By Kyle Starks, Chris Schweizer
Rock Candy Mountain #5 has a focus on making unexpected discoveries, whether in the art, characters, or story. Starks puts in work on the writing and drawing, with colors by Schweizer to create an issue that may look like it’s purely humor, but delivers emotionally too. It teeter totters from heavy moments to uplifting, organic, jokes- the tone that Starks has clearly solidified in this series. The issue lends itself to new and old readers as well, as it flashes back to give background for the latest story arc. Jackson, one of the main characters, is opened up with some hilarious but harrowing experiences.
Jackson becomes a truly sympathetic hero in this issue, from the first few pages all the way to last ones. In doing so, Starks seems to make a statement about homeless people and the reasons they become homeless. It’s eye-opening not only in terms of the story, but in the real world too. Although Jackson goes through these terrible experiences, they don’t hit quite as hard as expected. It’s unclear whether that’s because some sort of tragedy has been alluded to in previous issues, or if the problem lies in this issue itself. The scene isn’t devoid of emotion by any means, but something does seem to be missing. Even then, Starks juxtaposes the sadness in this scene with a well placed quip from another character, lightening the mood.
Similarly, the art displays a huge array of emotion and detail, despite the minimalist approach. Schweizer’s colors pull a lot of the weight here. Emotional scenes are washed over with particular color tones that instantly set the scene, depicting things like loss and the supernatural. Starks does important work on drawing, too. Jackson’s ever present scowl, for example was not always ever present, and his fear and joy is more tangible in this issue than others, presumably because of the change he’s undergone. The second page shows an especially tender moment between him and his loved ones. A handful of pages later, though, he flexes his fighting skills again, tearing apart enemies as gorily as the style will let him, mixed with, of course, gags. Sound effects can drift into the background, or enhance the hell out of a book, and Starks uses them perfectly to deliver more laughs.
Hobos aren’t who you think they are, and art doesn’t have to look real to feel real. If Rock Candy Mountain #5 says anything (without spoilers), that’s it. Starks and Schweizer pull together lore from several places and mash it up into a series that’s fun, rewarding, and enlightening. It really pushes the idea that everyone deserves more than a first glance judgement. Jackson finds something amazing somewhere he never expects to go, and Starks and Schweizer put intense feeling in just a few lines and colors. Don’t mistake this book for anything less than great.