With new comics on hold for the time being, my colleague Tony Thornley and I decided to dive deep into our longboxes and collections to bring you a new Comicon feature we’re calling New To You Comics.
Tony and I have very different tastes in comics. He tends to drift toward the superhero and sci-fi genres, and I pretty much stick to horror, noir, and thrillers. Sometimes our paths cross, but we, like most readers, tend to stay in our lanes.
The challenge here is for me to introduce Tony to some titles he probably missed on first pass, and for Tony to hit me with some of the stuff he really likes that I haven’t read. All of the titles we will discuss will be brand new to one of us, and all are available on digital platforms. You should be able to access them even if your local shop is temporarily closed or out of stock.
My pick for this week isn’t a horror book, much to Tony’s relief. It’s a wonderfully odd occult hobo piece by Kyle Starks called Rock Candy Mountain.
Here’s what Image Comics has to say about Rock Candy Mountain Volume 1 TP:
Come inside and meet the mysterious, unbeatable hobo Jackson on his quest to find the mythical hobo heaven. Meet his sidekick Pomona Slim. But watch out for the Devil! And the FBI! And the Hobo Mafia too! It’s a fantastical fisticuff frolic through post-World War II America via the rails and backroads, through underground fight clubs, prison, and the hobo jungles wrought with dangers, hobo fights, jokes, and locomotive excitement.
Brendan Allen: This is a fun one for me. I really just enjoy the hell out of this book. Set in post-WWII America, Rock Candy Mountain centers on a hobo named Jackson (a real profesh) who’s on a quest to find Haywire Mac’s Rock Candy Mountain. The dude appears to be bumbling his way through some pretty hairy situations, but it quickly becomes clear there’s way more to the story than a series of chance encounters and blind, dumb luck.
I said it wasn’t a horror book, but in addition to fighting off the Hobo Mafia, the FBI, and an entire prison full of inmates and crooked screws, my man takes on Beelzebub himself, so I guess you could go down that road if you wanted to. There are definitely paranormal themes in play, and loads of cartoony gore. If you really want to nail it down, though, it’s a tragic period occult kung-fu hobo epic.
Tony Thornley: Have I ever told you my favorite comedy is O Brother Where Art Thou by the Coen brothers? This felt like a fantasy version of that. This is a very funny book, but it’s not really a comedy. It’s got some great action, but it’s very different than what you’d see in most comics. It’s a lot of fun, and I was glad to read it.
Brendan: This is classic Kyle Starks, right here. If you read 2015’s Sexcastle, you’re already familiar with Starks’ funky, caricatured lines and his quick wit. Starks has a knack for telling complex stories simply. No line is wasted in the art or in the dialogue. Rock Candy Mountain portrays nuanced period counter culture with an easy, natural flow.
Tony: One of my favorite things to see an artist do is fight choreography. Doing more than just punch-punch-drop seems to be much harder than you’d think. Starks has two chapters that are action focused in this volume, and I really like that thoughtful approach he took to it. Jackson’s a brawler, not a martial artist, but there’s still thought and care that goes into the “how” of the fights.
Brendan: Not to get too far into spoiler territory, but there are two HUGE fight scenes in the second arc that are so well planned and executed, it’s ridiculous.
Tony: I really dig the colors by Chris Schweizer too. He goes muted, which fits the time period and setting. Bright flashy colors would have been the easy approach, but this is the smart way to do it. And it makes the moments with bright colors pop a lot more.
Brendan: Right. You mentioned O, Brother. There’s that same kind of almost sepia tint washed over these images.
And I know we’re covering the trade here, but this is actually one of those collections that it’s worth getting the floppies. There is a metric ton of fascinating historical backmatter in the individual chapters that are not included here in the trade.
Tony: Yeah, I’m going to have to pick those up! I love supplemental material like that.
Brendan: All right, man. What’s your verdict on Rock Candy Mountain, Volume 1?
Tony: This was a very fun read. I think I found myself with a silly grin on my face a handful of times.
Brendan: Right? You absolutely NEED to get the second half of this thing. As crazy and fun as these first four chapters are, things really pick up in the bottom of the inning.
Your call on the next book. What have you got in store for me?
Tony: We’re going to dive into the Valiant Universe with probably my favorite Valiant miniseries- The Valiant!
Rock Candy Mountain Volume 1: No Exit, Image Comics, 27 September 2017. Written and drawn by Kyle Starks, with color by Chris Schweizer, Designed by Dylan Todd.
We’d like to ask, on behalf of our friends and colleagues that own and are employed by comic shops, that you first try to get these books at your local shop. This is a very uncertain time for owners, employees, and their families. Show some love for your community and friends by buying from your regular shop when possible and safe.
If your local comic store is temporarily closed, not offering safe curbside pick up or mail order, or is out of stock on this title, you can find a digital copy of Rock Candy Mountain Volume 1 at Comixology for $7.49 right here. (The individual chapters are on sale for just $0.99 each, though, and they have that amazing backmatter in them. You could own all eight chapters of the mini on Comixology for only $0.43 more.) There are physical copies available for mail order at Atomic Empire for $7.99 here. Amazon has it for $7.69 here.