By MattDemers 2 Comments
Every week, I write four-to-five comic book reviews for ComicVine as a freelancer. I've been working with them since May of 2010, and have enjoyed my time here immensely so far; the quests are fun and it gives me a platform to write about a medium I love.
Since CV requires me to quantify my reviews in a star rating, there seems to be an increasing number of people who take issue with them. While I'd like to say that every review gets at least one comment questioning a score, that wouldn't be true: four-to-five star reviews remain relative feedback ghost towns.
So instead of responding to each comment as they come, I've decided to head them off at the pass and post a blog on how I come to my score decisions.
I'd like to preface this by saying that I try to be as honest as possible, and that a book with a large amount of hype is not immune from bad scores. As always, reviews are supposed to be subjective, and the fact that I didn't like a book doesn't mean you will, as well.
In short, there's really no reason to post angry comments saying "this score should be higher" because, really, it shouldn't. I'm confident in what I gave the book, and stand by it.
Zero Star reviews aren't given out unless a book is a dysfunctional mess; I haven't had to score a book a zero yet, and I hopefully never will.
One Star reviews are scarce, but a necessary evil sometimes; book CAN be that bad. One star reviews have terrible characters, laughable plot and dialog, and falls victim to every negative cliche it can. For a book to receive a one star rating, it has to insult my intelligence as a reader while offering no redeeming value whatsoever; a good example is Justice League: Generation Lost #24, which I felt insulted its readers by giving no good conclusion to the plot while saying "Buy JLI when it comes out!" as its final page. Obviously, these don't come with my recommendation to buy them.
Two Star reviews are given to books that are mostly functional as comics, but fail to live up to their potential and have no redeeming qualities to save them from mediocrity. These books have droll characters and slow plots with nothing to keep the readers entertained. I am not against books taking chances and experimenting with the medium, but I feel that it should (at very least) tell a good story to the readers. A two star review fails on this front, and shows no potential for change. Two star reviews generally cross into the "don't buy" category.
Three Star reviews are mediocre, but have enough redeeming qualities that I can recommend the purchase. These books tend to have two or three moments where I will either question the writer's choices or openly roll my eyes, and a premise that doesn't exactly "wow" me. Three stars doesn't necessarily indicate a bad book, but there were factors present that were actively keeping me from liking it, and they weren't subtle. This includes art that doesn't "match" the style of the writing, or vice versa.
Four Star reviews are tricky because the difference between a three and five star review just boils down to preference. If the glaring factors that I mentioned above aren't as pronounced, the book will often be upgraded from a three to a four. To me, a book is rarely completely flawless: the degree to which a book is affected by its flaws is how I determine the star rating. Four star books are awesome books, but they still have flaws that keep me from being blown away. Often, if a book is great, but lacks that "it" factor that keeps me from saying "Man, that was an amazing issue", it'll get a four as opposed to five.
Five Star/Perfect reviews are just that: perfection. They are books that leave me with a big grin, take my breath away, and make me happy that I'm reading comics. They are books that affect me deeply on a personal level, or illicit emotional reactions due to good writing, great art or miraculous premise. They are books that deserve to be on your shelf, and they are written by creators that are deserve your attention and money.
Besides the above, I just try to read as much as I can in order to get a good palate for reviewing; you need to be aware of your own preferences and biases before you attempt to review. While no one is immune to these biases (hell, I'll admit to more than my share), they come from preferences in what we like to read, and what we know is good.
Therefore, you should keep this in mind when you're reading our reviews: they're literally written by someone who might have different tastes than you. Being aware of your own (and well, reading books that look interesting to you, regardless of reviews) will help you become aware of the weight you give to outside opinion.