Brad's Reviews > From Hell

From Hell by Alan Moore
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A story doesn't have to be factual to be true, and I don't think I have read a truer story in any form than Alan Moore's From Hell.

At the heart of the tale is Jack the Ripper. It is the truest telling of Jack the Ripper that I've ever read. It matters not a whit whether Dr. William Gull is actually Jack the Ripper. Nor whether Queen Victoria set the ball rolling with her orders. Nor whether Abberline actually fell for one of the prostitutes. Nor whether the Freemasons had their hands all over the deeds in Whitechapel. Nor whether Druitt was sacrificed to keep the peace and maintain power dynamics. Nor whether Sickert was involved. Nor whether industrialized, fin-de-siècle, London was our clearest real world dystopia.

What matters is that Alan Moore's writing and Eddie Campbell's artistry uncover a deep emotional and philosophical truth about the reverberations of the smallest actions in the world. The smallest and the biggest. What matters is that they recognize that their tale is nothing more than a tale told from their perspective. What matters is that they painstakingly researched anything and everything that had to do with that autumn in East London, that they rode every ripple from the epicentre no matter how far it took them in time and space, that every decision they made was conscious, and that the sum of that conscious work offered a hyperreality of that definitive event in the life of London that encapsulates the beauty of our existence within the ugliest of events. That is the truth they uncovered: the beauty of living in the ugliest of circumstance.

Theirs is an astounding achievement that transcends the graphic novel medium. It is not simply the greatest graphic novel ever written (though it is that), it is also one of the greatest five stories I have ever read. I would put it up there with Hamlet and Gravity's Rainbow and The Outsider and Wuthering Heights (forgive me this list ... I've not read some others that are undoubtedly great and perhaps deserving of my praise).

From Hell is not for the delicate of heart. I demands work. It demands that you stare at the horror and not simply turn the page with a desire to get past the horror because Moore and Campbell demand that you engage with the horror and cut deep, to the bone, to discover what it is that makes us terrible and wonderful.

The changes this masterpiece (superior to Watchmen and The Killing Joke and V for Vendetta) have wrought on storytelling, on the comic form and even on me are unclear at the moment. But they will be real, and with the benefit of hindsight they will be traceable to From Hell.
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Reading Progress

03/31/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-29 of 29) (29 new)

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message 1: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Looks very interesting - is this a graphic novel or something? I see some people have shelved it under 'comics'.

Thomas Baughman It is a 'graphic novel."

Brad Yep. A graphic novel.

message 4: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Mmm- interesting, thanks. I've been wanting to expand my graphic novel library, but taking into account the subject matter, this one might just turn out to be too "graphic" for me. :P

message 5: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie it looks like a graphic graphic novel

Brad Very graphic. I said recently that a scene from one of the The Walking Dead graphic novels was the most graphic thing I'd experienced since American Psycho, but this was far worse -- although the presence of the graphic content made much more sense here (than in Walking Dead), and it had serious depth.

message 7: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie yes it does makes sense, it is Jack the ripper after all. And that story has been done to death (!) so if this is a fresh take, bravo Alan Moore

message 8: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim This book is a masterpiece. I wouldn't call it extremely graphic (compared to some like Ennis it's rather tame) but still not for the feint of heart. The movie is nothing compared to the book.

Brad The MOVIE! Fuck me. What a travesty that is. It's a huge blight on Johnny Depp's career.

message 10: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim I was young and impressionable when it came out so though I didn't love it I didn't loathe it either. And it is what introduced me to Alan Moore so for that reason I cannot hate it.

message 11: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad I saw it before I read the book too, and actually came out thinking, "That's not so bad." But having read the book now it has to be one of the worst adaptations ever attempted. It's not even really an adaptation. It was just an excuse to use Gull as the Ripper.

message 12: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker Great comments, Brad. I'm convinced that there is no reason other than prejudice that excludes "graphic novels" from being considered literature.

message 13: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad I agree. Someday some of them will be considered literature, though. Moore's work is too strong not push its way into "The Canon," and others will surely be there too. At least that's my guess.

message 14: by Jenn(ifer) (new) - added it

Jenn(ifer) awesome, I just borrowed this from the library!

message 15: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad Uh oh! I hope you like it.

message 16: by Jenn(ifer) (new) - added it

Jenn(ifer) "uh oh?" why "uh oh?"

message 17: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad Just because I fear that it won't live up to my accolades for you.

message 18: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday excellent review for an excellent book, Brad! i also love this one to pieces.

message 19: by Brad (last edited Apr 17, 2012 08:14PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad I knew you'd like From Hell, mark. I need to go read your review.

message 20: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday haven't done one yet. i do need to resolve that serious lack! probably will read it a second time before writing one, it has been a few years.

message 21: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad You must, mark. I look forward to reading your thoughts.

message 22: by Amber (new)

Amber Tucker Aaaaaah. I need to get ahold of this now. Any book that gets this kind of praise from you is instantly on my reading list. Even if it wasn't by Alan Moore. I think I'd love this.

Helen (Helena/Nell) Oh wow, Brad. I have to see it.

message 24: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad Thanks, Amber. I know you'll like it, being an appreciator of Mr. Moore, as you are.

I would love to hear what you think, Nell.

Helen (Helena/Nell) You will.

Please will you STOP costing me so much money!! I can't afford to order any more books this month!

message 26: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad Sorry :|, I don't mean to be a salesman for the book stores. I just can't help myself.

Gutts Warutare My favorite Moore work. I actually enjoy it a bit more than Watchmen.

Droydicus Malojan "the greatest graphic novel ever written"

Strong words there, and Im not inclined to disagree, though I think personally, 'Lone Wolf and Cub' might pip it at the post for me.

Emmet D'Alton I just finished it and only gave it three stars (review pending), but you make a good case for its quality. What did you think of Gull and his flights of madness (like the tour around London and Chapter 14)?

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