Rock Candy Mountain, written and drawn by Eisner-nominated Kyle Starks, takes its silliness seriously and is serious in a very silly way, and wins because of it. This is a world with hobos, hobo mafias, and Satan. (Literally, the guy with horns makes an appearance.) Ya see, Satan is looking for someone and that someone is Jackson, and Jackson is looking for something and that’s Big Rock Candy Mountain. Yes, from the song.
The year is 1948, and Jackson is a train-jumping, Indiana Jones-style hobo looking for this place of legend. When we first meet him, he meets another wayward soul, “Hollywood Slim,” a failed actor from Hollywood who lost everything and is heading to Kentucky to start over. They make a deal to help each other out: The world of riding trains is too dangerous for the likes of Slim, and Jackson could use a set of extra hands. Their exchange is sharp and funny, and Starks uses Slim as a way to bring us into this unknown world. It wouldn’t be an adventure without a little danger, and the newly anointed duo end up in some hot water when some more unexpected guests decide to hitch a ride on the railway car they find themselves on.
What I like about this book is basically everything so far. Starks’ toeing of the line between reality and the fantastic is really enjoyable. His artistic style matched with Chris Schweizer’s grounded, monochromatic color schemes help to tie the two elements together while also bringing to life the artistic and cinematic feel of that era. We can both find amusing and take seriously the various characters, because while they aren’t realistically written portrayals of humans, they also aren’t complete caricatures.
This is a cartoon world with real consequences, and while, at this point, I have yet to be emotionally involved in the story, I think returning to it next month (and beyond) will prove fruitful.