We are big fans of Rock Candy Mountain, the Image Comics series where hobos are looking for a magical land, here at Comicon.com. Every issue so far has been packed with beautiful artwork by Kyle Starks and Chris Shweizer, and dialogue from Starks that is relentlessly funny, adding as many jokes as the comic page will possibly permit.
So far, we have been following the mysterious central character Jackson, observed by perspective character Pomona, as Jackson pummels his way along the rails looking for Rock Candy Mountain, through an underground fight club, and finally seems to be heading toward his destination. Pomona, a strange Hollywood type who hasn’t ever revealed why he found himself hopping the rails, continues to act as our comedy foil, often really accentuating the strangeness and difficulty of hobo life with his reactions. In this issue, his exclamation, “I have no idea what I’m doing!” while fleeing from the actual Devil is exactly on point for his character.
Oh, right, I forgot to say, the actual Devil is pursuing Jackson, and his previous deal with the Dude in Red explains his uncanny fighting abilities and his general interest in/obsession with magic. But before we get there–and we REALLY get there this issue–there’s time for some clarification.
Starks seems personally obsessed with historical detail and that’s all for the best since he manages to turn a lot of the old-timey terminology he is digging up into slapstick dialog. In this issue we get a history lesson via dialog on the relationship between the terms “hobo”, “tramp”, and “bum” and the differences between them. We’ve been following hobos all along, and learned they have a very specific code as traveling workers, but in this issue, we also meet some tramps, who Jackson detests, but Pomona argues on behalf of, who later turn out to be up to no good, proving Jackson’s point.
That said, there’s not much time for human sympathy in a town that’s become mysteriously quiet because the actual Devil has arrived. Where are all the people? We learn the grizzly truth later. More important is a knock-down-drag-out fight with the Horned One who has a nifty “magic leap” ability and quite an earth-shattering right and left hook, it turns out. If you want to understand the humor and ambiguity with which the Devil is treated in this comic, just look at the front cover to issue #3. There he is, neatly suited, and sipping some coffee or tea–let’s say black coffee–from a floral china cup. Just another day in small town Devilsville where things are a little–too–quiet.
Also included is another stellar essay in the back of the issue–this time about the whole history and various iterations of our Western conception of the Devil. As the essay by Benito Cereno explains, the idea we have today is a process of multiple evolutionary cycles in cultural concepts ranging from the Old Testament, through apocryphal texts, to the new, with some wild asides into the medieval imagination thrown in. And it’s that process of mistaken identity and conscious combinations that have produced a personage we seem to clearly need to be as terrifying as possible. Check out that great essay for more information.
Whenever talking about Rock Candy Mountain, I find it hard not to summarize–and summarizing is not the same thing as delivering a review–in case you were wondering. The difficulty is that I want the reader to experience this comic and I end up trying to convey that experience in my own words.
So let me see if I can be more direct–Rock Candy Mountain has exactly the kind of energy and expertise in the comics medium that openly parades the potential of comics around for wider readership to see. It is a comic that is not interested in perfection, but mysteriously edges close to that line through simply enjoying the nature of storytelling and how it can be presented on a screen or page.
If you want to experience the possibilities of comics, or show them to someone else in order to get them excited about comics, Rock Candy Mountain is an excellent choice to do just that.
Rock Candy Mountain #3 arrived in shops on Wednesday, June 7th. Issue #4 arrives on July 5th, 2017.