By Daniel Vlasaty
I know of Kyle Stark through his amazing and ridiculous and fantastic Sexcastle. That book hit me out of nowhere. I had never even heard of it until I saw it on the shelf in the shop I was working in at the time. Just seeing the title on the spine, I knew I was buying that thing immediately. And I finished it in like an hour. It was so good. An homage to all the so-bad-they’re-actually-kind-of-good action/comedy movies of the 80s. I loved it. Anyway, what I mean to say is that Kyle Starks has a new book! And this is my review of the first issue!
Rock Candy Mountain is the story of a dude named Jackson. Jackson is a hobo and he’s out there riding the rails while he searches for the mythological Rock Candy Mountain. Along the way, he’ll encounter a failed actor/coward he hobo-names Hollywood Slim (later changed to Pomona after it is revealed that Hollywood Slim never actually lived in Hollywood, he lived in Pomona), a gang of hobo train-hoppers, and there’s also something going on with Satan – not sure what yet, but he’s in there too.
I’ve been trying to think about how to categorize Rock Candy Mountain, or if there’s anything I could compare it to. And the best way I can think to describe it is Hobo Indiana Jones. I think it’s a perfect fit. Here we have a guy with a calm disposition, quick thinking, a top-notch fighting skills, and he’s on the hunt for something everyone tells him is a waste of time, that he’ll never find it, that it’s not even real. And he’s got a wiry little scaredy cat partner-in-crime in Hollywood Slim, or Pomona, or whatever his name is going to change to next (although if he has his way it will be Fire Kitty Dragon).
This is a simple first issue. It’s just setting up the world here, and introducing us to the characters and the hobo lore that flows through this thing like a lifeline. It’s got a lot going on, though. There is comedy and laughter and action and adventure. There is a great three-page fight scene in which one of the characters utters the phrase: “He’s got punch diarrhea and their faces are the toilet bowl.” Which I think is hilarious and great and something I am definitely going to use should I ever find myself in another fight. Kyle Starks is good at writing over-the-top shit. I feel like Rock Candy Mountain is going to be mostly over-the-top shit, much like Sexcastle also was.
There’s a lot of history here, with the characters and the hobo culture and there is more going on than we are given in the first issue. But it’s a light read. It’s just a fun book.
Kyle Starks also does the art, and I am a huge fan of his art, too. Kyle Starks is the man, legit. It’s simple and bold and playful. The colors, done by Chris Schweizer, are sharp and moody. They fit the art and the book perfectly. Heavy shadows and lots of blues and grays. Exactly what you’d expect to see while riding the rails in the middle of nowhere after dark.
I am interested in seeing where Sparks takes us with this book. I really enjoyed this first issue and have high hopes for the rest of the series. I love over-the-top silly/stupid/ridiculous stories. And also stories that have a history, like there is more going on than just what we’re seeing right there on the page. That these characters exist outside of the book. That there’s more life to this world. And Rock Candy Mountain has all that. And so much more.
And, seriously, what’s up with Satan, and why’s he straight up murdering a whole bunch of hobos?
Rock Candy Mountain #1