By Daniel Vlasaty
Living in Chicago, I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with hobos. (Although, by Kyle Starks’s definition they would technically be bums, since they neither work nor travel). I’ve worked in social services for years, specifically in the treatment of substance abuse, and I’ve even come to know some hobos, or bums, or tramps, or whatever the hell you want to call them. (I just call them people, but that’s besides the point). I’ve helped them get sober, and get jobs, and get housing. And while I think that is important work, it is in no way as fun or funny or amazing as Rock Candy Mountain. But this isn’t a book about homeless junkies that frequent one of Chicago’s many methadone clinics. It’s a book about hobos riding the rails and running from the devil and looking for a mythological Rock Candy Mountain. And this is my review of the third issue, I guess.
It’s probably no surprise that I fucking love this book. This is the third time I’m reviewing the book and I gave both issues one and two scores of 5/5. What I like most about Rock Candy Mountain is that it’s fun and breezy and light-hearted but also kind of deep and a weird character study. Plus, it’s got great art and colors. So, basically what I’m saying is that my favorite thing about this series is literally everything. But on top of those things Rock Candy Mountain is also educational. I’m learning so much about hobo culture and lore in these pages. Like, before I read issue three I didn’t really know that there was a difference between hobos and tramps and bums. I guess I always just lumped them all into the same “homeless person” category. But did you know that a hobo is someone who travels and works, a tramp is someone who travels but doesn’t work, and a bum doesn’t travel or work?
This comes about because our two main boys, Jackson and Pomona Slim, meet up with two tramps who set to tag along on their adventure. Much to Jackson’s consternation. I found this interaction to be hilarious. With the tramps, who introduce themselves as Bucket Full of Lard and Dakota Horseshit, being called everything from filthy beggars to garbage babies. Slim tries to stand up for them by saying that Jackson should be nicer to them since the tramps are still human beings with aspirations and so on. But the tramps admit that their only aspirations in life are to get drunkt and also get fuckt.
It’s a funny spread and it really gives a good look at some of the absurdity I’ve come to expect and love in this book. I think I might have said this in one of my earlier reviews but I’m going to say it again. Rock Candy Mountain would work so amazingly as a cartoon on Adult Swim. I think this needs to be something that happens. I don’t really understand crowd-funding or whatever, but someone should do something with that to make it happen. I don’t know.
I don’t want to spend too much time talking about the plot here but just know that this is probably the best of RCM’s three issues. The rest of the issue brings Satan back into the forefront and we also learn more about Jackson and the world these characters inhabit and also there’s some legit magic.
Kyle Starks is so good I kind of hate him. I have no idea how he’s able to write a book that is this silly and juvenile while still keeping it action-packed and suspenseful. His art in issue three is also some of the best it’s been throughout the series so far. It is sharp and bold. There is an energy to it, especially when the devil makes his appearance. His whole spread is stylish and ridiculous. And it comes with some panels that are far more gory than I was expecting in this book. But it works, because as the character himself says while fighting Jackson, he’s the devil and what were you expecting? Like, duh. And Chris Schweizer’s colors are also on point here. The deep reds of the devil and all the explosions and blood from Jackson’s fight with him really stand out amongst the dusty, washed-up colors of his hobo-centric world.
Sometimes I have this problem in my reviews where I just want to type THIS BOOK IS AMAZING AND FUNNY AND THE BEST FUCKING THING EVER over and over again for the duration of the review. But I understand that would not be professional or whatever. But seriously that’s how I feel about this book. It’s got to at least be one of the best things ever. I’ve said this a few times this year, about other books, but fuck it, Rock Candy Mountain might be my favorite book of the year.
Rock Candy Mountain #3