Moore, Alan & Campbell, Eddie – From Hell


From Hell

From Hell. Christ, talk about a nostalgia overload. I first saw From Hell in any form when I picked up a copy of Taboo #4, which I believe had the third chapter of the story. This was probably in 1993, so this along with the suggestions of Dave Sim led me to hunt down everything I could find from Eddie Campbell (I already knew all about Alan Moore, as Watchmen was one of the books that got me started down this independent comics path). Eventually  I picked up a few more issues of Taboo before that publishing company went under, then over the years I successfully managed to get all of the individual issues when they came out for Tundra and Kitchen Sink Press, two more companies that are no longer active. The point of this extended introductory ramble, outside of letting you all in on what this book means to me, is to point that this is the first time I’ve read the book in its collected form. Sure, I read through the comics all in a row once, but that includes all of the letters pages and asides that come with individual issues. Reading this all in a chunk is a revelation. I remembered loving the book, obviously, but it’s only when you have it in a chunk that you can really see all of the tricks that Moore was trying to pull. For those of you who have never heard of small press comics but have somehow hit this review, From Hell is Moore & Campbell’s version of what happened with the Jack the Ripper murders. I say “Moore & Cambpell” because even though Moore is obviously the writer, this book would have been something else entirely under the hands of a different artist. Eddie’s depictions of the steady rains, foreboding shadows and the brutally graphic murder scenes is what I think of even today when somebody mentions Jack the Ripper. If you’re a history buff and think you have a good theory on who committed the murders, might I suggest reading the lengthy appendix with Moore’s notes? These things are meticulous and list his thoughts practically page to page, and they answered every question I had about why he went in certain directions. Most people are content to call it a day after 400+ pages, but Moore instead offers a peek into his writing process that feels like a necessary epilogue instead of a tacked-on filler piece. As for the execution of the story, again the word I would use is “flawless.” The idea that nobody in authority was able to figure out these murders was always a little hard to swallow, so Moore has come up with a more plausible explanation. He’s the first to admit every step of the way that this is all fiction, but he also clearly took the time to learn all of the fine points of the murders and the investigation. If you’re reading along and have noticed that I’m not going into any kind of chapter by chapter analysis, that’s for a reason: this is in my personal top 10 (probably top 5) and I’m thrilled that Top Shelf was nice enough to send along a review copy. Picking it apart piece by piece would take weeks and kill some of my enjoyment of the book, so why bother?  It’s an entirely different experience from reading it issue to issue, and it’s also clear that they fixed up a few panels here and there. Oh, and just in case this giant book with a lengthy appendix isn’t enough content, they also included the rare “Dance of the Gull Catchers” story. If you’re a fan of this medium and don’t already have this book on your shelf, the only excuses I can think of are excessive poverty or ignorance. One is more easily rectified than the other, granted, but there are always local libraries that tend to have this on the shelf if all else fails. $35

Posted on July 24, 2011, in Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Moore, Alan & Campbell, Eddie – From Hell.

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