Creator: Mars and Michael
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
In reading webcomics, it's common to come across works that are notable not for the comic itself, but for the example it sets. Some webcomics set examples for being the first of their kind. Some are examples of how to use certain programs or techniques, while still others serve as examples of what not to do. Aurel, a fantasy webcomic created by Mars and Michael and hosted on Taptastic, serves to warn aspiring artists to be careful about who they work with and how to deal with an abandoned project.
The basic premise of the comic is centered around a race of winged people known as the Aurel. The world, which has influences from Egyptian and other mythologies, is populated by gods, mortals, and the Aurel, which come from another world entirely. They are stranded in this world, feared by mortals and unwillingly subject to the gods. They posses some sort of power which, beyond sprouting wings, has not yet been revealed. And...well, that's about it.
Thus lies the biggest problem with Aurel. It does set the scene, but despite the fact that no less than three expository speeches have already been delivered, the readers are left in the dark as to what the story is. The main character, a member of the Aurel named Ilori, is immediately depicted as rather cold-hearted and prideful. Her first significant act is to shove a pregnant woman to the ground while insinuating that mortals should be eradicated. Ordinarily, doing something like this would mark her as a villain, if not a very morally-ambiguous protagonist who would eventually be shown the error of her ways. Instead, the audience is treated to a lengthy speech from Ilori's mother as to what makes the Aurel different from the gods and mortals without truly explaining what makes them different. The readers know only that they can fly and are immortal. Soon after, readers learn they are not so immortal when Ilori's mother is stabbed in the chest and spontaneously combusts. Again, this should be shocking, but for characters whose personalities reveal nothing but arrogance and cruelty, it elicits little if any emotional reaction. The characters' personalities, motivations, and goals are neatly tucked away with no endearing traits to make the readers hang on until those things come to light.
The art of Aurel is quite a different matter. Whereas the story reveals too little, the art is profusely illustrated. The art style very much resembles western comic book art. The backgrounds are notable in terms of sheer scale. Clearly, the artist isn't afraid to set up huge, panoramic scenes and design lavishly elaborate costumes. It's a noble effort and there's a lot to be said for the dramatic shadows, well-done perspective, and solid lettering, but there are a few cracks in the veneer. It seems that the artist rushed things at certain points and the linework gets shaky. Both proportions and anatomy need some extra attention. Particularly distracting is the fact that the female characters' stomachs appear concave, a common flaw in published comics as well. In spite of these flaws, the art style itself is good and the sheer amount of detail on each page is impressive.
The history behind this comic is unfortunate. It began as freelance project that turned sour. Instead of scrapping the entire thing, the artist and writer duo decided to salvage it. A good attitude to have, except for one problem. The artist threw out the original story and kept the art largely the same. This has resulted in a confusing narrative that feels somewhat forced at times. The art has some nice qualities, but there are also cut corners such as no color or shading and parts of the backgrounds sometimes appear hastily-drawn . This webcomic doesn't come across as a labor of love so much as an attempt to salvage otherwise wasted art. The blog states that Aurel will only be twenty-five pages long, but may be turned into a continuing series in the future. At this stage, continuing the series might be the best option in order to flesh things out. Circumstances as they are, the rushed quality of writing is understandable but problematic nonetheless. With some fresh art and richer character-building, Aurel could still have a fighting chance.
The artist provides a blog post detailing the failed freelancing attempt. It is well worth the time of anyone who would consider doing art for a living to read that post. It serves as an excellent warning to all artists to choose wisely who they accept a project from. The comic itself is also an example of why writing and art in a comic are meant to complement each other mutually and should be developed side-by-side. Sadly, in spite of the ambitious art, the comic itself is lacking. As a story, it's not remarkably engaging and unless the artist and writer duo have something truly spectacular up their sleeves, the next six pages may not be enough to save it.