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From Hell Paperback – August 12, 2000
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- Item Weight : 3.15 pounds
- Paperback : 576 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0861661419
- ISBN-13 : 978-0861661411
- Product Dimensions : 7.44 x 1.81 x 9.96 inches
- Publisher : Knockabout Comics; UK ed. Edition (August 12, 2000)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #831,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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And perhaps the greatest graphic novel yet produced, despite the oftentimes nearly illegible lettering in what I must assume is a reduced page size from the normal magazine- or comic-page sizing of around 8.5” x 11” or so. (You may need strong reading glasses to make out some of the text.) Alan Moore is an indefatigable researcher and brilliant storyteller. Eddie Campbell's spidery, scratchy drawings suit the murky mood of the story. (And even so, when called upon to render historic London architecture, Campbell’s panels burst into glorious, meticulous copperplate-etching-type, scaled architecture-textbook detail and quality.)
This book gripped me from front to back. The conspiracy Moore conjures, supported by 42 pages of dense notes and an additional graphic appendix, unfolds splendidly. It includes, of course, the London neighborhoods, and volumes (or is it simple myriad panels) on 19th century social mores, to include, yes, all those whores and other species of “loose women” and, to our eyes today, reprehensible men, but also – for those who are unprepared, but this is no spoiler, because the Ripper stories have been in circulation for sometimes more than a century – royalty, to include Victoria, Druidism and the Old Gods, Freemasonry and its secrets and rituals, icons of 19th century art, architecture, and literature, details of contemporary police and Scotland Yard procedure, and, believe me, very much more, crammed into its 572 pages.
And on my next visit to London I'm going to bring with me chapter 4, as my guide to the buildings of Nicholas Hawksmoor. For an architecture buff, as I am, who has stomped around London peering into old churches and ancient structures, as I have, chapter 4, and its beautiful renderings of some of London’s greatest churches, was a particular unexpected, delightful serendipity.
I would urge every reader to narrate chapter 14 aloud, in the most refined English accent they are capable of producing. I found it to be a chilling reading experience.
And parents, if the title fails to warn you sufficiently, do examine the contents closely before leaving this one out for the kiddies on a rainy Saturday. The copy I read had no "for mature readers only" markings. From Hell is most assuredly for mature readers only and deserves, at the very least, an “NC-17” rating.
This is simply a terrific read and one that, I see from other reviews, will require from many a measure of patience. Moore unfolds his tale at what some will find a too-leisurely pace. Other readers have greater toleration for both glacial pace and a carefully studied narrative ambiguity. For those of us who wallow in detail, texture, and explanatory endnotes, as well as a horror stories that, in the end, are truly disturbing, this should be just the ticket.
As a work of fiction, From Hell wanders erratically between the near-genius and the nonsensical. It approaches genius when it brings life not only to Jack the Ripper himself, but also to his victims, the police investigating his crimes, and (as makes sense within the conspiracy theory being retold) his co-conspirators. It approaches the nonsensical when it meanders into lengthy ramblings about Freemason symbolism in London landmarks. Moore's purpose is clear: he wants to construct a view of history that combines the conspiratorial with the occult. Fair enough, but when a book requires a nearly fifty page appendix to explain its own symbolism, the story itself better delivery such emotional potency to justify the lack of explanation within the narrative itself.
Unfortunately, perhaps this book's greatest failure is that it doesn't have that emotional potency. The fictionalized history is intriguing, the characters are interesting, the setting seems believable, and yet the reader can't help but feel (despite the occasional graphic depictions of violence) that this is a sterilized story of Jack the Ripper. The reason the Ripper has maintained his fame through the decades has more to do with his existence in the public mind as more of a phantom than a man than it does with the violence of his murders themselves. The explanation posited in this book reduces that phantom to a cog in the machinery of power. That view might be in concert with Moore's own political views, but for my money, Jack the Ripper is far scarier as an agent of pure chaos than as one of overreaching political order. But the story doesn't even focus on the crimes themselves in nearly as much detail as the conspiracy to cover them up. That makes for an entertaining bit of drama, but also distracts from what seems to me to be the real heart of the story.
In terms of quality, Moore's writing is, as usual, top notch. Campbell's art, rendered in black and white, has a "sketchy" quality that adds a lot to the atmosphere of the story, though the "unfinished" quality of both the art and the lettering occasionally strain the eyes.
At the end of the day, I'd heartily recommend this story to those who've been captured by the mystique of Jack the Ripper and want to explore one of the more outlandish theories regarding his identity. I would also recommend it for people who enjoy historical fiction or stories of political intrigue. I would not, however, recommend it for someone expecting a horror graphic novel about a serious of brutal murders.
He seems so in love with his writing that, the abstract “brilliance” of this seems to just be clunky story telling that hits you with random scenes that have nothing to do with Jack the Ripper case.
In the end it’s hard to tell who truly has lost his mind, Sir William Gull or Alan Moore.
Top reviews from other countries
The characters are striking from the first page and the story of Jack the Ripper comes alive once more.
From Hell takes a very interesting spin on the Ripper tale and follows follows the story a detective trying to track him down. The super natural meets the bloody and cruel steeds of Victorian London in a gripping tale that I dare not say to much about lest I give away the plot. Needless to say anyone who buys this book will not be disappointed.
So yes, Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell did A LOT of research to come up with his version of events, and who is to say what is true and what isn’t, but this is certainly a work of fiction – until it can be proven otherwise of course.
This graphic novel took me AGES to read it because it was just so bleak. It is hard to say if I enjoyed it or not because the topic is not too easy going. The murders are gruesome in detail, but the cover up, if true, is just as disgusting. It is a really good story, and I am very glad I read it, but I would say that anybody who is thinking of reading it should approach with caution. Certainly not one I would expect anybody to read in one sitting. I found I had to leave weeks between a couple of sections. There are also some areas where I was completely lost – luckily the version I read came with an extended appendix with detailed explanations of where the ideas came from and what certain phrases meant.
I find it difficult to rate it. It is clearly a genius piece of work, but I can’t say that I loved it. I am going to read The Five soon, which is a story focused on the victims of Jack The Ripper (long overdue), so I am hoping this will have given me at least some info to start off on the right foot.
I can certainly see why this novel is held in such high regard, as with a lot of things though, I am not sure this one is to everyone’s taste.
The authors spin a fine yarn, there is no claim that what are saying is 100% correct but the whole story is so interesting and illuminating that that the book does not stand or fall on its mere veracity of who JTR was.
There are copious notes from Moore at the back of the book, however I could not access them when reading the book, I also could not save or highlight any passages which is a pity as the insane but eloquent Dr.Gull has some fantastic lines.
"For better or worse, the 20th century; I have delivered it."