By Kyle Starks, Chris Schweizer
Over the past months, Rock Candy Mountain has established itself as synonymous with comedy and compassion. Over eight issues, Starks has allowed readers a glance into the life of the most interesting hobo to have never lived, Jackson. We’ve seen his lowest, highest, and funniest moments as his relentless cheerleaders, especially when it comes to his friendships. Starks’ final issue in the series is satisfying for each character in their own way. In an ending that might otherwise be cheesy, Rock Candy Mountain #8 is rewarding.
When the final page is turned on the series, Starks leaves the reader with optimism. He provides the feeling that struggle and perseverance will eventually lead to reward, appropriately reminiscent of the American Dream. Jackson, a man who has been stripped of everything, conquers his own shortcomings and finds joy again. Slim, after coming to terms with his lack of acting ability and losing the pride of his family, renews himself with purpose. These characters and their friends battle for this until the end, not for themselves, but for each other. It’s through this positive motivation that they find their happily ever after. Characters are not rewarded simply for doing what’s perceived as right, but for working selflessly. Moments like this when the gritty tone is peeled away to reveal the emotion of the story are consistently some of the series’ best.
As expected, the art is once again fun and emotional. Starks’ characters are wildly expressive in happiness, sadness, or shock. The style embraces exaggeration in every way and each reaction is doubly powerful because of that. This is especially true in fight scenes, and is probably why Starks’ brawls are so distinctly satisfying to watch, whether they involve veteran combatants or physical embodiments of the name ‘Slim’. Struggle is palpable, which makes victories fulfilling. Jackson’s powerful moves are cheer-worthy and fun. Although, it would be remiss to leave out the absolutely delightful sound effects of these fights. Their scarcity makes them even more addicting when they appear, and in this particular issue they each build towards what is probably the best usage in the series.
Schweizer’s colors build the powerful emotion of Rock Candy Mountain’s final scene. It’s simplicity is humble and touching. Schweizer helps to provide the sense that the long journey has come to fruition. The rain and its relentlessness has made way for growth.
Unfortunate as it is that the series has come to an end, all hopes for the series’ treasured characters have been realized. Some found what they didn’t realize they were looking for and others finally let themselves have what they needed. Perhaps even better than that is the small evidence that, even if Starks and Schweizer don’t pick up the series, the characters will continue. As each story finds its end, more adventures are hinted at. Even if it doesn’t mean a return to the exciting world of Rock Candy Mountain, the place Starks whisks readers out of his world is enough.