EXIT WOUNDS in The Santa Fe New Mexican

Panelhead: Identity and Trying to Live With It

The Santa Fe New Mexican    |    Brandon Garcia    |    August 26, 2007


The only definition of post-modernism that carries any weight with me came from a professor of mine. Modernism, she explained, is life gone awry as people lost long-held faith in institutions such as government and religion. All we had left, she said, was faith in ourselves. Post-modernism, by contrast, is identity gone awry.

You can see how shifts in identity affects characters in two recently published graphic novels, Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan (Drawn and Quarterly, 172 pages, $19.95) and Stop Forgetting to Remember by Peter Kuper (Crown, 208 pages, $19.95).

Modan's book is set in Tel-Aviv, a place where frequent suicide bombings can rattle or break more than nearby windows. When Kobe Franco's father goes missing after a restaurant bombing, many think he was the single unidentified victim.

As the story unfolds, Franco learns more about his estranged father through an Israeli soldier connected to him. It's strange to imagine learning about someone who is expected to be close to you from a total stranger, and it is startling to see how that affects Franco.

But in Israel, where families appear to be close-knit survivors, we see the burden that can also have. Modan seems to be saying that people are more than their parents' children and certainly more than their nationality or faith. Indeed, one parent's identity often has little to do with the life of their children.

Franco doesn't seem particularly tied to Judaism or Israel, although his faith and nation's effect upon his life also appears profound, if mundane. Modan's portrayal of a colorful, metropolitan Tel-Aviv belies a quiet soberness, the recognition that much of it can come crashing down at any point.

Likewise, her art appears intentionally two-dimensional, perhaps a way to examine Franco's limitations in life. He has no companion, drives a taxi and spends much of his time looking after elderly relatives. Franco might also represent his nation, limited by frequent violence and struggling to retain humanity under abnormal conditions.


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