JAMILTI reviewed by Newsarama

“Best Shots: The Stand, End League, 13 Chambers and More” / Newsarama / Michael C Lorah / October 13, 2008

Rutu Modan’s role in the Israeli comics collective Actus put her on the international comics scene, but it was last year’s hit Exit Wounds that truly cemented her reputation as a comics artist to watch. Her new book, Jamilti and Other Stories compiles six pre- and one post-Exit Wounds short stories that she’s authored between 1998 and 2007, and though none of the strips included here match the humanity and cartooning talent of her breakout book, each tale does offer some insight into the evolution of an extremely talented cartoonist.

The title story and the wide-open panels of doom-laden “Homecoming” are closest to Exit Wounds, dealing with families and young people in modern Israel. “Jamilti” is a thoughtful look at bigotry and emotional disconnects, while “Homecoming” contrasts the optimism of survival, depicted as near ignorance, against the fretting of inevitable letdowns. “Energy Blockage” and “Bygone” are family studies, the search for a lost parent, the desire of a child for stability and belonging. “Energy Blockage,” with its open line work, feels light despite the rumble of darkness at its core. Sarah’s inquisitive pursuit of her father, removed from her life by her parents’ tumultuous separation, stings with its emotional honesty and protagonist’s willingness to manipulate. “Your Number One Fan” and “The King of the Lillies” are effective tales about obsession and, particularly in “Your Number One Fan,” the ups and downs of a creator trying to find success and acceptance.

Since most of the stories appeared in Actus anthologies, all of which have been based around themes or formats, several of the stories don’t seem physically suited to the page dimensions of Jamilti and Other Stories. “Homecoming”’s full panel pages are blown up to an uncomfortable degree, highlighting some of Modan’s awkward anatomy, and “YNOF” is landscaped, so readers will have to turn the book sideways to take in the final story. Modan’s ability to lay out a page effectively is shown even in the earliest stories, and her character acting and designs are strong throughout. She also plays with her style at times, using a lot of open white space in “Bygone” rather than grey-toning and spotting blacks throughout the page. The anatomy, as mentioned, is distorted and uncomfortable in several stories, which some readers might not like.

Though it doesn’t read the same heights as her Eisner-winning effort Exit Wounds, Modan has a clear winner here. Each story has something going right for it, and readers are likely to find at least three or four standouts. Keep watching for Rutu Modan. After winning this Eisner for Exit Wounds, she’s cementing her credibility as a must-watch cartoonist with Jamilti and Other Stories.

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