A really neat steampunk Western fantasy webcomic, “Next Town Over”

About a year ago I was doing my usual roaming through my usual webcomic haunts when I saw an intriguing ad for a new webcomic. As is my want, I followed the ad link to a webcomic called “Next Town Over“, which turned out to be a comic with a Western setting, but with fascinating elements of magic use and of the strange pseudo-19th Century “might-have-been” technology called “steampunk.”

The creator of this comic is Erin Mehlos, who has a masterful grasp of the Western genre, including some right-natural dialog from the characters! It’s obvious that this comic is a labor of love, from a fan of Westerns to others of like mind, but she also adds her own spice to the story by introducing non-traditional elements. If anyone reading this is old enough to remember, I’d say the comic is very much like the 60’s TV show “The Wild, Wild West.” Like that show, most of what you see is familiar to the genre, but suddenly you’ll be caught flat-footed by a horse with a robot replacement leg, or a mysterious stranger shooting flames from his fingers! It’s a fascinating mix, and given her obvious love for the genre driving her to get the details right, it works very well indeed!

Her style is very beautiful, able to capture the settings and the characters in subtle detail. When you first see her panels, you catch the immediate action of the scenes, but look closer at the edges, and you find details that subconsciously add to the feeling of the page, as well as sometimes adding “backstory” to the main plot. Like a lot of the more artistic of webcomics, it obviously takes a lot of her time, and so she only updates once a week. It’s well worth the wait for the next thrilling installment on Saturdays!

The main story that she’s telling is currently on hold, but while she’s getting ready to resume, she’s telling a (so far) more traditional Western story. I suggest starting at the archives and catching up from there, first. She breaks her story into chapters, with each chapter set in a new town somewhere Out West, where one of the characters is pursuing the other from town to town (hence the name). Which one is “the good guy” and which one is “the bad guy?” That’s up to Ms. Mehlos to know and for us to figure out! There are hints, especially in the opening pages, but so far we haven’t been given any facts about their motivations. In typical Western fashion, both characters are closed-mouth to a fault, preferring deeds to words! We get whatever hints the author chooses to drop, but even then there’s some interpretation possible. The fun of a story told like this is trying to figure out just what the heck is happening, and what’ll happen next!

I highly recommend this comic, and I look forward to seeing where the author goes with it. It aims to be quite the rip-snortin’ ride!

NOTE to parents:  There is violence and language that you might not want to expose your small children to.

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