When Stone and his pals conspire to get Two-Shoes out of school and out to the train station, the reader expects the worst. Is this a high school bullying story? What do these kids (whose identities seem fragile in some respects) want with him? When Stone tells him that they're not going to the city but to Old Town, Two-Shoes says it's dangerous there. At the very end, Rubenstein pulls off an audacious twist as he starts to show us just what kind of people are going to Old Town and then a final page reveal of just how old Old Town actually is. It's an incredibly clever maneuver that flips around the entire nature of the comic. I'm eager to see future chapters.
The Society of Illustrators is excited to announce the inaugural MoCCA Arts Festival Awards of Excellence. This awards recognizes the most outstanding work on view at the festival.
This year's winners are Kim Ku (Ghost Hotel), Andrea Tsurumi (Andrew Jackson Throws a Punch), Jane Mai (Sunday in the Park with Boys), Gregory Benton (B+F), Kenan Rubenstein (Last Train to Old Town), Nick Offerman, and Honorable Mention to Simon Arizpe (OHaBEAR). Artists winning this award will have their work exhibited in the second floor MoCCA gallery at the Society of Illustrators from May 21 - July 6, 2013.
Last Train To Old Town is the first chapter of a collected webcomic of the same name, with simply breathtaking color art from Kenan Rubenstein. It’s a book that’s obviously a true labor of love, complete with maps, offbeat hand-lettering, hand-mounted panels, and serves as an example of craft comics where you can strongly sense the hand of the artist present on every page. The creative energy leaps off the page. It’s an impressive comic purely as a unique objet d’art. It’s clear that Rubenstein has a handle on everything artistically, from the design of the book, to the topography of the rural environments he works in, to the strong figure work, to the fact that his ear for dialogue rings true, but not in the sickeningly self-aware fashion that so many books about kids try to portray.
More passion and soul goes in to a single book from Kenan than the entire output of the Big Two combined.
On the technical side, this is the best presentation I’ve seen of a web-comic. The site gives you multiple viewing options, easy places to submit feedback, and creator insight all via a non-intrusive side bar. The comic itself blends form and content beautifully. Each character is given their own hand-written font to ever-so-slightly differentiate their speech. The backgrounds are done with minimal black, until characters directly interact with them. Conversations intersect within panels, making each interaction feel natural, bringing the reader into the characters’ world.
Last Train to Old Town is everything that is right with comics. It is well-written, superbly illustrated, and takes chances. Rubenstein could have left this as a story about bullying. We all would have nodded our heads, agreed it was sad, and then moved on. However, he has taken a risk and started the story that way and then moved it beyond the obvious…beyond the mundane. Isn't that what we have been waiting for all along? Isn’t that what we were all waiting for all those afternoons in the cafeteria? Something new and exciting to happen?
Like his other work, Last Train to Old Town is powerfully compelling. The pages I read on line left me with feelings of guilt, frustration, and more than a little longing. Do yourself a favor and check it out.