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posted June 1, 2007
Drawn and Quarterly, hardcover, 168 pages, June 10 2007, $19.95
1897299060 (ISBN10), 9781897299067 (ISBN13)
Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds
tells the story of a young man in Tel Aviv who starts out investigating the possible death of his father by suicide bomb and ends up taking a much more nuanced but equally dramatic look at his own life and its many dissatisfactions. Getting from the first place to the second would be daunting for a work three times as long, but Modan judiciously keeps her various tools for dramatic impact in line: the story is kept at ground level and focuses on communicating an unfolding series of events, the art conveys mood within a scene and a general sense of place throughout, dialog between individuals defines their personal space, and the character work adds pathos to past discoveries. Exit Wounds
is a very assured story, with very little muss or fuss that spills out along the way. It's as cohesive a statement from any artist that I've seen from comics in years.
What makes this noteworthy is that none of the lessons facing Koby Franco prove to be easy ones. Modan seems to be gently exposing the degree of general disconnect with which Franco has built a live as none of the revelations he unearths comes without underlying doubt, or implications that are as troubling in their way as the question that has just been answered. Franco is always denied a clean break. His father's removal from his life isn't cathartic. His discovery of his father's other relationships only causes him to speculate on a bigger, closer to home, mystery. Instead of creating their own space, his attempts to forge a relationship with his father's girlfriend merely reinforces the number of ways in which their bond is dependent on and informed by their older connections. It's tempting to see the story's final moment as a testament to trust, a nod in the direction of blind faith as a determinant of life's happiness. What's not entirely clear is how this decision is any different at its heart than the half-dozen or so made before it. Has Koby Franco embraced faith and trust merely become inured to the utility of expectation? Is he leaping towards something or merely allowing himself to fall?
If there's any one shortcoming to this fine, short comics novel, it's that the keenness of the psychological exploration on display far outstrips the poignancy of cultural insight provided. A lot of that comes outside in, as accrued detailed, give voice through characters and situation that exist outside of the story's firmest course. Then again, in the ways that matter most, in the uneasy critique of certainty that pervades everything, psychology and place might be one and the same.