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

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