Oh boy, trying to claim that a particular fight scene is the best is a hard thing to argue because you have to set up the parameters of what makes a fight scene good, and what makes one fight scene better than another fight scene.
But we’re starting off strong with Rock Candy Mountain #4 from Image Comics because the majority of the issue is actually a fight scene. The easiest and most direct comparison I can make is “Remember THAT fight scene in Daredevil Season 1 on Netflix?”.
Yeah, that one. Well, in this comic that follows hobo Jackson and his unwilling sidekick Pomona across the country in search of a mythical Mountain of plenty, guided by a magic map and hunted by the actual Devil, the story slows down enough to give us a “prison break” issue wherein THAT fight scene occurs.
Written and drawn by Kyle Starks, with colors by Chris Schweizer and design by Dylan Todd, Rock Candy Mountain has already been a solid and very funny read every issue so far, so much so that I actually said to myself, “If it’s not as good this time, that’s no big deal. Not every issue can be the most exciting one. The actual Devil turned up last time.” But once again the team raises the bar.
Things you need to know that make the fight scene satisfying (and satisfying is actually the main thing that makes one fight scene better than another): Jackson was at one time a regular guy of some kind, and having made a deal with the Devil, he is now invincible in a fight with ANY ONE MAN. If he is, for instance, attacked by two men, the bet is off.
So, when Jackson gets into sticky situations, he must then try to manipulate those situations into his favor by making sure he’s only fighting one guy at a time. Like in Rock Candy Mountain #3, when he takes part in an underground fight club. This seemingly uncharacteristic move turns out to be a grab for a pot of money which he will then use to further his plan in seeking the Mountain by paying someone off.
Jackson’s life is a kind of Rube Goldberg machine to us readers–we see him doing elaborate things, and aren’t sure why any more than his city-slicker friend Pomona is, but then the next motion starts and we’re left with a very satisfying sense of the intelligence and ingenuity of this strange man.
It’s the same with the fight scene. Jackson plans to get thrown in prison. Jackson, having gotten into a situation he didn’t quite predict (I think) by finding an old enemy he recently screwed over in prison is both wealthy and willing to anything to get him killed in that prison, then has to find a way to make the situation work for him.
By setting up THAT fight scene. And boy does he set it up. I’ll try to avoid direct spoilers in talking about it. But artist and writer Kyle Starks seems to choose his relentless moments in a gleeful sprawl of connecting limbs and flying spittle in a way that suggests he enjoyed it rather deeply instead of dreading the prolonged sequence. Whether I’m wrong or right on that–Starks succeeds in delivering that tone–and that makes it satisfying.
Jackson pretty much ends up taking on an entire prison out for a pay-off, and then a whole gaggle of prison guards, too.
But the last thing that makes it the best fight scene this week is that Jackson gets one in there for his friend.
This is a guy who’s been kicked around a lot and genuinely doubts Jackson’s definition of “friendship”. We, the reader, see this action by Jackson to defend his friend. Pomona does not see this genuine display of loyalty and compassion. And that’ll have big repercussions on the plot of the series.
However, what we do see is a guy who has just been through one of the biggest fight scenes in recent comics, stop and take a moment to make things right for his friend.
The pacing, the timing, and the emotion behind this conflict is some of the best orchestration of a fight scene you’ll see in comics–and I hope we can appreciate that this is coming from a fantasy comic set in the early part of the 20th century, not even from a mainstream superhero comic.
Also, make sure to check out the fantastic essay in the back of this issue of Rock Candy Mountain detailing the public organization of hobos in the United States and the role of key philanthropists in doing so. The essay is by Eric Newsom.
Rock Candy Mountain #4 arrived in shops today, Wednesday, July 5th, 2017.