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‘Rock Candy Mountain: The Collected Edition’ (review)

Written and Illustrated by Kyle Starks
Colors by Chris Schweitzer
Published by Image Comics

 

Writer and artist Kyle Starks really is a wonder to me.

When I first started reading his stuff, I enjoyed it as a spoof of different genres. For example, his book Sexcastle spoofed action films from the 1980s.

The next book that I read of his was Kill Them All which was along the same vein. It was  enjoyable for sure, but there wasn’t much else to it.

But then, I saw this book and I couldn’t believe that it was from the same creator. There is so much story and depth and research done with this book, I was suitably impressed by it.

Rock Candy Mountain is story that takes place in post World War Two America. It has to do with hobos and devils and it is unlike anything that I had read before or since.

It is funny, crazy and just plain wild.

The main character of this piece is a hobo named Jackson. Jackson is a character that we had not seen from Starks up until this point in his career. He is well rounded and full of vigor, and he definitely has more than his share of interesting character traits. Jackson is fairly deluded and we get to see that throughout the series.

Our entry point character for the book is Pomona Slim.

Slim meets Jackson and they go on an adventure together. They travel across the country together as hobos. This book really is about the little moments between the characters and Jackson and Slim have a lot of those little moments. They share quite an interesting adventure, in fact. But every scene, every chapter, is about the pair trying to get through this journey in the best way that they know how.

Along the way, the intrepid pair are getting chased by the Devil and the Mafia and even the FBI. All of the various circumstances that lead to the duo getting chased is very fun. It is also very episodic and feels like it’s from a different time. The whole story doesn’t start to come together until the fifth chapter, and that’s perfectly fine. It gives the story plenty of time to find itself, and it really allows the story and themes to settle in.

In the fifth chapter, we get a flashback to Jackson’s life before he became a hobo. A lot of the series was whimsical and fun up until this point. Yet, this issue is very emotional and tragic. We get to see that Jackson has a lot more to him than we originally thought. All of the various stories start to really pull together and the reader is rewarded with a much fuller tale.

Jackson and Slim’s overall goal is to find the mythical Rock Candy Mountain. They have both heard of this place and it is a promised land to them.

Can they make it? Will they be thwarted before they can get there? A lot of these questions are brought up and by the last chapter, they are answered. But, of course, it is done in a way that I did not see coming. That is because Starks is really talented and very sharp.

All of the stories end satisfactorily by the end of the book.

There is no chance for a sequel nor would I want there to be. It is designed with the maximum impact that one could imagine. By the end of the book, I felt for the characters and where they ended up. It was an enormously emotional experience and and I loved every second of it. The characters are memorable and I just loved the twists and turns that Starks put into it.

It is a singular story and more comics should be like this. I laughed out loud and I just fell in love with the characters and the wonderfully expressive and unique artwork.

For his part, Kyle Starks does one hell of a job writing and drawing this book. The stories are fun and fast, and are incredibly character based. The research he has done clearly shows up on every page.

This is a smartly done book, one worth revisiting and enjoying for repeated reading in the future.

RATING: A

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