From Hell

by Alan Moore

“Knight of the East, you stand accused of mayhems that have placed our brotherhood in jeopardy, before your peers, masons and doctors both.”
“I have no peers here present.”

1888 saw a series of murders and mutilations that shocked the world and gave us one of the most infamous killers in history. There are five main murders associated with Jack the Ripper, and this book details each. Extensive research was obviously done to write this story, and many liberties were taken as well.

One of the first things revealed in this book is the identity of the killer. As the police and the media speculate the perpetrator was indeed a man of immense skill, no less than the Crown’s Royal Surgeon (though he is promoted to the position near the beginning of the work).

William Gull, a high-ranking member of the Masonic order, is mixed up in the story after Queen Victoria’s son is found to have sired an illegitimate child with a local prostitute. The working girls, destitute, learn the true identity of the father and resolve to blackmail a man close to the Crown with the information in exchange for money to stay alive. The Queen learns of the blackmail, promotes William to Royal Surgeon after he saves her son from illness, and tasks him with dispatching the women involved.

We soon begin to see cracks in the formidable Gull’s armor as his explanations to his sadistic but frightened driver border on ravings. As the Doctor goes about his work he gets closer to personal enlightenment and to God, even becoming unhinged in time and traveling to the future.

Gull’s ties to the Masons complicate his endeavor, because instead of quickly killing the girls he decides to mutilate them, purportedly to ward off the encroaching Order of the Golden Dawn, which William claims was responsible for the French Revolution. The Masons learn the doctor is working under royal decree but also that he is out of control. They hatch plans to mitigate the damage and throw smoke on the issue. By the time a local detective, with the help of a psychic investigator, gets close enough to identify the killer, the murders have finished and the entire situation is on lock-down. The few who know the truth are forced into silence.

This may all sound like an interesting, complicated story, but this is a graphic graphic novel. The following page spread is one of the most gruesome but gives a good idea of what you can expect. Even among horror fans this is not going to be for everyone, and you should know how bad it gets if you’re thinking about picking this one up:

Mutilation

Other controversial parts of the books are the frequent sexual situations displayed, usually seeming dirty and depraved. This isn’t due to the female prostitution, but more comments on the men involved. While they have hard lives and are treated poorly, the prostitutes in the story come across as mostly victims of the world.

It’s a long book by graphic novel standards and is told in the vernacular of the time which may slow the reading down a little further, much like we Americans need to concentrate harder to understand dialogue in films like Lock, Stock and Trainspotting. The story takes some time to get properly rolling, but by the halfway point you are wide-eyed and glued to the page.

From Hell
examines murder, magic and conspiracy, is exhaustively researched, and takes an unapologetic look at the human condition.

“Do you understand how I have loved you? You’d have all been dead in a year or two from liver failure, men, or childbirth. Dead. Forgotten. I have saved you. Do you understand that? I have made you safe from time, and we are wed in legend, inextricable within eternity.”

4+ stars

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