There’s something that has been plaguing my thoughts lately about comics and our geek community. The truth is that it is something that I have often wondered about and it creeps back into my thoughts from time to time. The question is are the reviews on comic book websites a potential harm to the medium?
Now here’s the thing; I often find myself reading the reviews for comic books because it can be a useful gauge as to how a series I read is being received. In the interest of full disclosure, I made a conscious decision to look for reviews after I have already made my purchase and made my own conclusions about the book in question. You may be asking yourself why I made that decision. You also may ask why I am writing for a website that covers comics. And to that I would say, “Great question!”
There’s many reasons really to answer this and honestly I enjoy these sites and I enjoy a well crafted review. While many reviews are helpful, some can be harmful and here is where I have come up with my own little system for making calls on what to purchase. And this little system has evolved over times. Back when I was younger, the only reviews I had were movie critics. Back then my theory was, if they don’t like it then I’m gonna love it. It was mostly true.
The danger in reviews is that they can sway the opinion of people on what to purchase, which can prop up a really great series. Or doom another one to low sales. There’s a lot of power in that. And sometimes it feels like reviewers are influenced by what other reviewers of bygone years have also written. This in turn can often lead to the types of conversations I’ve seen on message boards where someone likes something and is attacked. As an impressionable young lad in my youth, I liked the art of Rob Liefeld and will tell anyone that his work in the 90’s brought me in as a full time comic book reader. However, back then I was shamed at a local comic store whenever I purchased one of his works. The employee would scoff or say how much the art sucked (he needed to work on his sales pitch I guess). So I’m at the store having my interests insulted for years. On top of that, on the internet on message boards and in reviews during the post 90’s boom the man was ripped on by everyone as well. It was all the rage. But if it was so bad, why did I find myself enjoying it?
The answer is quite simple and can’t really be shown in the reviews. Art is subjective. Anyone who tells you otherwise is fooling themselves. Sure there may be technical aspects to art, but at the end of the day it comes down to your personal taste. And even today, a review comes from a person who has their own particular set of tastes as well. Here’s a little story about different tastes for you involving the time I discovered my father liked anchovies. Now dad was supposed to pick up pizza for dinner and we were your standard plain and pepperoni type of family. So we’re pretty hungry when my dad finally walks in with a pizza. When we open it up it turned out to have anchovies on it. When my mom asked my dad about it, he said, “I like them.” That day we also discovered that we weren’t a fan of the anchovies.
So for me the title of this article may be a nod to Watchmen, but it is also a question we should all ask. The answer I found was “me.” At the end of the day, I have read many comics and many reviews. There are some reviewers that I have come across that have had views so different than mine on a book that I don’t look for their opinion when I consider buying a series. I don’t mean to put them down, but if our tastes are so different than it won’t affect my purchase and enthusiasm. I’m sure that I am not unique in this, but my worry is often for the people that aren’t entrenched in this community; those unicorns we call new readers. Will they find a review from a big news site and change their mind on that new book they were going to try? Will they go to a message board discussion full of personal attacks and say, “Nah, this isn’t for me?” The answer is that I honestly don’t know. I got into comics before I had internet (the Dark Ages). I was into comic books before I died a million times from dysentery on the Oregon Trail (my God the Darker Ages). Seriously, I died so much I felt like Bill Murray from Groundhog Day.
So what am I trying to say here besides Oregon Trail sucks. Here it is folks. Like what you like. There’s nothing wrong with that unless you like the Oregon Trail. I kid. But seriously.
I still enjoy Rob Liefeld’s work. I even enjoy reading reviews I disagree with for entertainment value. I read a column on a pretty big site specifically to have a laugh at how much I disagree with the writer’s opinion. In the end, that’s all it is. His opinion over mine. And honestly, I trust myself more to pick out the books I enjoy. And if you find a reviewer that has similar tastes to you that you follow, it’s pure gold. I find myself reading one of those reviews and saying, “Whoa now. How did I miss that book.” All of a sudden, I’ve discovered a new series to enjoy.
Sure reviews could potentially damage the chance of people not picking up a series, but you my informed reader have the power to review the reviewer. Weigh opinions, make your choices, and support what you love.