Thursday, 24 May 2012

From Hell - Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell

I'd always wanted to read From Hell but had never really had the motive to buy the huge graphic novel. Luckily, however, my graphic novel book club decided to read it for the latest meeting and not only did I get to buy it, I got a discount as well. Lucky!

However, since the meeting got postponed and now I can't attend the next one, I thought I'd turn my thoughts into a review. Because, honestly, this book needs to be talked about.

Originally released in 10 issues, the collected novel tells the story of the Jack the Ripper murders through an extremely convoluted but very ingenious theory linking events and answering almost everything there is to question about the situation. 

What makes the book really unique, however, is that Moore does away with all of the whodunit and makes this more of a how and why done it. You know right from the beginning who the murderer is; it's never a question. The reader follows right from the beginning with the birth of a bastard royal through to the retirement of the policemen involved and "Jack's" death. In the 120 years or so since the murders, who the killer is has been discussed to death. This new take on the issue is a breath of fresh air.

The complicated web of theory that Moore creates is impressive and confusing. It is just unimaginable how he came up with his solutions. Almost anything that could be conceivably questioned is answered. But at the same time, he also likes to throw in people and events that are timely but not necessarily connected. Oscar Wilde appears for no reason other than he was conveniently alive and in the neighborhood when one scene was being written. Although it's fun to see Wilde, it does sit a little uneasily.

Truly, both the downside and the incredibly helpful thing of this book are the notes in the back. When I began reading this at first, I got through about the first four chapters before being confused by a panel and flipping back to see the endnotes. And that's when I realized that this is what I was supposed to be reading. Notes are pages long and explain things that there is no earthly way you would have figured out on your own. I had to go back and begin again; this time, I read a few pages, then the notes, constantly flipping back and forth. 

Without the notes, I doubt I would have gotten a quarter of what I got out of the book. They explain a lot and even go into more depth with things briefly mentioned. Casual remarks would have been overlooked of their significance and I would not have recognized important characters. However, is a book truly readable if you have to read the notes to truly understand it? I can't imagine reading through the entire thing without touching the notes and actually knowing what the entire plot is, ignoring the small details. I was getting lost while reading, hence why I turned to the notes in the first place. Is that a good sign?

No matter what you think, the book is definitely thought provoking, entertaining and all around a good read. I was really looking forward to discussing this with my comic book friends but all you out there in internet land will have to take over for me. What are your thoughts? 

Oh, and there was a movie with Johnny Depp at some point. Ignore that. It's rubbish.

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