Comics: Review or Critique

Quite a few months ago I talked about changing my style of comic review here at Comic Book Daily. I wanted to pair down what was being presented: less about outlining the story or talking about the artwork. Since then I’ve had a good run of reviews and have honed my perspective but I think it can be focused even more.

When someone looks at a review of a piece of work they’re really falling into two groups: one who hasn’t consumed the work and wants to know just enough to decide whether it’s worth the time, and one who has consumed the work and is looking for a critique of the material. With that in mind here are two definitions:

Review: a formal assessment or examination of something.
Critique: a detailed analysis and assessment of something, esp. a literary, philosophical, or political theory.

 

For me I’ve decided that a review is a formal assessment but solely from my perspective, and to that end I’m asking myself as I finish a graphic novel “what was it, that one thing, that either made or disrupted the experience for me”. While there may be a multitude of little things that define or disrupt the reading experience, when you put it down and walk away what made an impact. That’s what I want my review to focus on.

And in doing that I end up with a short review. That’s not intentional but personally I skip over parts of reviews that recap all the events of a story and then talk about the artist’s style. I really enjoy looking at sample pages of the book so I can get a look for myself, since most covers today are not done by the interior artist. We see books solicited with a blurb but want just a little more information and a peek inside before I commit to a purchase. That’s what a review does for me and is what I want to accomplish for others.

Which leads me to critiques. I read a critique of comics criticisms and their search for the best online, then moved on to reading the nominations. These are excellent examples of an author breaking down a comic and assessing it completely, casting a hard look and judgement. They often lead to a deep understanding of the work, but is that mainly for the writer or for the reader?

Reading through these criticisms led me to realize I don’t want to do that to most comics I read. I’m there to be entertained and through my review hope to pass along what was great about that comic or graphic novel.

Scott VanderPloeg

631 Posts. Scott VanderPloeg works in I.T. but lives to eat and read. Currently Editor-In-Chief of Comic Book Daily. His other ramblings can be found at eBabble.