I don’t have much of a problem with comic book reviews. True ones. A true review will talk about the story and the craft. Sure, in today’s super-active society, we may not have “time” to read a proper review, but that shouldn’t mean we don’t take the time to actually craft one. Most of today’s “reviews” are nothing more than a reduction/rehashing of the plot, and the “score” of the reviewer.
“Lark-Man swings in to save the day from a gaggle of Mugs, managing to save the city and Linda Lovelace, all without breaking a sweat. Two stars.”
Why is that two stars? What warrants it being only two stars? Is it story, or is it craft? Reviews such as these are useless.
This is what most reviewers do. Some add a level of snark, some don’t. It all depends on what you’re looking for. There are damned few reviewers who actually take the time to review and give critical thought to what they’ve just read. These reviewers will tell you exactly what they thought, and why they thought it, so that you can make an informed decision as to whether or not the book should get your hard-earned money.
As for myself, I don’t like doing reviews overmuch. I have what I think of as an unfair advantage over a lot of creators, since I am also an editor. I can read a book and pick apart its flaws, and I can add a level of snark that would make hardened criminals wince in pain.
Most of the time, it’s a challenge for me to find a book to review. I like to see things that are both ready for sale (or are already being sold), and that are worth my time. It’s the latter that I find difficult.
I’m a superhero guy. Give me superheroes, science fiction, or horror, and I’m all over it. Marvel has gotten a lot of my money over the decades, and DC has gotten some of it, too. As has Image. With those companies, it is very easy to see that there are quality controls in place. The review is more of an actual review, instead of a bitch-fest.
I can step outside of my comfort zone with comiXology Submit, but a lot of those books don’t have quality controls in them to do anything else but be bitch-fests for me. And to be perfectly honest, I hate to “reward” people by buying bad books to review.
ComixTribe has put out a couple of clunkers in our time. The first (and only, so far) issue of Runners by some guy named Steven Forbes…it had some decent production values, but the writing itself was suspect. I guess he thought it was interesting. The first issue of The Red Ten had a lot of issues with the art, but the writing was decent. I’d probably have bought those books based on concept, and would have given them a Beautiful Strange review. (I base my buying criteria for reviews on Prince songs: Adore means to buy it, Beautiful Strange is take it or leave it, and When Doves Cry means not to buy it.) Our other titles are definitely worth the money (meaning the time and effort), and would get an Adore. The Red Ten got better over subsequent issues, then there’s Epic, The Standard, Scam, And Then Emily Was Gone, C Is For Cthulhu, and an Oxymoron anthology. We’re getting better with what we put out, and the things on the horizon are getting the treatment needed to bring them up to snuff for an Adore.
Reviews are only as good as the reviewer, when you get down to it. It doesn’t matter how good or bad the book is. A lengthier review doesn’t mean that the review itself is worthwhile, either. (Although, length should be an indicator that the reviewer is talking about something of substance.) However, a lengthier review would give a better indication of the book and its worthiness.
Personally I believe that a review should hit on all the important aspects.
First, there is art, of course. Art is the first thing you see, even before the story. Second is the story. Don’t confuse the story with the writing. While very similar, they are also vastly different. Watchmen is a decent story, but the writing in it is superb. Now, we get to the brass tacks: writing, pencils, inks, colors (if any), letters, and editing.
Yes, editing, because that can make or break a book. It is extremely important.
Anyway, that’s my view on reviews and reviewing comics. Yours may vary.