EXIT WOUNDS in The Star Tribune

“Books: Seeking closure, finding complications” / Star Tribune / Eric M. Hanson / July 13, 2007

GRAPHIC NOVEL A young cabdriver in Tel Aviv gets summoned by a young woman in army fatigues, who thinks she might know something about his absentee father.

Review: A soulful, arresting depiction of Israeli life that explores family and love against the backdrop of political violence. (Contains images and themes for a mature audience.)

In "Exit Wounds," Israeli writer and artist Rutu Modan depicts two people drawn together in contemporary Tel Aviv to investigate the "disappearance" of a single man who has led multiple, separate identities as a father, ex-husband and lover.

Shabby, aimless cabdriver Koby Franco has seen his father just five times in three years. One day while driving, he is summoned to a military station by a young woman in army fatigues who tells him she suspects his father is a victim of a suicide bombing in Hadera. Something at the scene that was recorded in TV images is a clue that the father is among the dead, she tells Koby.

The woman is Numi, roughly Koby's age, tall and plain-looking. She wants Koby to get a blood test, so Koby's DNA can be compared with that of a John Doe victim from the bombing. Complications make it difficult, bringing Koby and Numi together in an investigation into the life (lives) of the man Koby and Numi think they know.

Modan's writing is nuanced. The Arab-Jewish conflict is a violent but nearly unverbalized backdrop to the small personal drama that unfolds. She leaves it to the reader to explain why Koby is so resistant to the idea that his father is dead while Numi is so insistent, gathering evidence in an attempt to bring some kind of explanatory closure to the distant man's disappearance.

Modan's drawing is both fine and lumpen. Buildings, palm trees, stoplights and the splashing of ocean water are rendered in lovely detail and brilliant color, while the faces of people are rough cartoons with dots for eyes and mouths that often are conveyed with just one simple stroke.

The combination of styles is enthralling; the story is a mysterious journey that feels weighted with genuine regret and hope, and the whole makes for a beguiling introduction (to American readers, at least) to an artist at the peak of the form.

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