Friday, October 20, 2006

From Hell: Gull's Ascent

I've finished up the main part of From Hell, and after I read the Gull Catchers, I'll do a general wrap up on the book. But, I want to talk a bit about the more magical elements of the book, specifically the chapter chronicling Gull's ascent. After killing Mary Kelly, Gull's purpose is fulfilled and he loses the fire that drove him following his vision of Jahbuhlon. He winds up in a mental institution, rotting away in a cell with only death to look forward to.

The chapter begins with a nurse and guard having sex in Gull's cell. The whole point of Gull's subsequent vision is to show him completely transcending the limits of three-dimensional temporal perception. So, it's appropriate that his death would occur during sex, bringing things full circle. Gull's ascent begins with a vision of London where multiple time periods are visible overlapping each other. This image, on page 14.8.1, is virtually the same as a panel from The Invisibles 3.2, right down to the World War I era soldier leading the way. The only difference is Morrison has his characters represented as 'timeworms,' with their past and present stretching out of them. That idea was a critical component of Morrison's vision during his alien abduction, something that Moore chooses to represent in a different way.

As the chapter continues, we see Gull encounter a variety of people, clearing up some mysteries from earlier in the book and connecting his work with the past and future. I love the idea of history as an arch, with events that recur and speed up as time progresses. To Moore, the critical component of Jack the Ripper is the idea that Gull is subsumed by this mythic character built up around him. However, as we see in the newspaper scene, the reason that Jack exists is actually because of the paper sales created by 'The Monster' one hundred years earlier. However, Jack is the one who defines the idea of serial killer for future generations, and the massive media attention given to Jack is likely what inspired a lot of his predecessors, a number of whom he encounters during his journey through time.

When he sees these others, he is seeing people who tap into the same cultural archetype he built, however, they lack the awareness of mythological significance. For Gull, the killings were a magical act, designed to protect the world he came from. However, he was the last holder of that knowledge, in those who followed, the act itself is what is significant. The papers did not discuss why he killed, rather they were caught up in the violence and the fear. Gull himself became secondary to the 'Jack' character that built up around him.

Earlier in the book, Gull talks about the fact that gods are nothing more than vessels to which humans assign traits. As time has passed, we have stopped seeing gods in all things, like the nature gods that used to exist, and have condensed this mystical essence into one being. However, those gods that once were still exist, and as he dies, Gull realizes that he has become a god. Through his actions, he has transcended time and space and created an archetypal being that has shaped the world long after his mortal death. Jack the Ripper has become a recurring archetype, a god who continues to inspire fear more than a century after creation.

And like any god, it is belief that fuels him. In Promethea, we hear a lot of talk about the idea of belief as a prime magical tool to fuel change in the world. Without belief, gods are nothing. Jack the Ripper is worshipped through fear, so Mary Kelly's defiant cry to "Clear off back to Hell and leave us be," means that this god has no power over her. She avoided him before, by fleeing England, and now, years later, she will not let that fear affect her children.

But for the world as a whole, the belief is still strong, and each new serial killer is one who worships at the altar of the ripper. In the epilogue, Moore connects the culture of violence created by Jack the Ripper with the rise of Hitler, the ultimate proponent of a culture of death.

William Gull was the last of the old gods. He set out to use a magical sacrifice to the masonic god Jahbuhlon as a way to preserve the society he came from and protect it from revolutions both social and political. He succeeded in doing this, however, in killing these women, he also extinguishes the capacity for wonder. He created a cold, real world, where death is an obsession and the capacity to believe in something higher than oneself is destroyed. Gull bridges the two eras, he is a scientist, but has the capacity to find wonder everywhere in the world. However, he is the last one to view the world this way, and when he passes into the future, few people even notice him. The god is dead, only the sacrifice remains.

Earlier today, I came across a 45 minute video of a lecture that Grant Morrison gave at a Disinfo event. It covers a lot of his classic themes, but what stood out to me now was just how similar much of what he's saying is to what comes up in From Hell. He was working on The Invisibles at the time Moore was writing From Hell, they're both covering the same basic material, but address it in radically different ways. This is primarily due to their styles of magical practice, Morrison is a chaos magician, a do it yourself guy who likes to improvise. Moore is a strict formalist, who does extensive research and planning when creating a work. Morrison would never do a book with a forty page appendix, he's more about synthesizing life, history and other fiction to create his worlds.

'Gull's Ascent' has a lot in common with The Invisibles' 'All Tomorrow's Parties,' in which Robin spins outside of time, experiencing a variety of scenes as she moves towards Godhood. Moore's work is strictly structured, carefully fitting into scenes established chapters earlier, as well as into specific historical moments. The captions skillfully describe Gull's journey in the characters' voice, full of references to older magical texts. Morrison sticks within his own storyworld, and uses a more freeform, emotional approach. It's a bit sloppier, but gets the job done nonetheless. I prefer the Morrison approach, but I think the two treatments compliment each other wonderfully.

In this video, Morrison talks about the way that the linking of the two hemispheres of the brain turned external gods into internal voices, and what once was visionary is now crazy. This is the exact stuff that crops up in From Hell, though Morrison pushes things a bit further by claiming that today's multiple personality sufferers are actually the next step in human evolution. We all experience the world from multiple perspectives, but they are able to isolate and become self sufficient. Both Moore and Morrison would claim that trying to suppress this 'psychosis' is shutting out a potential window into magical consciousness.

The fusion of the brain has removed our capacity for wonder, in Morrison's pop magic, he says the first step towards becoming a magician is being able to see the world, observe the details and understand the connections that underlie ordinary reality. Once you step back, it's easier to experience the world like Gull does in chapter ten, seeing the wonder and magic in everyday objects. Once perception is altered, it's possible to take control of reality and sculpt it to your liking. For both men, fiction is the critical part of this.

The Invisibles and From Hell were critical turning points for each. When Morrison was writing The Invisibles, he went through the abduction experience and that new view of the universe has been the core of everything he's written since. Through his research for this book, Moore became exposed to magic, and declared himself a magician. Those ideas then led to Promethea, a work that takes many of the concepts in From Hell and explores them further. I feel like I understood the book a lot better after reading Promethea, which dealt with the symbolism and concepts underlying this work. For Moore, Promethea was an attempt to recover what was lost, and bring magic back into the world.

For me personally, the act of reading all these works completely rewrote my perception of the universe. It made me see fiction in a whole new light, understanding that a work could be more than just entertainment, it could be a magical act designed to rewrite reality. And it also made me more open to the possibilities of extraordinary, out of reality events, being possible. After reading The Invisibles, I went on something of a shamanic quest, which culminated with my first read of From Hell six months after. By the end, I was open and believed that magic was not something flashy, not something that is immediately evident, rather it's a series of forces that seemingly underlie the universe, and be it through prayer, sigils, or sheer force of will, offering up a desire into the ether will likely lead to its fulfillment. It only takes a belief that there is more to this world than what we can see.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

From Hell: Chapter 10

I've read through chapter thirteen now, but I wanted to track back and write a bit abut chapter 10, the heart of the work and one of the most transcendent moments in all of Moore's oeuvre. The art and language of From Hell really immerse you in the nineteenth century world that Moore is exploring, and you're immersed so thoroughly that when Gull experiences our world, it feels utterly alien and cold. You see our reality from the perspective of this man, and it's a very odd feeling. It literally feels like seeing the future, even though what he's now seeing is just our everyday reality.

Beyond the surreal elements, the most striking thing about chapter ten is the violence. Very rarely do you read a comic that makes you cringe, but these images have deep power and Gull's dissection of Marie Kelly is quite disturbing to witness. It must have been a tough time for Eddie Campbell, to have to so meticulously detail what Gull did, but it ends up making for a segment that simultaneously dares you to look away from the gruesomeness and totally immerses you in Gull's mystical revelry. This is what all his work has been building towards, he is here to deliver the twentieth century, and he finds out that his quest to quell this female uprising has inadvertantly destroyed the magic that he perceives in all aspects of reality.

When I first finished the work, I posted on Barbelith with the idea of William Gull as the last of the old Gods, a holder of a secret knowledge that his actions are extinguishing. How do we reconcile this with his role as midwife for the twentieth century? I think this chapter shows the answer to this question. Gull set out to protect the society he lived in, and to uphold the traditions of the Royal family and the Masons, both secretive organizations who were considered to hold a mystical, extraordinary power. The Masons may be old men, but they believe in the 'Grand Architect,' also known as Jahbuhlon, the raw embodiment of all mysiticism in the world. In their ceremonies, we see a respect for wonder and the mystery of the divine.

Gull does not seek to destroy the magic he perceives in the world, rather he is seeking to control it, to ensure that his 'house' is able to put down this challenge to their authority. However, when he destroys these nineteenth century incarnations of Diana's priestesses, he is actually destroying all the wonder in the world, creating a reality in which people are all left brain, seeing a cold, oppressively real world despite the many objects of wonder about them. Essentially, he has cut off the connection between left and right brain, leaving a people who are groomed by the media to see not mystical vengeance, but cold hard human action. Jack the Ripper is a new kind of god, one who does not have any supernatural power, instead he is the fear archetype turned into a man. It serves the same purpose, but is based on purely left brain thinking.

Gull compares his work to the turning of water into steam. By killing these women, he is freeing their spirits to rise. They are able to leave the world before it becomes the dead reality Gull finds himself plunged into. I love Gull's address to the workers, imploring them, and us, to wake up to the wonder surrounding them. Ours is a world asleep, one that has advanced so far as to lose sight of something essentially human. The world that Gull describes is one that's purely left brain, the soul, that mysterious entity from which creativity springs, has been lost. While writing this book, Moore declard himself a magician and professed to worship a snake god. With this scene, he is addressing the reader, begging us to reclaim the wonder in our own lives.

In his final speech over the body, Gull talks about the way that he has made each of these women immortal. Again he uses the metaphor of a wedding, in this union of male and female, he has created a lasting myth that lives on long after the people involved have died. The union of male and female as the most powerful source of creation is an idea that Moore explores in Promethea 10, the 'sex' issue, where he writes about the essenitally masculine rationality and the essentially feminine creativity. Here, his final action has allowed Gull to transcend the limits of human perception, to enter the fourth dimension and experience multiple planes of time simultaneously. He sees the world that his actions have wrough, by symbolically extinguishing the feminine creative essence, he has doomed humanity to a rational world, devoid of magic. The burning of the heart is a visual symbol of this, what once gave life is now dust, disperesed in the air.

This vision is the bookend to his encounter with Jahbuhlon back in the book's second chapter. As Gull says, his life has peaked, and from here it's only the descent. This powerful shaman is now just an old man.

Gilmore Girls: 'S'Wonderful, S'Marvelous' (7x04)

Another week, another solid, but unexceptional episode. When Aaron Sorkin left The West Wing, you could sense that the entire show had changed, the voice and style were gone. Watching these Gilmore Girls, I don't think you'd immediately notice the change in leadership. Yes, there are more closeups, and a slightly slower pace, but what stands out most is the lack of vision at the top. I feel like the Palladinos had a very specific idea of where these characters were going, where Rosenthal is merely trying to keep the show interesting. He's succeeding, but this show used to be a lot more than just interesting.

Rory's scenes felt like she'd wandered into Six Feet Under seasons three and four. There's certainly some interesting territory to cover with her getting some new friends, people who she actually likes, unlike every other group of people she's hung out with over the years. It was odd to see Steve Guttenberg's daughter from Veronica Mars crossing over into the Gilmore world. I think these characters could work if they're developed and made to push Rory out of her comfort zone, in the same way that early Logan sstories did.

I think the Lorelai/Christopher relationship is entertaining, but it feels too much like fanfic. It would have been more interesting to keep Lorelai single for a little while. I feel like the Christopher storyline is too obviously headed to some sort of catastrophe, yet the way the show's constructed now, it's making Chris very sympathetic. So, there'll either have to be a sharp turn in his character or an unmotivated breakup. I feel like we're supposed to think that Lorelai and Luke are still the show's great love, but the actual episode makes Christopher seem like the right choice.

Ultimately, my big issue is that the season is not following up on Lorelai's character arc from last season, they addressed the narrative consequences, but not examined the deeper sadness that underlied her breakup with Luke. What they could do is explore the idea that she's just with Chris to fight her fear that she can't have a satisfying relationship. Chris is the ultimate comfortable guy, wealthy, known and clearly devoted to her. But, their uneven levels of affection will presumably undermine the relationship down the line.

That said, the Luke storyline was very good. April is stretching him a bit, and it's always good to see Sherilyn Fenn back. I'm surprised she didn't even broach the idea of Luke getting back together with her mom, I assume that will come up at some point. On the whole, Luke has been the character with the strongest sense of direction during the season, a nice feat considering the way he got messed with at the end of last year.

So, I'm enjoying it still, but the show isn't as strong as it was in the past two years when there was real examination of these characters and development of their world.

Asia Argento Video Diary

Concurrent with her promotion of a new film, Asia Argento is doing a video diary, making entries three times a day about various stuff that's happening to her. There's eight up so far, and they play as a fascinating piece of evolving video art, giving you a picture of the interior life of this successful, somewhat famous actress.

The videos are shot in a very haphazard way and seem designed to draw you into Asia's inner world, completely breaking down the barrier between viewer and subject. Appropriately, the first begins with her sitting in a bathroom stall, and subsequent ones observe her sprawled out in a darkened hotel room and taxi cab. She doesn't seem guarded at all, frequently filming while naked, but even more striking is the emotional rawness. I'm somewhat familiar with her work, and it's interesting to see someone who's been generally successful expressing such malaise about her life. The second video has a really striking composition in which she's cradling a TV, showing footage of her talking to her daughter about going on a trip. She turns away when her daughter expresses no particular interest in the fact that her mother's leaving. So, the TV becomes a visual representation of what's on her subconscious, that which she's trying to shut out.

That one's the most effective, though 3-5 really set a mood. She's just sprawled out in bed, talking about stuff, including a funny story about scalding her foot.

While these all look spontaneous and 'real,' it's possible that they were designed to feel that way, and everything she's saying is a put on. In one of the later videos, she addresses this issue by talking about the way that the qualities she's known for in the media are actually a persona, one she decided to put on when she was younger, but she's been living that persona so long, it's indistinguishable for who she really was. So, yes, what she's saying is contrived in some way, but it's an extension of this persona that she's already cultivated. People wouldn't watch the Asia Argento video diary to see her having happy times at home, they want this outre troubled person, and she must fulfill the obligation that her persona has created.

I'm sure most celebrities create these divisions between their personal life and the image they present on screen and in public. This was most apparent in the old Hollywood star system, where a gay man in real life could be dating women every night according to the gossip columns. Her adoption of this persona goes further because she has convinced herself that it's who she actually is.

Or at least that's what she's saying. It's difficult to separate the line between fiction and reality here. However, considering she grew up as a director's daughter, she was probably always accustomed to a smooth transition between fiction and reality, to the point that fiction can easily become reality. I get the sense that she's expressing her actual feelings here, though they may be a bit exaggerated. However, even if she's not, her 'persona' is, and for most viewers, that persona is more real than the actual person.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Heroes - 'Collision' (1x04)

The second best series on TV delivers another really strong episode. Sometimes I wonder if this show isn't just thinking of everything that will make the 'geek' audience like it and then just throwing it in, but hey, if it's a moment as cool as the end of this, stick with it. This episode also resolves one of the major issues the series has had so far, namely the hard to manage number of storylines. With more of the people crossing over, we can delve a bit deeper into each of the characters' lives.

In crossing everyone over, it would be easy to have them just create alliances and become a superhero team. I prefer this approach, which continues the series' use of Altmanesque structure. Mohinder and Peter have a fairly standard meetup, and actually get to know each other, but other characters just pass each other by, like Hiro and Niki, or the way Claire and Isaac sort of cross over.

The most interesting meeting is Niki and Nathan's encounter. Just last week, I called them the weakest characters on the show, but in combining, they become much more interesting. This is the first episode that lets Niki react to what's happening on an emotional level, rather than as part of a more convoluted scheme. Her storyline at first puts her in the role of a victim, powerless to control her own destiny. I love the moment where her son reveals an understanding of what it is that his mom does for a living, and is able to see through the fake identity she constructed to show him down to the person she really is.

In her interactions with Nathan, we see yet another mask, this time she slips into her 'character,' but, apparently feeling some actual affection for Nathan, is unable to go through with her mission. The scene in the elevator is great, clarifying the division between the two Nikis. Her alter ego is ultra-powerful, claiming exactly what she wants through threats of violence. It's a great reveal, particularly the idea that this Niki considers herself a seperate entity, allied with the regular Niki. I'm not sure which Niki went into the room with Nathan at the end, that's unclear.

That scene, combined with the borderline gratuitous Six getting dressed scene in that last Galactica, prompted me to think about how these actresses feel about being asked to appear in near nude scenes on a semi-weekly basis. In a movie, you get the script, see what it consists of, and have full knowledge of the role. But, how do you feel about getting a script and seeing it consists of a scene with you undressing, knowing this is something that the writers made up this week, knowing that you would be the one to act it out? There's got to be some weird dynamics on set, and I could easily see some showrunners deliberately putting their actors in weird situations to satisfy their own fantasies. In the case of Buffy, people certainly accuse Marti Noxon of doing that with Spike, and both Marsters and Sarah Michelle Gellar expressed unease with all the sex scenes they were asked to do. I guess as an actor on a series, you're placing your trust in the creators, and if you don't believe they're going to be responsible show runners, you shouldn't sign on.

Anyway, this was a really strong sideplot for Nathan as well. He acknowledges his powers, at least to himself, for the first time we've seen. And I'm assuming that his new scandal will in some way tie in to the stuff with Sylar and Claire's dad.

While they're struggling to deal with their powers, Claire and Hiro are enjoying theirs a bit too much. Ando makes reference to Spider-Man, and this is clearly the with great power comes great responsibility episode, where their reckless use of his talents leads to chaos. It's fun, and establishes the visual representation of Hiro's powers as a set convention, something that's essential to setting up the end of the episode. And, I do like the suit as superhero costume, a bit reminiscent of late Invisibles King Mob.

Claire's irresponsibility is a bit more damaging. I think the "Waffles!" scene is very effective in showing her trying to hide her trauma, amidst the constant chattering of her family. She can't tell them what happened, for a variety of reasons, and having to keep that pain inside is difficult. At times, the actress really conveys this, other times she's not quite up to it. Hopefully she'll grow into the role as the show progresses.

The final car scene is great, the show's first real demonstration of the dangers that these powers pose. I suppose you could read her powers as a metaphor for teenagers' feelings of indestructibility, however that doesn't quite work because she actually is indestructible. Claire has a lot in common with a Whedon heroine, being pulled away from the concerns of teenage life by her special powers. However, she's a bit more morally ambiguous than Buffy was at this point in her development, what with her attempt to murder Brody. Another really strong cliffhanger there, I'm guessing her dad won't be too happy with what she's done. The question is when he will step in to control her.

But, he's pretty busy experimenting on Greg Grunberg, in an exceedingly blue scene. I always love this kind of secret medical facility stuff, and this scene certainly recalls some good times on The X-Files. I'm guessing that his mission is to try to track down and experiment on all the Heroes. The question now is whether Greg will spend the whole season trapped, or if he'll escape, and try to build up a team of people to oppose him. Will Clea Duvall be a part of this team? I hope so.

I'm a little unclear on why Mohinder is so skeptical when he's going around with Peter, considering he pulled a crazy person in his approach to Nathan earlier in the episode. I'm guessing it's a feint, but I'm not sure why. I did really like the depiction of Isaac's visions, very impressionistic.

And the final train scene raised this episode to another level. I liked the way we started outside the train, no sound, just taking a visual moment. Then, it's inside, where time stops. I was guessing that this was the moment when Hiro had previously teleported to New York, but it turns out that it's something cooler, future Hiro has returned with a message for Peter. On the one hand, isn't it a bit early for Days of Future Past stuff? However, I'm going to forgive it because it's just such a cool idea, and indicates that the creators do have an idea of where things are going. Hiro has apparently lost the Japanese accent and become some kind dystopian ninja. Fantastic stuff, I've never seen another series doing something like this.

When I watched the first episode, I saw a lot of potential, and each subsequent episode has introduced interesting concepts and further developed the characters. And, it's gotten better with each episode, I'm really excited to see what we get next week.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Patti Smith @ CBGB's

This show was much hyped being the last show ever at CBGB's. I was going because I'd never seen Patti Smith in concert before, but the hype helped me out because we wound up getting a 3 1/2 hour long show, that tracked back through most of Patti's best stuff and a few well chosen covers.

I'm not much of a fan of the venue itself. I wasn't even born durings its heyday, and the only show I'd seen there before was a sparsely attended performance by two of my friends' bands, Phylum and Trip Mine Baby. It was cool that they were able to get booked at such a legendary space, but the space itself is not very good. There's very little space, and much of the floor is blocked off by the bar. Last night, there was a massive crowd and it took forever to get inside, for no particular reason, just that they were really slow checking names. I got on line around 8:30 and didn't get in until around 10. There were a lot of people buzzing around outside, and a lot of rock journalists on the line.

When I got in, Patti was already playing, doing a cover of 'Pale Blue Eyes.' For the next few songs, I struggled to advance to the main floor, but remained caught by the bar. It was really tough to focus on the show since everyone was talking, I'm not sure why they even went if they weren't going to listen to the music. The place was wall to wall people, and there were some contentious moments. A younger guy refused to let an older guy pass by, and when he did finally get by, the older guy said "You wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for me." Apparently, he was an early manager of The Ramones, or perhaps he was this dude's father. I got the sense that a lot of veterans of the club had made the return, people who had been going there since the 70s. Considering the shows they've had over the past few years, I'd imagine most of them haven't been back in a long time.

This first part of the show wasn't too good. I could barely hear her over peoples' conversations, and the songs themselves were generally more low key. 'We Three' was nice, but it's not the kind of thing that's going to grab a crowd. They played a nice 'Birdland,' then took a brief break. At this point, the people shifted and I was able to make my way up to a nice spot off to the left, not too far back.

I'm not sure if it was just that I was closer, but when they came out for the second set, it was like a whole different band. There was so much intensity in attacking the songs. 'Free Money' was an early highlight, turning into a lengthy jam with solos by Lenny Kaye. Patti was also backed by Flea of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, doing some strong bass work, as well as a lot of head swiveling to the beat. If Enrico Colantoni's ever looking to do a biopic, I think The Flea Story would be an ideal project.

Patti herself was a bit eccentric, telling a number of rambling stories, and frequently reading the lyrics to the songs off paper. She even had a book out for some of her own songs. Normally between the songs she would seem nervous, but once they got going, she'd get into the music and tear things up. The mic stand went down multiple times and no one can match her screaming.

'Gimme Shelter,' which they claimed to have learned "in the bathroom" the night before tore things up. It's a great singalong song, and they gave it a suitably epic quality. With the covers, there seemed to be an effort to present a cross section of artists from the period of CB's glory days. There was the necessary Ramones medley, as well as stuff by Blondie, Lou Reed, The Yardbirds and The Who. 'My Generation' is a song whose meaning has changed quite a bit, now that the people of that generation have gotten old. I know some people take issue older people, like The Stones or The Who, that are still touring and making music, but I think it's great. What should they be doing, just sitting at home, waiting to die? Even if Patti Smith needs glasses to read her lyrics, she can still tear it up better than people half her age.

I've been to a lot of concerts, but this is the first band I've see that falls into the 'classic rock' genre. I love the guitar sound of the 70s, and I think today's rock bands have lost the ability to go heavy without descending into chaos. On songs like 'Free Money' or 'Rock and Roll Nigger,' they had very loud, rocking lines, but it never descended into noise. That's what I miss, from work like Patti's or Led Zeppelin, the blues influence. I loved the way they allowed songs to expand and just jam.

For the encore, they did a roughly twenty minute medley of 'Land' and 'Gloria.' 'Land' was slowed down a bit by the lengthy rambling around the war in Iraq, but 'Gloria' was fantastic, with huge crowd response on the 'G-L-O-R-I-A' call and response. That was the highlight of the show for me, though 'Free Money' came pretty close. Things wrapped up with 'Elegie,' where Patti named various musical pioneers who've died. It was a really nice wrap up, and a fitting close to the night.

At three and a half hours, this was a pretty unique show. Patti played the vast majority of songs I'd want to hear from her, and the show only gained momentum as it went on. There was certainly a risk of being morbid and nostalgic, but I think the club went out on a high note, with songs that still sound fresh and exciting today. And I like the fact that Patti said that ultimately the space doesn't matter, it's the spirit. CBGB's had its time, but it's up to future generations to claim a new space for themselves.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

From Hell - Chapters 8 & 9

In these chapters, Moore narrows his cast, and goes deeper in his thematic exploration, setting things up for the work's climax in chapter ten. One of the things that's difficult about this book, and V For Vendetta, is telling the characters apart. Back when there was a crew of four prostitutes going around, it was not easy, and one good consequence of the rest being bumped off is that we can focus on Marie Kelly and get a real idea of how she lives her life. Moore casts a very vivid picture of nineteenth century life on the streets, and the way that the Ripper murders have wreaked havoc on these women's lives.

One of the notable things about the work is its sexual frankness. Most comics and films hold back from really explicit stuff, but here nothing's off limits. That makes things feel more real. "I had such a lovely fuck with Joe last night" could feel like an unnatural line, but it works in context and perfectly conveys Marie's feelings at that moment, she's searching for any small happiness in the apocalypse happening around her.

Kate Eddowes' path to death shows again how easy it is for these women to fall through the cracks. They're all living life night to night, and one failure, the inability to get enough money to stay over night somewhere can doom them. I think it's interesting that the men in their lives never really comment on their profession. They must now that they're whoring, but I guess it's accepted. There's not many options for women, in their culture this is the only acceptable path.

One of my favorite pieces of action in the book is Gull's lunge at Kate on 8.37. he's becoming more reckless, the Ripper spirit has possessed him and made him believe that he is guided by divine purpose. I love the scene where he says "This is the one I didn't finish, isn't it?" He's moving outside of time, seeing himself as a figure acting in a grand history. This is perfectly exemplified by the panel where, reveling in the murder, he slips through time into the twentieth century. However, in light of this knowledge he knows that this isn't enough. His unease indicates that the mission is not complete.

At this point, Gull is becoming more enamored of the Ripper myth. He does not just want to kill four women, he wants to be a figure of fear for women throughout time. That's why he embraces the theatrical elements of the murder, leaving clues to taunt the policemen and build his legend.

This is explored further in chapter nine, in the great sequence where he makes Netley write a letter to the police. Netley's growing unease is an interesting thread. I think he's at first intimidated by Gull's knowledge, unable to believe that such a wealthy, powerful man would be doing something wrong. He bought into Gull's mission, but is becoming aware that all he's really doing is killing. Gull may see the cultural significance, but Netley sees only the blood.

Even as Gull is writing a letter to increase his legend, we see that his work is unnecessary. The Ripper has become a god, worshipped by all who write letters to the authorities in his name. And along with this are those profiting off the Ripper legend, like the man selling the canes in the opening scene. This is a critical part of Moore's motivation in the work, the idea that Gull's killings are creating a new media world, where murder is entertainment, and we revel in fear rather than creativity.

When speaking to Victoria, Gull invokes the fear of revolution to justify the killings. He was called into action to prevent females from rising up and challenging the prince, the male authority in the kingdom. Through his killings, he hopes to suppress this female power and preserve the status quo. This theme is reinforced by Gull's conversation with yeats, where he chides Yeats for breaing from masonic tradition and challenging the crown.

The thing that still troubles me about the work is the contradictions in Gull. He is fighting to preserve the patriarchal world he has thrived in, yet he has such knowledge of the occult, and turns each killing into a magical act. The killings become a fusion of scientific coldness and artistic creativity, making him something of a hermaphrodite, drawing on both the 'male' and 'female' traditions. Gull is working to preserve tradition, but inadvertantly is building an entirely new reality.

Abberline is also running to issues with tradition and modernism. He comes from the lower class, and can't stand watching the upper crust detectives who are using ridiculous methods to attempt to solve the crimes. He's tried to blend into their world, but finds himself increasingly drawn to the more 'real' world of Whitechapel. His encounters with Mary Kelly are perfectly observed in their sexual dynamic. He desperately wants her, but is too much of a 'good guy' to admit that he's acting out of sexual attraction. His eventual breakdown at the end, saying they could get a nice room, is a concession to his base nature.

I'm not sure exactly how to place the gay relations between Eddy and Jem into the male/female dichotomy. By cutting out women, are they reasserting the power of an exclusively male world, or is their engagement in a deviant lifestyle undermining the principles of proper society? I feel like it's more an example of the royal family losing sight of their mission. Upper class society is breaking down, it's on the streets of Whitechapel where the new world is being born.

The lesbian relations between Marie and her various partners clearly fall on the female, dionystic side of the divide. Marie has been in a stable, heterosexual relationship with Joe, but it differs from tradition in that she holds most of the power. As time passes, she moves away from tradition into increasingly outre sexual practices. She starts with a threesome, which Joe cannot be a part of. Through sapphic love, Marie is reclaiming the power that women once held as mistresses of Diana. By bringing a woman into their bedroom, she has stripped Joe of all the power that he once held. Creating a household with just women is the ultimate strike against the patriarchy.

The final pages of this chapter are marvelously forboding, it's easy to feel Marie's fear as we watch Gull draw nearer. Their meeting is what the whole work has been building towards. Gull is trying to protect his world, while Marie is reaching back to the matriarchal society that scares him. He must act now to extinguish this threat.