One of the greatest works in comics, Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell‘s From Hell gets a new hardcover collection this August from Top Shelf & Knockabout. And this time, the blood will run red with this newly recolorized version.
This full-colour From Hell hardback collects together the recent 10-volume serialised version of From Hell that featured full colours for the very first time on art that existed in perfect black and white prior to this.
Back in 2018, Eddie Campbell and Top Shelf announced the 10-volume reprint with extensive revisions and remastering that was described at the time as revising the comic “for color, clarity, and continuity”. Eddie Campbell had this to say of the new process…
“The most dramatic change is the color, of course. I prefer the term ‘colorizing’ to ‘coloring’ since I’m not simply painting within the black lines, but reconceiving every panel to suit a full-color world. But I’ve also gone through and fixed small errors and minor flaws that have haunted me for decades. Ultimately the result is my equivalent of a ‘director’s cut’ of From Hell.”
So yes, Jack is back — and this time, the blood is red.
From Hell is one of my all-time favourite comic works. I rate it above Watchmen and V For Vendetta in Moore’s bibliography and think it’s some of the greatest work Eddie Campbell has ever put to page.
If you weren’t already aware, From Hell tells the tale of Jack the Ripper. Or rather it tells the tale of a possible Jack the Ripper, offering one possible face of the murderer whilst carefully pointing out that this is something that will never be solved and has evolved into folklore and fiction over the years, meaning that there are many possible ‘Jacks’ in the frame. The one here is just the one that fits a narrative best for Moore.
But more than that, it tells the tale from the perspective of all the players, going deep into their lives, whether that’s the victims themselves and their friends and family down in the dirt of Whitechapel or the highest in the land, shocked and appaled at what has happened to the seat of Empire.
It is complex, involved, involving, an epic work. It’s drenched in blood, of course, but also drenched in other horrors of the world of the time, the richness of the story allowing the full exploration of the darkness of Victoria’s England of the time and allowing the authors to venture forth to encompass multiple narratives, multiple conspiracies, multiple lives and multiple deaths.
Frankly, I believe it’s a masterpiece.
And a huge part of that masterpiece comes from the pen of Campbell. His black and white renderings of the world of From Hell are both stunning and shocking. Every time I read my copy of the collection in b&w I’m amazed anew at the quality of his line, the details on his pages, the absolute beauty of what’s there in stark contrast to some of the horror and brutality of the subject matter. It was, to my mind at least, sheer perfection.
And then Eddie Campbell decided to do this colorized version.
At first, I must admit, I was sceptical indeed. It surely didn’t need the addition of colour, being perfect as it was. And then I picked up some of the volumes and read them. Yes, initially, you spend the time comparing, looking back to the originals and see what difference the colour makes and seeing if you can spot those small changes that Campbell has made.
But as I read it once more, the colour bothered me less and less as the story and the art unfolded in front of me. Yes, there are pages where the imposition of colour takes some of the finer detailing and sheer brutality of what’s on the page – not necessarily the physical brutality of the murders, but the brutality of the artwork itself. But equally, there are pages where the colour process actually enhances the pages, giving them new depth.
But overall, Campbell has chosen his colour palette so carefully and well that the main difference in the reading experience is actually rather minimal. There are a huge number of pages where the setting of the page is such that Campbell’s palette of minimal browns and greens and greys that it’s a very subtle change from the stark black and white.
After those initial concerns, a few readings of the colorized volumes and the original b&w collected edition has made me take a different view, and I’d warrant the right one, that it matters not one bit whether you read From Hell in the original b&w version or this new colorized version.
Either way, it’s a powerful, incredible reading experience. It is still, in my opinion, one of the best graphic novels I’ve read, with both Moore and Campbell at the absolute height of their considerable powers.
The most important thing, in fact, is that you just read From Hell, no matter what format, and decide for yourself.
From Hell – Master Edition – written by Alan Moore, art by Eddie Campbell, published in August by Top Shelf Publishing (USA) & Knockabout Comics (UK).