Kids can be jerks to nerds but it’s refreshing that Last Train To Old Town‘s nerd is kind of a jerk as well.
1. Easy like a Sunday morning.
While the subject matter of Last Train To Old Town might call forth distressing memories of high school socialization in some people, the tone and pace with which the story is told keeps it all at an emotional remove and the colors keep it all at a cool distance.
2.Easily I approach.
When the protagonist Marcus, derisively called Two-Shoes, enters Newtown High School, he is the lone point of solidity and complex color on the page. Everyone and everything else is monochrome, even though those faded background characters seem more animated and lively.
The most instantly fascinating aspect of this intro is how a background character will only attain a measure of solidity when bumping into little mister Two-Shoes. Rubenstein plays with different colored ink printing to achieve this effect. A student’s elbow bumps against our protagonist and becomes a “solid” black inked line while the rest of the student remains a light blue form. The technique brings the reader into a much closer focus on the primacy of this character. Nothing else around him matters unless it physically contacts him.
3.Take it easy.
Rubenstein could very easily exploit such an effect further but he seems to present it in the introduction scene and then drop into a more objective style. Primary characters are still rendered in solid black inks and the background environment plus non-essential players are rendered in the retreating color tones. But for the remainder of the book, this is merely a stylistic choice, a way to separate focal characters from the environments through which they pass.
This makes me believe that Rubenstein intends to withhold this technique for the most important of scenes. Possibly in Chapter Two or beyond.
4. Easy does it.
The book ends with an evocative single-page panel in which we see the faded tones of the previous pages begin to combine to form the first instance of a multicolored image (discounting the fact that the overlaying characters already introduced multiple colors inside of their panels). This last page is the first time where those pale, flat colors combine inside the same panel. Like Dorothy going to Oz.