Publisher: Image Comics
Writer/Artist: Kyle Starks
Colourist: Chris Schweizer
Release Date: 7th February 2018
After a long and bumpy journey, Jackson’s quest to reach the mythical (and possible fictional?) Rock Candy Mountain comes to a conclusion this week as series creator Kyle Starks and colourist Chris Schweizer combine to deliver a finale packed with violence, humour and no small amount of emotion.
It’s no secret that I’ve been a massive fan of Starks since the days of Sexcastle, and watching him evolve from thrilling, humour-filled action movie pastiches to a story packed with genuine depth has been an absolute pleasure. Sure, the early issues served as a kick and punch-filled homage to the hobo way of life, with a Kung-Fu movie style and a likeable-yet-mysterious leading man, but over the last few months the story has gradually morphed into something entirely different. Yes, the awesome fisticuffs and deadpan humour are both still here, but themes like friendship, family and faith have been pushed to the foreground, generating a deep investment in Jackson’s fate that was perhaps missing from some of the early issues.
The final chapter is built around Jackson’s inevitable showdown with the Devil himself, who employs an unsurprising amount of dirty tricks during their fight, all while Jackson’s friends do their best to escape the Gehenna Trainyard with the mystical staff. It’s a tense situation, but Stark’s dryly comic dialogue keeps things from becoming even the slightest bit dour or joyless, even when the stakes are at their highest.
I’ve raved about the impressive nature of Starks’ artwork for months now, and to be honest there isn’t much to say here that I haven’t already said. Yes, it’s undeniably basic and yes, the detail is fairly sparse, but there’s just something about the flow of the pages and the expressions of the characters that manages to perfectly capture everything Starks wants to say. And whether it’s the mutually enjoyable showdown between Hundred Cat and Babs Bardoux, Slim’s act of heroism or Jackson’s reaction on the very last page, Starks manages to stay in complete control of his story throughout.
The action is as fast and furious as always, with bone-crunching impact and comically exaggerated facial expressions and reactions throughout. Starks also delivers his trademark ‘calling card’ with gusto here, treating us to perhaps his best ever use of onomatopoeia (no small compliment, I’m sure you’ll agree) during an air-punchingly awesome splash page midway through the issue.
It’s also worth mentioning that, once again, Chris Schweizer proves to be an invaluable addition to the series, adding nuance and depth to the story with his colour work. With a lot of Starks’ early work being restricted to black-and-white, it’s amazing to see just how much Schweizer adds to the proceedings here, particularly during the closing pages where we finally get to discover whether or not Jackson’s journey has been in vain.
Without wanting to give anything away, this is a perfectly poignant ending for what has been one of my favourite comics in recent memory, as well as a living, breathing testament to the fact that comics don’t need to be intricately detailed or packed with eloquent, flowing prose in order to really resonate. Highest possible recommendation for this one, folks.
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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