Fiction Review: From Hell

"One day men will look back and say I gave birth to the twentieth century."



From Hell is a graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Eddie Campbell. It concerns itself with the murders committed by Jack the Ripper in the late Victorian era.

The story is not a mystery - we are privy who the murderer is from the very start. It is William Gull, physician. There is a theory that Gull was indeed the murderer, though it is not one that Moore says he found credible - he did, however, find it made for an interesting story.

In the story, Prince Albert Victor ("Prince Eddy") secretly marries Annie Cook, a shop girl. She has a child by him. Needless to say, when his grandmother, Queen Victoria, finds out about this, she is not amused. To stop her from talking, William Gull effectively lobotomizes her. However, her friend, Mary Kelly, already knows of the royal baby and she and her friends, all prostitutes, attempt to blackmail the royal family, Which sends William Gull after them.

What happens in From Hell is disturbing to say the least. Moore and Campbell do not shy away from graphic depictions of the brutal murders. Gull is quite likely insane, filled with a loathing for women and allowing his quest to take on mystical overtones. It is a grand conspiracy as well, with Gull taking advantage of his position as a Freemason to complete his gruesome mission.

While a difficult read, it is also a very engaging one. Victorian London comes to life under Moore and Campbell. More importantly, the people do as well - especially Gull's victims, each of whom has her own background, dreams, pains, etc. These were real people murdered, not disposable sex workers, something Moore forces us to reveal.

From Hell is a difficult read and does not yield its secrets in a single reading. Especially when read with Moore's appendix which fills us in on all the details he incorporated.

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