30 Nov / Tunnels by Rutu Modan, translated by Ishai Mishory [in Shelf Awareness]
No one knows what happened to the Ark of the Covenant, the legendary vessel holding Moses’ engraved Ten Commandments, but “archeologists, mystics, and adventurers still seek for it in vain,” explains Eisner-winning comics creator Rutu Modan in an introductory note to her intriguing graphic title Tunnels, inspired by true events. The Broshi clan aren’t deterred, convinced of ultimate success; Modan turns their search into a dysfunctional family standoff, subversive sociopolitical exposé, biting criticism of academia and – rather surprisingly – a rollicking comedy of countless errors.
Israel Broshi was once a renowned archeologist and professor at Hebrew University. These days, he’s stuck at home, barely interacting with his Filipina caretaker. His life’s work has been usurped by former colleague Rafi Sarid, who’s also taken Israel’s son as his primary assistant. Israel’s daughter, Nili, shadowed by screen-addicted son Doctor, is convinced she can complete her father’s mission to finally find the Ark – especially after she discovers the location-revealing cuneiform tablet in the collection of smuggler/dealer/collector Abuloff. She’ll have to contend with the enormous wall that now looms over the former work site, not to mention interested parties making demands on both sides – and beyond.
Modan’s vibrant style fills the pages with sharply outlined panels, her characters immediately recognizable especially by their never-changing wardrobe even as weeks pass; Nili’s high-waisted camel slacks and blue dress shirt, for example, instantly stand out. As the tunnels progress, participants multiply – IDF (Israeli Defense Force), ISIS, fame-seekers, what Modan calls “the crazies” – and all (temporarily) work together, ignoring the massive barrier above intended for separation. In highlighting those efforts of underground collaboration, Modan’s ironic, inspiring genius enthralls.
Discover: An Israeli family’s ongoing search for the Ark of the Covenant becomes slyly entertaining fodder involving both sides of – and even under – the Israel/Palestine border wall.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult