From Hell is an epic graphic novel about Jack the Ripper. And when I say epic, I mean it’s fucking epic. It’s a 572-page collaboration between writer Alan Moore and artist Eddie Campbell that combines fact and fiction, truth and speculation, history and fantasy into a dark and gripping story about one of the most notorious serial killers of all time.
Alan Moore did a bunch of research and combined a couple of conspiracy theories to create a coherent storyline. The true identity of Jack the Ripper has never been revealed, but Moore suggests that Queen Victoria’s royal physician, Sir William Gull, was the killer and that he killed the women as part of a royal/Masonic cover-up. Supposedly Prince Albert Victor had a secret affair with a commoner that resulted in the birth of an illegitimate child with royal connections. A few lowly prostitutes know about the child, and they use that information in a blackmail attempt. The queen doesn’t like being blackmailed, so she sent her trusted physician out to remedy the situation by killing them to death. And so Gull did, using his surgical expertise and Masonic beliefs to transform into Jack the Ripper.
This is not a historical textbook about Jack the Ripper. It’s a comic book interpretation of a conspiracy theory that uses a lot of historical figures and actual events that creates a gritty and realistic depiction of Victorian era London. Moore uses a little artistic license to tweak some facts around to support his story, but he doesn’t try to deceive you. The collected trade paperback edition includes over forty pages of notes and annotations that tell you what really happened, what might have happened, and what he made up entirely. He tells you where he got the information, what he was inspired by, and how he came to that conclusion.
Alan Moore’s dark story is perfectly complimented by the scratchy and rough pen-and-ink style of Eddie Campbell. The illustrations are harsh and crude, which adds a sense of hopelessness and despair. From Hell is complicated. It’s not for your average reader. You can’t just read it one time and pretend like you know what it’s about. It’s not just a murder story. It’s about religion, corruption, time, gender, and power. It’s about how fact and fiction are sometimes integral parts of each other. We may never know who Jack the Ripper was, or what his motivations were, but he’s become a symbol and he’ll never be forgotten. Whoever he was.
Critically Rated at 15/17
Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young