Friday, March 5, 2010

Review - Exit Wounds

Exit Wounds
by Rutu Modan
2008 Eisner Winner for Best Graphic Album - New

I can acknowledge the technical craft in Exit Wounds. The art is fine, the story is structured well. And yet I wound up not liking it. The impression I was left with at the end was that I just didn't care for it and I couldn't really put my finger on why. It took quite a bit of soul searching and I think that it comes down to the story that Modan was telling.

A middle aged taxi driver in Tel Aviv gets a call from a young woman who is about to finish her mandatory military service. She was his estranged father's lover and has not been able to reach his father for weeks. She fears that his father was an unidentified victim in a cafe bombing and pulls the taxi driver into a hunt for his father.

The mystery at the heart of the plot is an intriguing one. Is there something to what she says or is she just another discarded woman? What really happened that day at the cafe? The thing that bothered me in Exit Wounds the most and prevented me from enjoying it were the characters. I was never able to connect with them and care about their actions. The heart of the story is the shifting relationship between these characters. One of them is completely off stage, one of them is so flighty I couldn't follow, and the other is completely indecisive. A character driven by strange whims isn't sympathetic. While I suspect that Moran was attempting to make the other come across as conflicted I wanted him to just get on with it one way or the other.

In addition I found the dialog to be incredibly clunky. Everyone has the same flat, abbreviated voice and many of the sentences have a strange backward construction. There's no credit in the book for a translator so I'm uncertain if that's an artifact of Moran's writing, her use of English, or if it is just a poor translation from the original Hebrew. No matter the cause it's clumsy and pulled me out of the story.

The artwork in Exit Wounds is very European in style. Modan has a simple, tight technique with her drawing that isn't flashy but is sufficient for her story. It's not dynamic or mood setting or demonstrating wild layouts but this is an internal story and it's also never distracting or clashing with the mood.

I suspect that if I encountered another book by Rutu Modan I would like it better. She is clearly a very skilled comic creator and I'd be happy to give her another chance. Exit Wounds just didn't work for me.