Top positive review
Hellishly Ingenious Account of the Ripper Murders
Reviewed in the United States on October 17, 2017
This is an ingenious hatching of a theory of the Whitechapel Murders case, one that flies in the face of all that's good and civilized in Victorian Britain and the British Empire at its peak, despite all those well-known wens, warts, and suppurating lesions.
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.