You don’t know ”From Hell.” You might have seen the film, but you don’t know the book. And I’m not here to tell you, ”Oh my God, the movie has ruined my favorite book.” The film does a heroic job of emulating Eddie Campbell’s imagery and using as much of Alan Moore’s writing as it can. But it’s not the book. It can’t be. The book is more than 500 pages long, and astonishingly rich with information, drama, and vision. It’s an immense, majestic work about the Jack the Ripper murders, the dark Victorian world they happened in, and the birth of the 20th century. This awful moment in the 1880s was, in Moore’s view, the beginning of tabloid journalism, the end of empire, and, of course, the emergence of the first famous serial killer.
Campbell’s illustration can be an acquired taste, but it’s the closest comics come to documentary technique. Campbell makes people real, without artificial glamour. The broken-down whores of Whitechapel are exactly that under his pen. Years of cheap sex in back alleys do not leave you looking like Heather Graham. While the story is dressed in fiction, it’s hung on fact. Five women died for nothing, and the world we live in was born.
Aside from authoring DC’s upcoming ”Two-Step,” Warren Ellis has written ”Transmetropolitan,” ”Orbiter,” ”Planetary,” and ”Global Frequency” for DC, ”Switchblade Honey” for AiT/PlanetLar, and ”Scars” for Avatar.