From Hell: Master Edition - Integral: the review

From Hell: Master Edition - Integral: the review
From the hell of Whitechapel, one of Alan Moore's most successful graphic novels returns, From Hell: Master Edition - Unabridged. The reinterpretation of the case of Jack the Ripper signed by the British author and Eddie Campbell who, in addition to having created the illustrations, in this new restored version, revises the colors and the plates. A classic to reread and enjoy now thanks to the new makeover that contains in a single work all sixteen volumes of which the original graphic novel is composed.

A restoration, the one carried out in From Hell: Master Edition - Complete published by Magic Press, which does not distort the fullness of the original work composed of those illustrations so characteristic as to be perfectly adherent to the subject matter, but adds substance and makes it even more understandable in many points. > We talk more about Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's masterpiece here.

The return of an exceptional classic

With Watchmen Alan Moore has decreed a breaking point with comics on superheroes, who until then had been characterized by a general naivete and cyclical perpetuation of clich├ęs, giving reason for criticism to give new meaning to comics. In 1986, therefore, the miracle took place: comics began to no longer be considered a mere pop product intended for young people and Watchmen, in particular, was seen as a real literary product to deserve a prominent place in culture, so much so as to win an Award. Hugo. The way is opened: we no longer speak only of “comics”, but of graphic novels, comic novels, complex narrative structures that touch mature themes and unfold through an illustrated story.

With From Hell it's not too brave to say that more or less the same thing happened. Published between 1989 and 1998, the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell has redesigned the canons of the comic and made it capable of pushing the boundaries, of telling something that until then had been relegated to pure literature. It could be said that like Watchmen it has shown that the potential of this medium is vast, giving the possibility to illustrate mature themes, violent and disturbing scenes, realistic (even historical) settings, to investigate human nature through the drawn word, in the same way as a novel.

Alan Moore has once again given proof of being able to produce a work that remains etched in the history of comics as a brand in focus. From Hell is now considered a milestone in the world of comics, probably made even more famous by the film adaptation that was drawn from it in 2001 by the Hughes brothers (although the opinions of audiences and critics are still conflicting today regarding the success of the film) . A piece of true history narrated within a graphic novel that made history in its turn, enclosed in Italy for the first time in a collection in 2005, by Magic Press, and returned today in a new edition, published from the same publishing house, completely restored and providing new insights.

It doesn't matter that it's not all Moore's work: From Hell is inspired by Stephen Knight's book called Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, who deepens the statements of Joseph Gorman, self-styled illegitimate son of one of the key figures in the facts concerning Jack the Ripper, or Walter Sickert. Taking a cue from the work created by Knight, Alan Moore has thus created a graphic novel of considerable importance, a fundamental legacy in the world of comics and literature in general, while also adding his own. The last pages of From Hell: Master Edition - Integrale also contain numerous explanatory notes that indicate which are the passages taken directly from the book by Stephen Knight and which, instead, those that really happened at the time or that represent the hypotheses made by Moore himself around the (perpetually unsolved) affair.

An exceptional classic whose return is certainly welcomed with open arms. We explain why.

A conspiracy behind the crimes

As mentioned above, the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell takes its inspiration from the work Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution . This would therefore give a papabile name to the mysterious figure of the Whitechapel serial killer, through a reconstruction of the facts that would involve none other than the Freemasons and the English Crown itself. Although From Hell: Master Edition - Integrale brings a vogue to a historical graphic novel, however, we point out that from here on there could be some spoilers for those who have never read the work of Moore and Campbell.

From Hell tells thus of a conspiracy hatched by the gray eminences of London in 1888, starting however from a particularly important figure: Queen Victoria herself. The nephew, Prince Albert Victor, is in fact secretly married and married to a woman of the people, Anne Crook, and from this union a child was born, Alice, who often spends a lot of time with Marie Kelly, a prostitute friend of Anne. Having discovered the cause of scandal for the Crown, Vittoria thus gives the order to separate the couple and to lock Anne Crook in an asylum, where she must receive adequate "care" so that the secret does not leak out.

Little Alice is remained, safe and sound, together with Marie Kelly: the latter has discovered the true identity of "Albert" and his royal descent and refuses to continue to keep the child with him, thus entrusting her to the painter Walter Sickert, friend of Albert . Returned to her usual life, the woman nevertheless has to face the usual misery of lack of money that marks her existence and that of her friends who like her work in Whitechapel. They make a decision: to send a letter to Sickert blackmail him, threatening to tell everything about the scandal of Prince Albert and his illegitimate daughter, if they do not receive an adequate sum of money.

They don't know, the four women, to have decreed their end. In fact, the news of the blackmail reaches the Crown and Queen Victoria resorts to a countermeasure: she hires Dr.William Gull, a court physician and renowned surgeon belonging to the Masonic brotherhood, to silence whitechapel prostitutes forever thanks to her knowledge and his skill. However, even Vittoria does not know that the assignment entrusted to Gull will have unpleasant and unexpected consequences.

The doctor, in fact, will carry out the assignment with excessive zeal, killing the intended victims and maiming them horribly. His crimes will throw Whitechapel into turmoil, generating panic and a general morbid interest, which combined together will give life to a figure destined to remain in history: that of Jack the Ripper, the mysterious killer of the neighborhood whose identity will remain forever hidden from the more. Inspector Frederick Abberline investigates the case and will eventually receive the help of psychic Robert James Lees to find out the truth about the real identity of the brutal Jack.

“From hell”, Netley

From Hell is not simply a reinterpretation of the facts that sadly marked Whitechapel in 1888. Alan Moore himself questions Knight's version, although it seems quite plausible among the countless hypotheses and statements made about the figure of Jack the Ripper in the over the years. At the end of the volume it is possible to find a short semi-comic chapter entitled The Dance of the Chicken-Catchers: here Moore and Campbell draw themselves as two witnesses of the media circus built around the murders through the most disparate conjectures and the most unbridled sensationalism, leading to conflicting testimonies and clues, statements aimed at causing a sensation, hypotheses that turned out to be fallacious.

Moore tells us that everyone, at some point, started to want to have their say about the identity of Jack lo Ripper, trying to earn a prominent place or even a protagonist, under the banner of sensationalism and unhealthy excitement that often arise from the most heinous crimes brought to the fore in the news. From Hell, therefore, does not want to be yet another attempt to give a face and a name to the serial killer of Whitechapel, also because, as the author states, this is an undertaking destined to fail forever.

The graphic novel created by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell is rather a life picture of humanity in all its possible narrow-mindedness, made manifest above all by those who populated Whitechapel in the Victorian era, making the neighborhood a place of misery , baseness, economic and moral poverty. Even before Jack the Ripper baptized the place with the blood of his crimes and brought horror to its streets, Whitechapel was a neighborhood infamous in London for being somewhat infamous: prostitution, destitution, violence, crime and a general meanness that meandered among the inhabitants in an atmosphere of ignorance and low instincts. The work, From Hell: Master Edition - Unabridged, takes its name from what appears to be a letter actually sent by the real Jack the Ripper to the English police, whose heading reads "From Hell": the hell of which he speaks. 'murderer therefore does not seem to be a literal Dante place, but rather Whitechapel itself, a definition that extends to the whole of London when William Gull quotes William Blake's poem London in the comic.

It is not necessary, however, go as far as England to find "hell". Moore tells us with surprising ability the general human misery, the madness of individuals, in a constant dance between a spirit of conservation and self-destructive instincts, which however involve not only ourselves but also others. In this sense, it is interesting to note how the author focuses in particular on the real victims of this sad piece of history: women. Not only the prostitutes killed horribly by Jack the Ripper, but the female figures who in almost all eras have suffered hatred, violence and the attempt to be relegated to marginal and trivial roles.

Nell 'inferno of From Hell: Master Edition - Integral the man stands as a figure of maximum and sacred power, he seems to be the god of this place, but he does not act against the woman moved by his position, but rather out of a feeling of sacred fear that he proves for it, beautifully explained by Gull's own unpleasant misogynistic speeches describing ancient female cults and matriarchal societies of ancestral times. The ability of the two authors also resides in this: in delineating in great detail a society that, even if it is set in a Victorian context, forces us to look in the mirror and find too many similarities, leaving us tried by a feeling of hatred and disgust for what has been built over the centuries. In short, From Hell is a masterpiece not only for the intricate plot that tells the dynamics of Whitechapel's heinous murders, but for the reflections it generates on our own condition as fallible and too often bankrupt humans.

A well done restoration

From Hell is a great work thanks also to its illustrations. When the graphic novel was first published, what also impressed readers and critics was the way Eddie Campbell shaped Moore's narrative. In fact, the author's drawings seem to have come directly from Victorian periodical publications known as penny dreadful: booklets that contained stories of horror, crime and mystery, characterized by rather crude illustrations.

Campbell takes up this style, the fits with its dark and decisive stroke, and packs a comic that adheres flawlessly to the narrated setting, almost giving the illusion that it may have been drawn at the time. The graphic novel, however, was born in black and white. And although purists might turn up their noses at the news of a restoration, we want to reassure them: From Hell: Master Edition - Integrale probably provides what the original work was missing.

The black and white graphic novel can certainly be said complete in itself, but the remake made by Eddie Campbell brings changes that give greater depth to the whole and sometimes make it more usable. The coloring of the illustrations makes the images more alive, full of details, showing details that until now could not be captured (such as Sickert's red handkerchief, actually used by the painter and present in the graphic novel, now no longer black but of a color blood). The palettes, moreover, are suitable for the historical period: extensive use is made of sepia, browns, grays, without disdaining more lively colors which nevertheless remain on "antiqued" shades.

Campbell, moreover, he doesn't just apply colors to his designs. They are not superimposed on the original illustrations, but these are completely recolored in some places, thus allowing them to be fully appreciated by reducing the shadow areas that could sometimes "hide" details. A work done with skill, which provides new shades but also new forms to the illustrated characters: in fact, the author carries out a complete restoration also for what concerns the real figures, which often makes reading the graphic novel more understandable. In fact, this one suffers in certain points from the excessive similarity between one character and another, greatly reduced thanks to the restoration of Campbell which now makes one figure more recognizable from the other.

In short, From Hell: Master Edition - Integral is probably what Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell needed. A work that, even if it does not finally provide a solution to the mystery of Jack the Ripper, certainly gives a new vision and a new awareness. Faced with our human failure and the historic failure to provide a definitive answer to Whitechapel's enigma, we can only recall the only certain and undeniable constant of the fact: the victims. Thus the two authors in fact open the work:

This book is dedicated to Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Liz Stride, Kate Eddowes and Marie Jeannette Kelly. You and your death: of these things alone we are certain. Good night sir.

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