I’ve talked about reviewing comics before, but it has come up again recently on Twitter (which is my primary method of communication with geekdom). I think the problem stems from the fact that some people take things way too seriously.
I say “the problem” as if there were only one, but we all know that’s not true. But hear me out. Or read me out, which doesn’t sound right, now that I see it in type. Anyway, there are many in the comics industry (a few of which have been vocal about it recently) who are talking about the idea that there are essentially no collective standards at all for reviews. Which means that, thanks to the ever-lovin’ interwebz, literally anyone can write literally anything about literally anything.
I think a large part of this problem comes from the idea that many people don’t really know how to explain why they don’t like something. And in fairness that’s a hard thing to learn to do. (I’m saying that from experience; I have training in scholarship, specifically the literary kind.) They know what they like, but they don’t always know why. That doesn’t always keep them from talking about it, but that’s not the problem we’re talking about today.
And we don’t really want to discourage people from talking about comics. Though yes, it would be nice if we could get people to think more carefully about what they say or write. But we’re ultimately trying to expand the conversation, not restrict it. But part of that means that we have to be a little more careful about how we say things. I’m not talking about censorship here – this has to do with expressing your meaning in a thoughtful manner (rather than just blurting out things that might not read the way you meant them).
Where creators seem to get annoyed is when people tag them on their negative reviews. Again, if it’s a thoughtful, reasonable piece, most creators won’t get cranky about it. But to be tagged to a review that basically just says “I hate this because it sucks” is just uncool.
My own style is based on two premises: I’m not getting paid to review comics, and I really enjoy comics as a storytelling medium. Okay, and I also have the aforementioned training in scholarship*. But to put it simply, I don’t write bad reviews. Partly I don’t want to put the effort into the negativity, and partly if I really don’t like something, I don’t want to give it any attention. So generally I’m choosing the two (most of the time) books I liked most this week (I tend toward new books, but don’t limit myself to them completely) and write about why I liked them. I’m pretty much a story guy (again, literary training) so usually the coolest stories get my attention. Overall my goal is to get others to read these books, and hopefully enjoy them as much as I did.
And other reviewers have their own standards for choosing and writing their reviews. My attitude is (a) write about what you love and (b) don’t be a dick. If people are complaining about your reviews, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to rethink what you’re saying in them.
But that’s just an opinion, of course.
*I actually don’t use said training much in my reviews. That’s not why I’m doing it, and it’s really hard to take a serious critical look at a single issue. It would be like writing a paper on the first two chapters of a novel.