Ever since I read the graphic novel “Exit Wounds” by Rutu Modan, I’ve been wanting to explore more titles by the author and illustrator. “Tunnels” seemed like a great pick and woah.. what a fun gripping graphic novel it turned out to be!
The plot follows amateur archaeologist and single-mom Nili Broshi, who embarks on a quest to acquire an ancient tablet that holds clues to the whereabouts of the legendary “Ark of the Covenant.” In case you’re unfamiliar, Rutu Modan provides a brief historical explanation of the Ark—an artifact from Biblical times believed to have been built by Moses. It takes the form of a wooden chest covered in gold. However, Nili is not the only one searching for the Ark, and she must race against time to unearth Israel’s most sacred relic. And to add to her adventures, she takes her pre-teen son Doctor everywhere, even if it means missing school.
Rutu Modan’s artwork in “Tunnels” is vibrant, colorful, and imbued with a slightly retro feel. The pages often bring to mind the revamped Tintin comics by Hergé. Nevertheless, Modan doesn’t adhere to a consistent color scheme throughout the pages. Certain sections deviate from the rest with a distinct palette. For instance, the initial pages are predominantly black, white, and grey, save for the blue light emanating from Nili’s laptop and phone. This monochromatic scene, set at night, reflects both the time of the setting and the lack of excitement in Nili’s current life. However, as soon as the promise of adventure arises in the story, the pages become brighter and more colorful. I loved this contrast in pages and storytelling through the artwork and its shades. Rutu’s use of bright tones cast Israel in a completely new light for international readers.
While the story unfolds in a realistic manner, “Tunnels” has a distinct cartoonish look, which may or may not resonate with all readers. Rutu Modan employs a comical cast of characters to propel the narrative forward. Nili’s excavation is financed by an eccentric millionaire with a penchant for collecting historical artifacts. Meanwhile, her own brother, Broshi, poses a potential threat as he works for a megalomaniacal archaeologist who had betrayed their father. Additionally, there is an assortment of quirky secondary characters who assist Nili at the dig site, led by the elderly Gedanken, who has a penchant for speaking in circles and frequently quotes religious verses.
From family feuds to professional rivalries and even military politics, “Tunnels” encompasses a wide range of themes that will particularly captivate historical enthusiasts. Rutu Modan delves into subjects that will be intriguing to readers who haven’t extensively explored these topics before. I loved this graphic novel!
It’s a 5 on 5 from me.