I had a really entertaining time reading the first issue of Image Comics series Rock Candy Mountain when it arrived last month, and when the second issue rolled around this week, I wasn’t sure what to expect except it would probably be funny, and just that–unpredictable. Kyle Starks both writes and draws the series set among hoboes traveling the rails where mysterious and badass hobo Jackson seeks the mythical “Rock Candy Mountain”, and rather luscious colors are provided by Chris Schweizer.
What was doubly impressive inclusion in the first issue was an essay on hobo culture in the early 20th century, and prior, to explain the mythology of an Eden-like place made famous in hobo songs and poems of the era–Rock Candy Mountain. However, this issue explodes out of the confines of the set-up driven first issue by taking our two main characters off the rails and directly into an underground fighting ring.
No, I didn’t expect that, I have to say–there was plenty of scuffling going on among fellow travelers in the first issue, so I didn’t foresee an even bigger venue for a punch-up. Starks’ dialogue, always off-beat, and his kinetic artwork with exuberant inking, make this issue just as compelling as the first. Reveals are more sparingly doled out in this issue, but we do see the mythology of Jackson as the mysterious, nearly super-powered man, develop since we get the perspective of dozens of his fellow travelers, a queen of the fighting ring who reveres him, and little hints about his past thrown in.
There’s a major plot development when it’s revealed that Jackson has a goal, a specific step he needs to take in order to find the Rock Candy Mountain. We also get a bigger, zanier story framework for the comic when we learn that a kind of government agency is looking for Jackson because of a mysterious object he stole (also briefly referenced in the first issue).
So, to sum up–in this issue, Jackson looms even larger, there’s a lot of underground fighting, and we do have a trajectory for this mystery/road trip. The real joy is just in the comic’s manner of storytelling, lacing little traces of humor through almost everything being conveyed.
Underneath it all, there’s still an impressive degree of commitment to a historical element in this comic–the ways in which hobo communities managed to continue to exist and how they developed a specific culture during their heyday. A backup two page document lays out some hobo rules that might surprise you, many of them based on maintaining equal and fair treatment in their communities and also maintaining the peace with the townsfolk they encountered.
Riotous, irreverent, and deeply weird, Rock Candy Mountain is one to check out. You’ll almost certainly be hooked traveling the rails with these folks.
Rock Candy Mountain #2 is in shops now. Rock Candy Mountain #3 arrives June 7th.