Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Let's Review A Comic Book!

Thanks to the internet and the ease-of-sharing that came with the explosion in social media platforms, there are more reviewers out there than ever, all itching to share their opinions on their topics of choice.

I'm going to talk about comics reviews a little.

Within the past couple of days, I've seen reviews that simply summarize plot (very common), one that gave a book high marks (but not explaining why), and one that simply said: "this was good."

That was the entirety of the review. And those were all POSITIVE reviews.

Negative reviews are often dismissive to show "comedy chops" on the part of the reviewer (or so it seems.) Sometimes it's to pick a nit, or to subtly/not so subtly rail against someone the reviewer feels superior to getting work in comics. (We can usually tell, guys.)

But the reviews, positive and negative, have something in common: the people creating them love comics, for the most part, and want to share their points of view. But so much gets left out. Summarizing? Not a review. Comedy routine about the lack of taste the creators have? Not a review! Focusing exclusively on either art or writing to the exclusion of the other? Not a [full] review! And of course, rating it in any way without supporting text: so not a review.

What I would like to suggest is the old school report/journalism basic "five Ws and how."

WHO.... created and published this book? Let us know the writer, the line artist(s), the color artist, the letterer and the editor. You should. Each of these people influence every book you read. You remove any one, and it's diminished.

WHAT.... is the book about? Don't summarize the plot in full - unless you want to give the writer of the comic credit for writing the bulk of your review for you! - but do give an overview. Maybe a few big points, thematic resonance if you tend to view things that way. Though that might also be considered part of the...

WHY.... should an audience read it? Or not read it? Even if you don't like it personally, if there is an audience for it, it bolsters your credibility to recommend any virtues it may have to that audience while, at the same time, being honest about your own tastes. A fine line to walk to be sure, but looking at something from many angles sure makes for a better review.

WHEN.... is the book coming out? Give it a street date, make sure folks know! If it's a fantastic comic, and your review has managed to sell that sought-after New Reader, they want to know when they can find it.

WHERE.... I know, I know - it's not a typical must for a review, but it sure helps in comics, especially with a book you're pushing. The direct market does not stretch to all corners. Make sure your site has links to sites like comixology, the DCBS, and the comic shop locator! Again, if you want people to look into what you're recommending, give them that chance.


HOW. Know a little bit about how a book is made. Know how to talk about story, art, color. Be able to see the additions good lettering makes. Do not just "rate" something by  your gut and regurgitate some text to go with it -- that's how we get 5 star reviews with an actual 3 star rating.

These are super basic. SUPER BASIC.

Others - notably writer Benjamin Bailey - have written solid "how tos" that cover many of these same points, and often do it better. In fact, we overlap on so many points, I could've just linked to Ben's article and left it at that... but I'm a loquacious son of a gun. Welcome to America.

So read Ben's article, absorb all of these points, and then go forth and enjoy some comics, everyone.

And remember what I said about how-to-find links?