Exit Wounds Review
Here’s another example of how international the world of comics is – a nearly two-hundred page graphic novel by an Israeli writer/artist little-known here. It’s published on this continent by Drawn & Quarterly, a smaller publisher from Montreal that specializes in stories that don’t have people flying around in their underwear.
Koby Franco is a cab driver in Tel Aviv, a young man whose mother died a few years back and whose father Gabriel has been out of touch nearly as long. A female soldier, Numi, gets in touch with him to tell him that she thinks his father was killed in a bombing the month before. There was one body left unidentified, and Numi saw a scarf she knitted for Gabriel lying on the street during the TV coverage.
Koby and Numi investigate, tracing the unidentified body from the morgue to a “John Doe” grave and back to the blast site. Along the way, Koby learns things he didn’t expect about his father – not to mention about Numi and himself.
Exit Wounds is a mostly quiet story about people, despite the bombing at the center of the plot. The important moments are nearly all of people talking to each other, and the dialogue is excellent. It’s a carefully crafted story, told well, with a fine, appropriate ending.
But the art is more problematic – Modan is telling a story about people, and she needs to tell it through their expressions and poses. Her style has dot eyes for nearly all of the characters, though, and those are mostly inexpressive. (The few who have pupils in rounded eyes look perpetually startled or inappropriately perky.) Her faces are otherwise pretty mobile, but those eyes leave a blankness at the center. Some of her secondary characters also seem to mug at the “camera” a lot, particularly Numi’s family. That sometimes works as characterization, but sometimes is jarring and breaks the flow of the story.
I’m also not entirely convinced that the general art style – black lines reproduced on top of the color art, with a few bright colors (and some dull ones) over a mostly dull background. It all adds up to a style that’s a bit too stylized for the story, one that distances these characters from the reader.
Exit Wounds is a fine graphic novel, with real emotional force. But it might have been that much better if Modan wrote it and gave it to another illustrator to draw (or used a more realistic style herself).
Drawn & Quarterly, 2007, $19.95
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
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