I love graphic novels. They’re like films you can hold in your hands. You can visit them intimately whenever you like. A secret, immersive cinema all for you.
Alan Moore’s From Hell is a trip into an interesting time in history that is stranger than the fiction inspired by it. Alongside Eddie Campbell’s artwork, Moore takes us on a trip into British fear, Victorian barbarianism and infamy. He documents and fictionalises the Whitechapel Murders; the very mesh of documentation and theory that he delves into regarding the identity of the killer and the circumstances around the murders, serves as its own mirror to the environment of the time. He navigates the attitudes towards class, progress and our relationship to infamy and fear with a backdrop of some of the most effective uses of shadow and light from Campbell. Northampton’s top world-builder gives us an insight into the persecution of the working classes, through the treatment of Prince Eddie’s secret shop-girl wife, Annie. The mistreatment of her mental health is a truthful example of the long-standing political agenda for the working classes. Keep their minds under control, within walls, and all is well. I think this underpins the whole novel. I think Moore uses the Whitechapel Murders as a vehicle for the relationship of the working class to the elites. On the surface, upper-class life is charmed, but they fear us. They have to keep this secret.
The conspiracy that binds the working-class to the upper-class is cleverly sustained and it never feels convoluted. He takes us through human studies of grief, fear, and theology and although he’s delving into history, it seems so familiar. It reminds us that humans still have the same mentalities we always have and that the elites are still afraid of the working-classes. I’d highly recommend it to anyone. The characters are fully formed, the artwork is stunning and always impactful, and the world Moore manages to create, linking the highest of the high with the perceived lowest of the low is both empowering and terrifying in the dingy streets he makes us walk with him.
4/5 – Sammy Willbourne