The Last Call by Vasilis Lolos is about the wild midnight ride that two young friends, Sam and Alec, take. It starts out slowly, when Alec steals his mom’s car and rides out to Sam’s house. The two boys smoke cigarettes and listen to death metal until their car dies and they hear an eerie train-like noise in the middle of nowhere. They open their eyes, ecstatic that they aren’t dead, and find themselves in a strange train cabin. And that’s when things start to get really weird.
When the train appears to stop, they look outside the window and see a group of misshapen and horrific looking humanoids in fancy clothing in a train terminal. Sam is convinced they’ve ended up in Hell, but Alec thinks it might be a hologram or something else. Right then they see a freakishly large, toothsome, floating fish that Sam calls “DEMON!!”
This is a really fun story, developing slowly and then suddenly Sam and Alec are out of their element and so is the reader. We are figuring things out at the same time. This slow buildup to the train makes it shocking when Alec is ejected from the train by the conductor, seemingly to his death.
Lolos has created a magical place on the train. His lines are fluid and he deftly switches from fantastical creatures to more traditional humanoid shapes. It is in the more human shapes that his art is reminiscent of Paul Pope’s. He is especially adept at adding accents to the faces of the human-esque creatures. The boys are the first example. Sam huddles into his hoodie and generally looks like he hasn’t slept in weeks (that is to say he has some serious bags under his eyes). Alec has a maniac’s grin and always seems to be showing his teeth. The train’s conductor is a hulk of a man who has a monocle and looks like he’d like to do some bare knuckle boxing. Sam meets a woman who has an impressive set of mole filled cheeks. He also meets Fabio and Muriel, a younger looking couple, that are disfigured with scales (Fabio) and burns (Muriel). Outside of that the couple looks like a Hollywood power couple.
As this is the first volume of what should end up being a much longer story, Lolos does an excellent job of introducing the reader to the story. It starts out slowly and then quickly speeds up while first introducing the train, then slows down again before hurtling toward a crescendo. This excellent pacing also manages to raise many questions that will most likely be answered slowly over the course of the series.
Oni Press gives this title a content rating of O for older audiences, but given the age of the protagonists and the general style and tone of the story it would also be appropriate for high school-aged and older. Stylistically it has that American manga feel to it and would likely be enjoyed by a wide variety of readers. While difficult to classify (is it horror? mystery? coming of age? a pastiche of all three?), this title has quite a bit to offer.
The Last Call, vol. 1
by Vasilis Lolos
Oni Press, 2007
Publisher Age Rating: O for older audiences