From Hell

Writer(s): Alan Moore
Artist(s): Eddie Campbell
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
ISBN: 978-0958578349
Price: $35.00
Page count: 572
Year Released: 2000
Status: in print
Original Source: Cerebus 124; Taboo 2-7; From Hell 1-12
Other Collected Edition(s): Knockabout Comics edition (ISBN: 978-0861661411)
Genres: historical fiction; horror; literature; mystery/crime; suspense/thriller
Recommended for Fans Of: Victorian literature; ripperology
Possible Objectionable Material: nudity; explicit sexual situations; disturbing imagery; graphic violence; coarse language
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Also in This Series: n/a

Plot Summary
From Hell is Alan Moore's exploration of the unsolved Whitechapel murders and the Victorian-era serial killer known as Jack the Ripper. The story focuses primarily on Sir William Withey Gull, a prominent physician with ties to Queen Victoria. Though Moore states that his conclusions regarding the case are entirely speculative, he did base his story on an impressive amount of research (which he details in several pages of notes at the end of the book). Despite this somewhat scholarly baggage, the story is gripping and masterfully presented. The various historical personages that populate the book come alive in Moore's telling, as he makes memorable characters of Dr. Gull, Inspector Abberline, the killer's five victims, teacher and barrister Montague Druitt, the painter Walter Sickert, Prince Albert Victor, and Queen Victoria herself.

My Own 2 Cents
Ostensibly about Jack the Ripper, From Hell is actually Alan Moore's investigation of many things: the various societal forces at work in Victorian London, the occult (particularly relating to the Freemasons), Charles Howard Hinton's theory of the fourth dimension, political conspiracy, nineteenth-century police procedures and forensics, medical science, and of course murder. It is also Alan Moore's masterpiece, despite what some of his more superhero-obsessed fans may claim.

However, there are few caveats. First, the book's violence and gore is particularly intense--especially in its depiction of the fifth murder, of Mary Kelly. Second, it can be a difficult work for some readers to penetrate, primarily because of the artist Eddie Campbell's scratchy pen and ink style. There's a lot going on, visually, in his panels, and this can make the prospect of reading through the entire 572-page book rather daunting. I would encourage readers with a craving for something challenging to stick with it, though. The book is well-worth the concentration it requires, and it's not unusual for readers to finish the book, then go back to the beginning and reread the entire thing again--this time flipping back and forth between the story and the book's endnotes.

For readers who want more information regarding Alan Moore's thoughts on the book, take a look at his correspondence with fellow comic book creator Dave Sim. In this extended interview Moore expounds on everything from the characters and themes present in From Hell to his own personal immersion in the mystic arts. It's a fine supplement to this book.