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by Alan Moore and Jose Villarrubia
Top Shelf, 2004
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Feb 1st 2005

The Mirror of Love

The Mirror of Love is a combination of poetry and images about homosexual love and persecution.  The words are by comic book author Alan Moore who has worked on many popular mature works such as Batman, V for Vendetta, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  Jose Villarrubia is less well known, but has recently done the art for the young adult version of Captain America by Marvel Comics.  This text was originally written in 1988 in the UK as a reaction against Margaret Thatcher's government's legislation against gay rights, and it has used in a performance of monologue and images.  Moore's words tell the story of homosexuality in compressed form and although the work was politically inspired, it is far from didactic.  Rather, it is filled with allusions to other poetry and classical references.  The book gets high praise on the back cover from Clive Barker and other authors.  

I wish I could share the enthusiasm of others for this work.  Unfortunately, I fail to see what is original or moving about it.  The words have an air of pretension about them that might sit comfortably in comic book form but in an illustrated hardback seems overly affected.  Consider: "We gasped/upon Devonian beaches,/huddled/under Neolithic stars.//Spat blood/through powdered teeth,/staining each other/as we kissed.//Always we loved.//How could we be otherwise,/when you are so like me,/my sweet,/but in a different guise./"  Although there is a guide at the back to some of the technical references, there's no explanation of the incidence of same-sex love on the Devon shores in the Neolithic era.  The imagery obviously resonates with some, but for me it ends up being hard to take seriously.

The photographs fail to help.  For the page of poetry just quoted, there is a faded image of two men lightly kissing on the lips.  For the page on Thomas Aquinas and the Catholic condemnation of homosexuality, there is a photograph of fire.  Opposite a page about Michelangelo, there is a picture of a white powdered male face like a marble statue with a man's bloodied thumb rubbing blood on the lower lip.  The iconography seems adolescent and simplistic.  It is perfectly suited to graphic novel or comic book form, but this is a hardback book with photographs and the style does not transfer well.  The Mirror of Love is an interesting experiment going beyond the existing comic book form and addressing important issues, but it is does not live up to its artistic ambitions. 


© 2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved. 

Link: Publisher's web site


Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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