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Exit Wounds

A Graphic Novel By Rutu Modan

In this simultaneously spare and rich novel, award-winning Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan manages to explore social issues, love (and sex) old and new, and the complexities of extended family relationships.

A Tel Aviv taxi driver gets a mysterious message from a woman soldier. While he and she try to figure out the identity of a body, Modan hits many chords in Israeli society: how the rich in Tel Aviv live in a gated community (where the shlumpy soldier’s ex-model mom tried to raise her to be “an American teenager”); the anonymous, illegal maid from the Philippines who cleans the bus station; the class differences in the frame where the soldier asks the cabby, when his engine fails, “Don’t you have Triple-A?” and his scowl in return says it all; the religious housewife, hair covered, shapeless shift, opaque stockings, ugly first marriage; the philandering father’s aging kibbutznik seduction.

Modan, whose work appeared on Lilith’s Summer 2005 cover, brings each character distinctly alive through watercolor drawings and realistic dialogue — from the phone conversations between Koby and his sister Orli in New York, to the querulousness of the middle-aged aunt and uncle who share Koby’s taxi shifts, to the self-revealing talk from soldier Numi, her family’s designated ugly duckling nicknamed “giraffe.” We see (wordlessly) Numi and Koby in a steamy sex scene on the grass, with realism utterly different from the exaggerations of most graphic novels (and certainly different from comic-strip sexual encounters limned by men — now and in earlier eras).