JAMILTI reviewed by Feminist Review

“Jamilti and Other Stories” / Feminist Review / Erika Mikkalo / September 11, 2008

I will confess, I am a former comic geek (geekette?) to a degree. I once blew off writing a paper on King Lear to read Swamp Thing all night, interspersing plucking psychedelic yams with plucking out eyes. I owned a full run of Sandman that was destroyed in a basement flood (albeit it a well-timed one: we really needed the insurance money). A pal once spotted me reading a graphic novel in public and declared, “We’re such geeks that even the women are geeks!”

Granted, I was always more artsy than superhero in my tastes, accumulating Love & Rockets, X (the insomniac architect, not to be confused with The X-Men), Neil Gaiman, Roberta Gregory, Phoebe Glockner… and Julie Doucet will always be in the Pantheon. So shame on me for not knowing about the accomplished Israeli Rutu Modan, recipient of the 2008 Eisner Award for Exit Wounds. Her new collection, Jamilti and Other Stories – jamilti means ‘beautiful one’ in Arabic - portrays quiet poignancy in fine lines.

The seven stories range from current events to an odd anachronistic fairytale. Characters include a nurse, suicide bomber, abandoned children, theme hotel patrons, plastic surgeons, and Internet obsessives. The emotions delicately arrayed include loss, denial, delusion, hope, and the shattering death of dreams. This inspired me to view Modan’s work for the New York Times magazine, and her journals there are consistently honest and accessible, as well as willing to access the absurd. Women are engaged to asses, brandish underwear, direly seek fertility through hucksters, find lost fathers, wear matching yellow outfits, commit murders, put on Snow White costumes, disappear, reappear, play strange instruments, import would-be rockstars, and all this only on the diegetic level. Some of the drawing recalls Hergé, but Tin Tin never gave me quite the kick in the teeth. Like the final panel in these pages, the most powerful moments in life are those when nothing gets said at all.

 

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