Musings: Reviewing Webcomics

A few weeks ago, there was this big send up about web comics review and criticism. A lot of really well known web comics creators got involved discussing the pros and cons of web comics reviews.

I made some comments regarding reviews that I’m going to pull in here:

In the past I have avoided webcomic reviews because of the reasons I mention above. It’s also harder to write a webcomic review compared to, say, a book. A book has a defined beginning and ending. Because it is a contained, open and closed narrative, it is easier to grapple with the work intellectually and come to a more solid conclusion. It can also be very discouraging for a creator to get a bad review when they are essentially providing free entertainment for their audience.

But one of the major reasons I write a review is to tell readers if I think a property or book I have read is worth their time or worth the money. While webcomics are by-in-large free to read, everyone’s time is valuable. So reviews can still be beneficial for readers.

Another major concern for reviewers or critics is that their voice isn’t necessarily a community voice, i.e. I am not a comics maker. Because I don’t truly understand their process or the stresses of creating and posting comics work, the argument goes, my critique isn’t necessarily valid, or as valid as someone who is doing the work.

I freely admit that I don’t make comics. I read comics. And… I read a lot of comics. And while I wouldn’t by any means tell an author what to do and what to fix about their comic directly, I have been building an eye for construction and flexing my critical thinking skills as much as possible with this blog. I’m certainly not at the level of other critics/reviewers on the web (10,000 hours and all that hokum) but I’m working at it. So if I notice something isn’t working, I’m going to say it.

So, with all of this in mind, I think that webcomics reviews are maybe a little more difficult, but with all of the content freely available on the internet, it can be hard to pick what to read, or find what to read. 

 Starting this Wednesday I’ll be running webcomics reviews alongside more traditional reviews with a few guideposts:

  1. Any webcomic review on Sequential State will mention the page spread that it focuses on i.e. chapters, page numbers, story arcs as part of the review title.
  2. Noting that one of the key features of webcomics is their transformative nature and that many webcomics are works in progress, if I am critical of a work, I will be more thorough and less acerbic in my writing.
  3. That said, there will be no pulled punches. I don’t think it’s fair to the creator or to my audience.
  4. If a creator wishes to engage me regarding any part of the review or my reviewing process, I welcome that engagement. Feel free to contact me via my ASK box, Twitter, or email.

Are there any other guidelines you think are important for webcomic reviews? If so, let me know in the comments.

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