Book Review: New in Graphic Novels
An insider's view that reveals a matter-of-fact acceptance of Middle East violence
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., May 8, 2009
Exit Woundsby Rutu Modan
Drawn & Quarterly, 172 pp., $19.95 (paper)
Israel's Rutu Modan has created a compelling narrative that's one-half wartime mystery and one-half uncertain romance. There's a third half in there, too, something as strange as the idea of a third half, to American readers: an insider's view that reveals a matter-of-fact acceptance of the violence visiting frequent and bloody chaos upon the order of life in that contested stretch of the Middle East.
Twentysomething Koby of Tel Aviv is informed that his father may have been among the victims of a suicide bombing, but the authorities are uncertain. One of those authorities is a female soldier named Numi, who tries to help Koby determine whether his father was killed in the explosion. But the further they investigate, the more mysterious the father becomes, with trails of inquiry leading toward hints of multiple social identities. And, as will happen, the longer they search, the more entangled Koby and Numi become with each other, in the credibly fumbling ways of still-insecure young lovers who are quick to hope but slow to trust.
Imagine some indie filmmaker bringing this beautifully drawn graphic novel to the cinema. It's such a stark, simple storyline for all its concern with the mysteries of identity; little would have to be lost in filming, and the special-effects budget, as opposed to those from a superhero franchise, would be less explosive than a pipe bomb.
But we don't have to imagine that. We don't need a movie: We have the entire moving story right here, in full muted color on thick and finger-pleasing paper, between the covers of a well-bound book.
For more reviews of recent graphic novels, check out the Chron's books blog at austinchronicle.com/underthecovers.