Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: Next Town Over

Still hammering away at a short story I need to finish and turn in by, oh gee, tomorrow. In the meantime, however, let's talk about Next Town Over (http://www.nexttownover.net/), by Erin Mehlos.

The story thus far pits Vane Black, apparent bounty hunter and vengeful revenant—raised from the dead by magic, but kept upright by her own brand of steampunk blacksmithry—against outlaw/magician John Henry Hunter, a charming bastard with a positive fetish for shiny jewelry and good horseflesh. Since Hunter's pyromantic/necromantic skillz seem to be what gave literal rise to Vane's condition, one can assume they have a complicated history (he also calls her “darlin'”, which rings as somewhat of a giveaway, from my POV). One way or the other, she'll do anything to keep on his trail, including crippling a local smith in order to use his forge or horsejacking a pair of otherwise perfectly nice muleskinners dumb enough to cut her down after she's been hung—the woman's far more Jonah Hex than Belle Starr, even historically-accurate Belle Starr, is what I'm saying.

With my crappy visual sense, I often tend to gloss over or even not particularly notice the art part of webcomics, but Mehlos's work is striking: Her slightly cartoonish, similarly-featured characters inhabit a landscape that changes depending on the narrative focus. Vane-centric sections, for example, are often minimalist and dialogue-poor as a classic Clint Eastwood film, all empty, epic grass plain and arroyo crags, blurred by pace and motion. Ones involving Hunter, OTOH, have far more pizzaz and snap—much like the shiny red-and-gold fire-magic he splashes out on almost every gesture, big or tiny. Vane comes from the empty places, while Hunter is attracted to small pockets of civilization, where the finer things in life may be found and gained, whether at the point of gun or spell. But both of them are figures of chaos, completely unconcerned with the way their mutual vendetta scars both the land around them and those who inhabit it.

So, yeah: A pair of antiheroes with grey motivations and a flair for the dramatic, plus horses, magic, and punkery of all sorts—no, I wouldn't be interested in that at all, would I? Now, if Mehlos could just update a bit faster...

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