Page 45 Review by Stephen
Filing FROM HELL under horror may seem to be doing one of the greatest accomplishments in comics history a reductive disservice, but horror is predicated upon fear, and theres plenty to fear here in the form of power, powerlessness and not being believed, so enduring the worst alone.
On the surface it's the story of one sick bastards execution of a royal cover up, enflamed by his own misogynistic obsession with carving a male sigil through the heart of London by slaughtering the women of the street who happen to have strayed too close to a blue-blooded Victorian's philandering.
But madness and ceremony and the architecture of time play lead parts in this gruelling masterpiece, as the women we encounter struggle hard enough to survive in their own unforgiving environment, let alone once they're lured by the luxury of grapes into the alien world of an upper class, horse-drawn carriage, and Dr. Gull has visions of this modern world where his deeds are anything but forgotten.
Eddie Campbell's intricate and sophisticatedly rhythmic visuals are inseparable from the haunting experience, whether theyre the chasmic looks in Dr. Gull's eyes that see more than is there or the bleak, filthy, dark and stark London which he scratches indelibly on your minds eye.
Conversely Campbell and Moore bring humanity to those whom Gull sees as mere sacrificial meat, by following their individual attempts to earn but a pittance not to pay rent but to secure unsecured lodgings for one single night which leads them to make blunders which cost them their lives
Hollywood turned this dense and intense work into a Whodunnit but its not a Whodunnit we know from the start who did it which makes the thwarted investigation all the more painful to follow its a Whydunnit. And it comes with all the power of a tragedy in its true Shakespearian sense because we know from recorded history that these women are already butchered before theyve taken this stage.
There is no escape. So add inevitability to ones darkest fears. Add business as usual too.
Please Note: still available its original black and white incarnation, FROM HELL now comes transmogrified by Eddie Campbells new colourized treatment. I honestly recommend both.
Also Recommended: THE FROM HELL COMPANION by Eddie Campbell
Eddie Campbell (ALEC OMNIBUS, BACCHUS, BIZARRE ROMANCE with Audrey Niffenegger etc) is comics finest raconteur and there is much of mirth to unearth in the creation of FROM HELL, along with structural, page-layout insight. Along with Scott McClouds MAKING COMICS, I heartily recommend this to anyone studying the narrative art of comics.
Copiously illustrated with private photos and pertinent pages, this is both a biography of FROM HELLs conception, reception and publishing history as well as its influences, development and artistic progress including cordial disagreement and well reasoned revisions. Moores expansive scripts and conversational pre-ambles sent in preparation for each chapter are rearranged by Eddie into an accessible new narrative with Campbell commentary which is an entertainment in itself.
Eddie explains his approach to each segment, expounding his wider theories about comics construction from individual pages layout to what is required and what should be avoided in any works climax and conclusion. There arent that many creators whove given the medium of comics this much minute, forensic examination then communicated it so eloquently; although Moore is emphatically another as evidenced by these infamously extravagant but gloriously evocative extracts which are even more impressive considering that they were never intended to see the light of day. Behold the light of day!