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How To Understand Israel In 60 Days Or Less #1-2
posted June 2, 2008
Self-Published Mini-Comics, 28 pages, 2008
Ordering Numbers: www.smallnoises.com
The first two issues of Sarah Glidden's How To Understand Israel In 60 Days Or Less
stake out interesting territory in a broad and rewarding subject. The apparently twenty-something cartoonist took a birthright-Israel trip with a number of people her own age. She explains in the introduction that Birthright-Israel sponsors all-expenses paid, 10-day tours of Israel to increase political support for and emigration to the country. The preoccupation of the first two issues is with Sarah's cautious skepticism concerning the trip as propaganda, which slowly become subsumed with more direct confusion regarding her nebulous and hard to track feelings about what she encounters directly. Comics does this kind of two-tiered experience well, and the best passages in the first two issues balance her internal struggle with clearly and evocatively drawn landscapes and encounters.
A lot of how these first issues read will depend on how the series develops; scenes that lay the foundation for something are going to be in a different light than if they're the first in a series of similar moments sprinkled throughout the book. Glidden's artwork has an appealing clarity, but I think she might have been able to wrangle greater emotional heft from a more considered approach, especially in a scene where she and another tour person take an early morning in the shadow of what used to be Syria. The art tends to slip even further away from its most effective moments in scenes where a lot of information is presented 1-2-3, where the impact depends on our swift collection of multiple details, as in a scene when the tour guides are introduced. Glidden's depiction of herself may prove problematic in future issues if it doesn't become sharper and better realized, although she's a perfect host thus far in terms of inviting the reader to quietly consider her situation as she marches through a set of feelings about home and politics and culpability that few of care to engage anymore. Keep an eye on this one.