"My father once told me that revenge was like a plume of black smoke," says Vesper Grey at the beginning of K. Lynn Smith's Plume. "It seems tangible, but when you reach for it, you're grasping nothing but air." But that doesn't stop Vesper from seeking revenge against a crew of artifact thieves who attack her and her father on their journey out West. She's helped along on her quest by Corrick, a spirit mystically bound to protect her—though not always in the way she would like.
By the time we meet Vesper, she is already in Smith's peculiar version of the Old West. She's gotten a taste for gunslinging and using the mystical artifacts she recovers from relic rustlers. But Smith quickly flashes back to Vesper's past, explaining how Vesper came out West and acquired her glowing eyed companion. While suffering in the care of her stern aunt, Vesper falls through the ice of a pond and is pulled to safety by Corrick. Vesper's father is an archaeologist, one who sees to the care of the aforementioned artifacts. When he discovered a certain necklace was bound to Corrick's soul, and that Corrick was bound to protect the life of the wearer, he gifted the necklace to Vesper, telling her to wear it always.
Smith employs a good many tropes that are familiar in webcomics: the supernatural companion, the rebellious female character who wants to trade good manners for adventure, the snarky relationship between a human and a supernatural creature. But as soon as Corrick appears, it becomes clear that Smith has a clear sense of pacing and humor that puts little twists in his relationship with Vesper. And when Vesper's father returns from his latest expedition, he and Corrick are so in-step that it adds a paternal note to his duty to protect Vesper—one that becomes clearer and sadder when Smith reveals that in order to protect Vesper, Corrick must sometimes hide things from her. He is far more than a supernatural bullet vest, and Vesper may not always be pleased with his protection.
Vesper gets her wish when her father agrees to take her West with him, with several powerful artifacts in tow, but they are attacked on the road. Now, Vesper has a burning desire for vengeance and she'll have to make some unlikely allies to do it—and figure out just how Corrick fits into her violent new life.