From Hell, written by Alan Moore, with artwork by Eddie Campbell, is a dark, seamy and overwhelming exploration of the infamous Whitechapel murders (1888-1891) ascribed to that all too real bogeyman of myth and legend, Jack the Ripper.
In this seminal graphic novel, told in sixteen chapters, Moore has layered facts upon untruths, upon rumours, upon guesses, upon narrative demands. It is a heady cocktail of a conspiracy theory involving the British royal family, Freemasons (doesn’t every good conspiracy theory?), a corrupt and helpless police force, the bedraggled denizens of Whitechapel and London itself, beautiful, dangerous, brooding, dirty and uncaring. Reading it is utterly compelling, you feel like you are in someone else’s delirium dream, and the twists and turns seem about to reveal more than the identity of Jack the Ripper that they claim to.
Moore and Campbell suggest that the Whitechapel murders foreshadow the violence and chaos of the 20th century with their vision of a troubled city, with a population crushed and mangled by both industrial revolution and a rigid class structure. Moore very helpfully provides appendices to each chapter, almost for each page, explaining what pieces of the story are known facts (precious few at this distance), what are suggestions or deductions or guesses by various writers and Ripper-ologists, and what he himself has made up or suggested to keep the sombre, horrifying narrative going.
Complex, unnerving, compassionate and thought-provoking, I am already looking forward to reading it again.