cover image Tunnels


Rutu Modan, trans. from the Hebrew by Ishai Mishory. Drawn and Quarterly, $29.95 (284p) ISBN 978-1-77046-466-7

Eisner winner Modan (Exit Wounds) targets a range of sacred cows in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, sometimes literally, in this bracingly satirical, fast-paced adventure about a dysfunctional family seeking the Ark of the Covenant. Nili is the semi-vagabond daughter of archaeologist Israel, who has returned to Jerusalem and been convinced by her brother Broshi to help realize the now-senile Israel’s dream to uncover the Ark. Subplots abound: Nili believes a tablet uncovered by Abuloff—a genial but morally flexible antiquities dealer who buys from ISIS—points to the Ark; Israel’s dread rival Rafi, a fanatically competitive archaeologist, also enters the fray. The dig itself is surreptitious and complicated, involving excavating under an Arab village without permits and recruiting religious settlers as laborers, who believe the mystical Ark will prove their connection to the land. Palestinians Mahdi and Zuzu interrupt, digging their own tunnel (“We were here first!” Nili argues, and Mahdi replies, “Depends where you start counting”). Drawing in a throwback Tintin style that emphasizes elaborate backgrounds with exaggerated foreground characters, Modan embraces political absurdity, subverting ridiculous aspects of faith and fanaticism while never devolving to mockery. The conclusion’s surprise Spielbergian reveal contains equal parts comedy and horror. It’s the very best kind of satire. (Nov.)