He so freakin’ is!

“…I shall tell you where we are. We’re in the most extreme and utter region of the human mind. A dim, subconscious underworld. A radiant abyss where men meet themselves. Hell, Netley. We’re in Hell…”

In the late 1800s, in the dark and squalid alleyways of the seediest parts of London, England, a monster hunts. Over the following weeks, he will kill with such brutality and utter abandon that it will become the stuff of legend and nightmare. He will be known only as, Jack the Ripper.

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Alan Moore steps onto the brick streets and dark alleys of Whitechapel to offer his version of the Jack the Ripper murders. And is typically Moore, it is done in epic style. The graphic novel encompasses nearly 600 pages of story and artwork, all in black in white, there is no great splashes of red needed here. Moore does that plenty with his story telling.

In From Hell, the killer is not some blood thirsty perversion of humanity but something even more terrifying. He is a well educated physician in the service of the Queen herself. A Mason whose faith in the rituals and power of the Mason’s has no peer and his service to the crown without question.

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From Hell takes its premise from the theory that the Jack the Ripper murders were actually a conspiracy to cover up the birth of an illegitimate child by Prince Albert Victor who was in line for the throne of England. In his youth and stupidity Prince Albert has an affair with a young shop girl and fathers a child. The crown in the visage of Queen Victoria orders that the girl and the child be dealt with and to do so she requests the services of Dr. William Gull. The mother is imprisoned and her sanity questioned. Gull performs a procedure upon the mother rendering her insane. The child disappears. The mother’s friends, themselves falling on hard times decide that the best way to help themselves is to blackmail the Crown with the truth of the illegitimate child. The Queen once again calls on Gull to handle the remaining women and to keep the truth hidden. Gulls answer to the problem gives birth to the Ripper. With the aide of his coach man John Netley, Dr. William Gull hunts the women and murders them and then butchers their remains in a manner that hides his true intent. The city is horrified and the police clueless. But none suspect that the acts are simply to erase those who know of the scandal. Instead they hunt a killer and a madman. Instead of a calculating assassin for the Crown.

Moore has penned a graphic novel that is both disturbing and insightful. He has brought forth, through his narrative and the stunning black and white artwork of Eddie Campbell a tense and terrifying tale of murder, lust and the incredible power of self delusion. I am not sure which is more horrifying. The murders of these women or the spiritual descent into madness that Dr. Gull gives himself to.

Do not be swayed by the Johnny Depp movie of the same name that was loosely based on this graphic novel. Alan Moore delivers a powerful indictment on the power of haves and the desperation of the have nots. And the from this class distinction, the monster it gives birth to.

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