The day I requested books to review on twitter, a good friend of mine recommended I check out the webcomic “Beyond the Western Deep.” I was immediately curious because she’s the person who got me into a few of my favorite TV shows and has never recommended something I didn’t immediately go on to enjoy. I’d seen “Beyond the Western Deep” shared on twitter before and even checked out the website a few times, but I had never actually started reading it because I was at work or using cellular data at the time. I, of course, promptly forgot about it after leaving the page because electronic media doesn’t stick in my head, a failing that has resulted in several lost webcomics and at least two-dozen e-books I’ve never gotten around to reading because I get them through online sales and decide to download them when I’ve got a chance to read them. This time was different, though. I immediately went to the first comic, page one of the prologue, and was immediately caught up in the narrative unfolding before me.
The story resolves around a few races of anthropomorphized animals who all live on or near a single continent. Some of them live peacefully together, while most tend toward either indifference or hostility. Their civilizations are all unique and, as most civilizations are, heavily influenced by their geography. The way each culture manages to stay distinct yet show the uneasy connection with the other cultures is incredibly and some of the most intelligent costume/outfit design I’ve ever seen in a comic. Even more incredibly, the males and females of each race don’t necessarily fall into the typical cartoonish trope of the women being willowy and the men being upside-down wedges. The only real differences between characters of the same race are the sort you would expect to see between two different people. They have just as much variation in form as you tend to seen in real-world Humans.
The prologue is all context, placing the story in the setting the creators developed over what seems like many years of work, judging by the blog posts attached to each update. The reader is given a glimpse of the people and the world the story takes place in as a narrator provides foreshadowing and background information. The stage is set, the instigator is shown, and all the while your eyes are being fed some of the most gorgeous art I’ve seen in a webcomic. I’ll admit that some of my preference for this art might be influenced for my deep and abiding love of Brian Jacques’ Redwall series since this art is exactly how I always imagined the books as I read them, but I think anyone would have to agree that it is gorgeous artwork by anyone’s standard. The level of detail is staggering, the colors are vibrant, and each character or object is alive. The action scenes in the first chapter practically leap off the page and I found myself racing through them, trying to keep up with the story as it flowed from one panel to another and from one page to another.
Currently, the comic is in its third Chapter and the plot has had its first major twist. I won’t spoil it here (I INSIST you go read it yourself and let me know what you think of it because I’m dying to talk to someone about it), but I’ll say I was pleasantly surprised. I had to completely abandon my thoughts on the plot-arc of the comic and am now left with so many delightful unanswered questions that I can’t even begin to guess what’s really going to happen. The best part is that my initial thoughts on the arc are still valid, they’re only complicated by what I’ve seen as the story unfolds so I feel like I’ve got one corner of the puzzle figured out instead of feeling like I accidentally made part of the a different puzzle. The amount of plotting and writing work that went into crafting what they’ve published so far is inspiring and worth the wait for each new page. I am doing my best to patiently wait for each page to come out, but I’m not doing a very good job. I keep checking the website to see if a new page magically appeared. That being said, the time between chapters means the creators have a very reliable update schedule and can take the time they need to create the wonderfully written, beautifully drawn masterpiece of each page.
If that isn’t enough to convince you to go read it immediately, then you should also know that the characters are incredible as well. Even the background characters who are there and then gone feel like complete parts of the story rather than someone to take up space or assist the protagonists in moving the story along. The protagonists, though, are something else. They each have their own motivations that are made clear not through exposition or long-winded dialogue pages, but through memories and short moments that show us why they are the way they are in the story. The creators give you plenty of reasons to care about pretty much every character and even the villains have their sympathetic moments. They do an excellent job of showing that no one is the villain of their own tale and even let you wonder if the villains are really as bad as they’re made out to be.
I honestly cannot recommend this webcomic strongly enough. There’s a couple hundred or so pages out already, so that’ll make for a good read one afternoon or evening, and they haven’t missed a Saturday update that I’ve seen, so I’d safely bet that they’ll keep going until the whole story gets told or society collapses. If you read the comic and want to support it, I suggest checking out their Kickstarter! They’re funding a reprint of their first book and it even includes a new, limited edition cover! That’s what I signed up for because I am an absolute sucker for limited edition covers on things. I’d say it’s definitely worth it, though. It never hurts to make sure creators know how excited you are for their creations!
“Beyond The Western Deep” is a fantastic webcomic and you should be reading it if you aren’t already! If you enjoyed Redwall, you should be reading this! If you enjoy any kind of good things, you should be reading this! Check it out!