Praying to Arr-Kelaan

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The Gods of Arr-Kelaan starts with an awesome opening, as a seemingly normal, middle-aged man wakes up in the middle of a fantasy world. Ronson soon discovers he has extraordinary powers including literal godhood, and must figure out how to put them to good – or bad – use.

The first volume showcases the story’s sardonic sense of humor, as Ronson rubs shoulders with adventurers and dragons alike. Finding a pink rubber mallet of unspeakable power along the way, Ronson tries to settle an age-old dispute between dragons and the questing adventurers, but winds up killing the dragon merely by flinging the pink rubber mallet at him.

Writer Chuck Rowles has definitely mastered the hook – every page is followed with hilarious jokes as the complication simply escalates throughout the entire adventure. Ronson himself isn’t your typical hero – or god for that matter – as he looks like a completely normal man – with balding gray hair, a six o’clock shadow, and plain ordinary clothes. The style of the artwork – reminiscent of newspaper strips – is also extremely effective in conveying the webcomic’s humor.

But then a heinous beast rears its ugly head once again – navigation. First of all, there is just way too much happening on the main page. This is a fully-featured website, which includes a small character guide, forums, interviews, reviews and even an awesome introduction about Arr-Kelaan’s introduction. But here’s the clincher – most webcomics have a banner or a home page link on every page for readers to click back to the main page – but not Arr-Kelaan. The site design is truly baffling at times, and though the creators have made it easy for new readers to get into the story with a “Start Here” line at the bottom of the page, accessing the home page is made even more frustrating since there are in fact two home pages – one for The Gods of Arr-Keelaan and one for Rubber Mallet Productions.

The first and current webcomics are presented in standard navigation – first, previous, next and last with an archive link. But some of the stories are available only as digital comic books – where you have to actually “turn the page” to read the story. This can be infuriating if you have a small screen, and the resolution doesn’t quite match up to the webcomic versions bookending the site. This does serve a crucial strategy though, as it encourages you to buy the print books more. For a product this good, I would actually recommend buying the print version – the stories look classy and humorous. But this doesn’t change the fact that bouncing from one navigation style to another is extremely frustrating on the new reader.

Ultimately, The Gods of Arr-Kelaan is a great book with an original plot of ordinary people suddenly elevated to godhood. Despite the lofty premise, The Gods of Arr-Kelaan is swiftly and succinctly executed. Still, with as much play as the comic is getting on Top Webcomics, I would consider putting the pink mallet to use and banging out a new – and better – navigation system.

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