Monday, 5 August 2013

Monday Memories #31 - From Hell #9

Each Monday this year I'll be taking a look back at a random comic, prestige format issue, graphic novel or collection of reprints from amongst my 3,000 or so comics that date from 1962 to 2003 - I figured anything in the last ten years would be too recent to hark back to.

The comics are chosen completely at random and apart from a four week lead-in period, even I don't know what I'll be looking at in the weeks to come!

FROM HELL #9 - April 1996

Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's huge look at the Jack the Ripper murders is one of my favourite works regardless of medium and possibly Moore's best writing. It's not a whodunnit (which the terrible film adaptation completely failed to take into account) but more of an exploration as to why the murders took place.

By the time issue #9 was released, the last of the murders had occurred - poor old Mary Kelly was left butchered in Miller's Court and the police still had no culprit. Royal psychic Robert Lees, earlier insulted by the Queen's surgeon Sir William Gull, takes it into his head to frame the doctor and so meets Inspector Abberline where he conveniently has a vision of the murderer's location:

He convinces Abberline to travel with him to Gull's house - Lees is aware of who lives there, Abberline is not - and eventually the Inspector rather shamefacedly admits to the doctor the reason for their arrival:

Gull's admission throws both Abberline and Lees into confusion; the Inspector had no reason to expect such a result, and Lees had sought only to embarrass the doctor in revenge for the petty insult dealt to him some time before. Leaving the house, Gull delights in highlighting the difference between himself and Lees:

The rest of the issue deals with the subsequent trail by Freemasons that Gull undergoes and then, later, Abberline's deduction of Gull's reasons for committing the murders.

This, like the rest of the series, is excellently done, both in terms of art and writing; it's a testament to the series that simply flicking through it to find a handful of images makes me want to put down what I'm reading now and re-read the entire thing, comprehensive appendices as well.

Moore himself admits that the theory he based the story on - the royal baby, the Freemasonic conspiracy, even Gull as the killer - is amongst the weakest of the lot, but he uses the framework so well to explore not only the killings but the people, their lives and London itself at the time.

As much as I love Moore's work on Watchmen, V for Vendetta or even Tom Strong, I think From Hell probably sits as my favourite.

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