EXIT WOUNDS, AYA reviewed by The Guardian

Graphic novels A sketch of life

The Guardian    |    Craig Taylor    |    October 27, 2007

by Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie (Jonathan Cape, £14.99)

Marguerite Abouet's comic tells of a lost age, a time in the late 1970s when the Ivory Coast was basking in the glow of an economic boom, when disco seeped from the open air clubs in Abidjan and teenage girls such as Aya, Adjoua and Bintou were able to enjoy one last flirtatious summer before adulthood. Free from stereotypical African imagery of emaciated Aids victims and bloated famine kids, her slice of history reads like a familar coming of age tale. The young women sneak out at night to the Thousand Star Hotel, aka the market square, and make furtive romantic moves when they can find the right person in the moonlight.

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Clément Oubrerie paints his panels with warm washes of pink skies over the dusty roads. His portraiture contains touches of cartoonish humour - such as the green shade of a young man's face when he admits to impregnating a girl. The tones match the wry humour of the writing, particularly when Abouet brings the working-class residents into contact with the richer neighbourhoods of the city. "It's like Dallas," remarks Adjoua's father, wide-eyed, as he sits in the house of a nouveau riche. The real star is the backdrop, the city itself, its marketplaces, foods and customs. Abouet's is a gentle, nostalgic account of the lives it held for a brief, optimistic time.

Exit Wounds
by Rutu Modan (Jonathan Cape, £14.99)

A bomb goes off in a bus station in Israel, leaving a few bodies, including one that can't be identified. Later a cab-driver named Koby is approached by Numi, a young woman serving in the Israeli army. That dead man, she tells him, is your estranged father and I was his lover. And so the mysteries of a parent are slowly revealed in Rutu Modan's excellent, searching examination of modern Israeli life; and she doesn't shy away from moments of black humour as the unlikely duo search through morgues and markets and graveyards. Drawing her characters' faces with minimal detail - two black dots represent most eyes - Modan is too smart to simply parade the violence of Israeli life for its own sake. Each incident connects to the central mystery and leads to a satisfying and very human end, leaving both Numi and Koby uncertain about the man they thought they knew and the way they feel towards each other.

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