*Last Exit Before Toll — Recommended

Charles is driving south for a business trip but finds himself killing time at a small-town coffee shop when his car overheats. That summation of the premise is too simple and almost irrelevant. This thought-provoking little book isn’t about what happens; it’s about the search for authenticity and a simpler way of life in an overly busy world. To fully enjoy it, you have to be willing to accept and experience a different pace, just as Charles does.

Last Exit Before Toll cover
Last Exit Before Toll
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The story captures a different way of living than that usually seen in the media. The country folk who populate the area aren’t slow, or inbred, or objects of fun. They simply live differently, in a way that Charles has been needing without realizing it. Yet the South isn’t shown as some kind of ideal refuge, either. There are always consequences to choices.

In this case, Charles makes his choice by not choosing. He goes with the flow, borne along by the current, ignoring the warning signs, like insomnia, that something is wrong until someone or something else forces it to his attention. As he says when he calls in when delayed, he doesn’t want to cause any trouble. Taken too far, that attitude results in a man who’s lost sight of himself. Small details, like the taste of pot roast, start to bring him back in touch.

It’s an odd choice to see a writer/artist team tackle a subject that demands so much attention to the quiet spaces between events. It requires a belief in each other that carries through to the story, which relies on a fundamental faith in human nature and being decent to other people.

The art carries a good deal of weight during the lengthy silences necessary to establish a different sort of atmosphere, both within the story and while reading it. This isn’t some kind of mystery or suspense story (contrary to the back cover blurb). Instead, the book provokes introspection, if you’re willing to give yourself over to its mood.

At times, the pacing is unexpected. Intervening scenes feature people that are more than cameos but less than full-fledged supporting characters. This isn’t a neatly wound-up story, like a ball of yarn, nor is it a completely realized scarf or sweater. It’s something in-between, a jumping-off point that requires the reader’s involvement for completion.

Neal Shaffer also wrote One Plus One and The Awakening. Christopher Mitten also illustrated The Tomb, written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir.


5 Responses to “*Last Exit Before Toll — Recommended”

  1. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] I do care a lot for work by Chris Mitten (The Tomb, Last Exit Before Toll), which gives me even more reason to look forward to Queen & Country Declassified Volume 3 (JAN06 3186). Although not by series creator Greg Rucka, I get the impression that writer Antony Johnston is very well suited for the subject of intrigue and the threat of terror. [...]

  2. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] There are preview pages available at the publisher’s website. Christopher Mitten has a website, and he previously illustrated Last Exit Before Toll. Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir previously wrote Maria’s Wedding, among other titles. [...]

  3. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Oni Press has announced a new graphic novel series: Borrowed Time. It’s written by Neal Shaffer, whose Last Exit Before Toll I enjoyed. It explored some of the big questions of life and identity in unusual ways, and this sounds like it’s taking on similar themes: when a writing assignment takes him to the Bermuda Triangle, his life takes a turn he could never have anticipated. Returning from a mysterious accident at sea he finds a different world than the one he left, and he finds himself with the challenge of getting back to the life he knew and the woman he loves. [...]

  4. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] More information is available at the publisher’s website, and preview pages have been posted at the comic’s website. Neal Shaffer previously wrote Last Exit Before Toll, The Awakening, and One Plus One. Joe Infurnari was one of the winners of the 2005 Oni Talent Search. [...]

  5. Coming Up: Books Due in July » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Skilled and readable artwork by Christopher Mitten (an artist who has an admirable track record, since I’ve liked everything I’ve read that he’s illustrated, including The Tomb and Last Exit Before Toll); [...]




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