Publisher: Image Comics
Writer/Artist: Kyle Starks
Colourist: Chris Schweizer
Release Date: 10th May 2017
Hobo Fight Club.
If those three words aren’t enough to send you rushing off to your local comic shop to pick up the latest issue of Kyle Starks’ Rock Candy Mountain, then I’m honestly not sure what the rest of this review can do for you. Still, in the interests of giving myself an outlet to gush about the series, here we go…
To bring you up to speed, the story is based around an enigmatic hobo called Jackson who is on a journey to reach the mythical Rock Candy Mountain (like the one in the song), and who seems to be being pursued by all sorts of folks for all sorts of reasons. Oh, and on his journey he meets a fellow traveller called “Hollywood Slim” (not really, but that’s the hobo name Jackson gives him), a down-on-his-luck city slicker who becomes Jackson’s travelling companion, for the time being at least.
Not only is Rock Candy Mountain a finely scripted story, but it’s also a wonderful lesson about the nuances of hobo culture. When we spoke to Kyle a month or so ago, he confirmed that he’d done a ton of research for this series, reading every hobo book he could get his hands on, and that level of authenticity is on full display here as he throws all manner of intriguing slang terms – terms like “mulligan” (a stew made up of whatever food a group of hobos can pull together) and “gump” (a chicken) – into the mix.
This issue, perhaps more than the previous one, definitely has that classic ‘martial arts movie’ vibe, with Jackson entering himself into the aforementioned Hobo Fight Club in order to obtain the help he needs in order to finally reach the mythical (and possibly fictional) mountain. We get to see him doing his hand-to-hand thing against a variety of unusual opponents, and Starks’ distinctive over-the-top visual style really pays dividends here as we watch Jackson go to work in montage style. Hell, you can practically hear the pumping 80s power ballad as he dispatches hobo after hobo with consummate ease.
That said, as great as the artwork and the dialogue undoubtedly is, it’s the little details – particularly in the supporting characters – that really make this series click. Whether it’s “Gumpy Tom” (who always got him a gump) or rival fighter “Hundred Cat” (so called because, well, fighting him is like fighting a hundred cats), Starks does a fantastic job of fleshing out this gloriously absurd world, throwing in gem after gem of dialogue to reward repeat readings with a new favourite line each time.
Starks is still playing his cards close to his chest in terms of the actual plot, but there are some hints being dropped along the way here for eagle-eyed readers, and with both the authorities and the devil (yes, the actual devil) hot on Jackson’s heels, it’s clear that things are going to get a hell of a lot wilder before they get any calmer, that’s for darn sure.
If you’re already a fan of Starks’ work then this is an absolutely essential purchase, but even if you aren’t, an eclectic blend of old-timey martial arts movie excess, perfectly-pitched humour and wonderfully authentic hobo culture makes Rock Candy Mountain one of the finest books on the shelves today. Get it bought!
If you want to find out more about Rock Candy Mountain, make sure to check out our interview with creator Kyle Starks by CLICKING HERE.
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