Webcomic: Next Town Over

Gears, Glyphs, Guns and Ghosts....From Erin Mehlos' deviantArt account.

That's John Henry Hunter, ain't it?...The $15,000 fella? But I'm thinking you're not really after the $15,000.

Next Town Over is a weekly Gaslamp Fantasy western webcomic by Erin Mehlos.

John Henry Hunter is a notorious and dangerous outlaw with pyrokinetic abilities; so infamous is he across the territories that he has a reward of $10,000 and counting on his head. He is seen in the town of Lookback taking a valuable necklace of personal significance to him from a French maid while torching the saloon they are in.

Trailing after him is the equally dangerous and mysterious Bounty Hunter Vane Black. Vane, a stone-faced woman with an eerie pallor, is an old acquaintance of Hunter's who is hunting him down for having wronged her in the past.

As they battle across the frontier, they take advantage of every object, person, or animal which might help them to achieve their goals. And neither of them seems to care much about the collateral damage they cause during their confrontations. This is not a good thing for the other inhabitants of The Wild West.

Why is she chasing him? And what, exactly, is he after?

The webcomic updates every Saturday. The first page is here, and the latest is here.

Next Town Over provides examples of:

  • Anti-Hero: Vane is one ruthless heroine, if not an outright Villain Protagonist, given how so far she's caused more death and devastation than good in her quest to kill Hunter.
  • Anti-Villain: Hunter, who is quite an affable and nice person... if you ignore his disregard for human life and property, as well as pettiness.
  • Back from the Dead: Who or whatever burst out of that coffin in the first few pages, her build looks suspiciously like Vane's.
  • Badass Cape: Vane's is pretty sweet.
  • Badass Longcoat: Hunter.
  • Bullet Catch: Hunter can pull one off.
  • The Blacksmith
  • Cattle Punk: A combination between this and Weird West.
  • City Slicker: Hunter is taken for one.
  • Cool Horse: Diamonds.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: The first chapter, "Lookback", is built of these. It juxtaposes Vane and Hunter's (presumably) first meeting with their present day meeting, complete with near-identical poses and almost devoid of dialogue or explanation. Vane's name doesn't even come up until halfway through the next chapter.
  • Deal with the Devil: In the side story "Genevieve", an author trades his soul, one third at a time, for a pen that he will never lose, a light that never goes out, and a limitless supply of ink. Why? Well, he views completing his work as much more important than anything as trifling as a soul, plus, he is a young man, and the price will not come due until after he dies. He finishes justifying this with a line that actually stuns the Eldritch Abomination he is making the deal with: When I am dead, what use will I have for a soul, anyhow?
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The flashback panels and "Genevieve".
  • De Terminator: Vane doesn't seem to quit easily.
  • Expy: Hunter's beard, pointy hair, and streaks of gray bring to mind Ra's al Ghul.
  • Gaslamp Fantasy
  • Gray and Gray Morality: Bordering strongly on Evil Versus Evil. Vane is a borderline Villain Protagonist with ruthless tendencies and comitting many morally questionable actions (ranging from gradually turning her faithful steed into a mechanical abomination to shooting a boy and his dog), while Hunter is a reckless thief with little concern for collateral damage or human lives. At the same time, though, both are given sympathetic attributes, and their conflict is definitely not at all simple.
  • Hollywood Cyborg: Diamonds, Vane's horse, has so far lost half its face and both front legs. Vane has replaced all of these with what appear to be steam-powered prosthetics.
  • Kick the Dog: more like "shoot the dog and also a small child to make a point about how cold you've become"
    • Or "kill the seamstress who's unwilling to kill you with the poisoned pin your enemy blackmailed her into using".
  • Kill It with Fire: Hunter's main mode of attack.
  • Made of Iron: Vane certainly qualifies. So does her horse, Diamonds, in an increasingly literal sense, too. And Hunter seems to have shades of this, too.
  • Magicians Are Wizards: Hunter once used his fire abilities for a stage magic routine.
  • Man in White: Hunter. Vane is easily able to locate him simply from hearing descriptions of his fancy dress.
  • Nice Hat: They're part of Erin Mehlos' Signature Style, so it's natural that she would choose to tell a story in the Wild West, where nice hats abound.
  • Odd-Shaped Panel: Panels are occasionally shaped to fit the contours of various Steam Punk-style gears, ornate picture frames, photographs, playing cards, tree branches and more.
  • Playing with Fire: Hunter again.
  • Professional Gambler
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: As the page image demonstrates well, Hunter and Black. The main difference is that Hunter, the Red Oni, is the cultured one, a break from most instances of the trope.
  • Scenery Porn: Oh and so much of it, too.
  • Shout-Out: One character takes on the appearance of Lee Van Cleef's character from For a Few Dollars More, down to the pocket watch. As a bonus that movie also had revenge as a prominent theme.
  • Southern Gentleman: Hunter has his moments of this.
  • Squishy Wizard: Subverted. Hunter is anything but, in the sense that he's both built like a brick shithouse and seemingly able to shrug off wounds that would kill a normal person in a matter of moments.
  • Title Drop: Page 18, where it is used to refer to the main theme and conflict.
  • Victorian Novel Disease: At least one character suspects Vane's got one of these.
  • Weird West: The two main characters are an outlaw pyromancer and a deathly pale, glowy-eyed woman gunslinger who is seemingly impervious to pain or significant injury and who has a knack for machines and steampunk cybernetics. Also has definite elements of Cattle Punk.
  • Wicked Cultured: Hunter fits this trope quite well.
  • The Wild West