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19 February 2012

From Hell (2000)

A couple of months ago I got talking to a living legend on Google+ by the name of Andrew Clifton-Brown. We were chewing the fat on reading matter and Andrew recommended that I get hold of a copy of "From Hell", the graphic novel created by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell.

You know that I'm very easily led!

I am Sir William Withey Gull...
From Hell, Moore & Campbell 2000

You might remember me asking myself the question sometime back as to what the difference is between a comic and a graphic novel. The best answer I could come up with at the time was: 'the binding'. I still like that answer, but having read 'From Hell' I think that I can now do a whole lot better.

'From Hell' was originally published over a 5 year period in the early 90s in a comic anthology called Taboo. I have a collection that has been compiled into a chunky paperback. It's a monster! There must be close to 600 pages of story! Without even opening it up, I kind of knew that I was in for a treat.

The four whores of the apocalypse
From Hell, Moore & Campbell 2000

Alan Moore is a name I have come across before. Watchmen and V for Vendetta are probably his more famous stories. I haven't sampled much of his work but my interest has certainly been piqued. Eddie Campbell is less well known, and I have to wonder why; His artwork is phenomenal. I'm in awe. It must have been a real effort to keep up such a high quality of workmanship for something as long as 'From Hell'. He deserves recognition for that alone.

And in 'From Hell', the two come together. It's a perfect storm. I don't want to make too much of this, but having turned the final page, I really have that sense of having witnessed one of those perfect partnerships. Without the two of them bringing their individual magic, 'From Hell' wouldn't have been half of what it is.

Mitre Square; Sunday September 30th, 1888
From Hell, Moore & Campbell 2000

'From Hell' takes its name from a letter believed to have been penned by Jack The Ripper. It was sent to the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee in 1888 with what was claimed to be part of one of murdered Catherine Eddowes' kidneys. Yep, you've guessed it... This story is all about Jack the Ripper and the turbulent times of the murders. Moore and Campbell plunge us kicking and screaming into the dark, grubby 1800s.

London
From Hell, Moore & Campbell 2000

Straight off the bat, I'm going to point out the meticulous research that's gone into this story. The core of the people and events in this book are real... they feel real. And where artistic license has been used, it's been tempered and done in a way that keeps you believing that this all could have happened. It breathes new life into a subject that has been covered numerous times in the past. Fantastic!

And going back to that point about the difference between a comic and a graphic novel... I felt like I was reading a book. The story was leading me through the pages and every now and again I was able to stop to admire the scenery. It was a pleasure!

Don't worry, as much as I'd like to, I'm not going to diagnose or spoil the story... read it yourself. All I'll say on this front is that the story is beautifully put together and the characters developed to the point where I found myself caring about what happened next. You won't be disappointed. And there is a twist...

You're all heart you are...
From Hell, Moore & Campbell 2000

One word of warning: This book pulls no punches. It's graphic in the sense that there are no taboos that won't be covered. On the whole I didn't feel that it was gratuitous, but I won't be leaving it laying around anywhere where my kids might get their paws on it. The murder scenes are quite simply horrible and one in particular is so disgusting that it is still imprinted on my memory. Some things really can't be unseen. Would I read it again? Yes I would. Everything has a place in the tale, no matter how uncomfortable it might have made me feel at the time.

And whilst this is a horror in the sense of the terrible quality of life of the time, and the madness of the murders, it is worth pointing out that there are some classic moments of humour dotted about too. This book isn't all blood and guts... it rises and falls as all good stories should...

Annie's decline...
From Hell, Moore & Campbell 2000

So did I like this read? You know that I did!

On the Triple-B I'm going to spend 9 minutes with the Elephant Man discussing Ganesh, the Lord of Beginnings. I wonder what Moore was trying to tell me here...

Finally... Thanks Andrew! You were right... it's worth every penny!



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