Monday, April 5, 2010

A Reviews Review

Internet journalism is a much different form than the increasingly outdated and ancient form of print journalism. There is simply far less attention to content when all it takes to publish opinions is a click of a mouse.

Reviews aren't normally on my reading list, but recently I woke up and decided I'd read a few. It was a sad morning.

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The first review I read was interesting in that it presented a markedly staunch opinion. More than that, it was negative. The reviewer hated the book, and gave it one star out of a possible five. This was interesting because I didn't hate the book in question, and it's always interesting to read differing opinions.

Overall it was a fine review, but most of the negative aspects the reviewer mentioned seemed somewhat strange to me; the pacing, for instance. Since it was an action comic, written by a writer known largely for over-the-top action, with little to no attention to the finer details of a character and his/her development, this seemed a strange gripe to have.

I decided if I was going to run this experiment - as I was thinking of it finally - I should read another review, specifically one that had a differing opinion than the first. If I managed to find such a review, the chances were high it would fall somewhere close to my opinion, which was this: the comic was just okay.

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There was in fact an opposing opinion, which isn't really so outrageous. What is the internet if not a collection of differing opinions?

The second review I read was an odd one. It purported to be praising the book, but when I looked deeper into the reviewer's words I discovered he was mixing his opinions. There was one phrase that summed up the entire review process for me: "this book is not for everyone." This statement is so obvious as to be redundant, and could potentially chop down the entire process to a much more abbreviated form.

Here is my review of the book in question, utilizing both reviews I read. "This book is not for everyone. If you like action, buy it. If you do not, then don't. The characters seem two-dimensional, but that is excusable because it's brainless violence. Rating: F or B+."

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There are a few problem with comic book reviews. The most obvious is length. Most places that publish reviews of comic books are going to seek reviews that don't break past a certain amount of space, or when interpreted into the significance to the reader, a certain amount of time. After all, we're talking about comic books, which are a very limited investment of time, much more limited than novels. I certainly don't share in this opinion, because if I'm truly interested in something I'll forego any worries about wasting my time.

Maybe it's subconscious. Comic book reviewers, and the sites that publish them, don't spend too much time reviewing books because they know that the majority of those visiting the site won't read the entire review if it's too long. This may or may not have anything to do with the length of a comic, but more with the use of the internet and how it has become a tool of convenience, or a way to waste time in short increments.

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There are definitely reviews out there I enjoy, but it's hard to find them. I like to read a review where the writer isn't afraid to write everything they think, and not an abbreviated form of it. The need to edit or limit a writer's space (content, meaning the amount) is understandable occasionally, more so in print than on the internet. There is no worry about printing cost or ad placement, so really the only thing restricting reviewers and their words is time; both theirs and the readers'. Honestly, what are the odds that someone read this entire posting?

My next post will be a review I wrote about a comic book I love. It is a negative review, however, and pretty long.

1 comment:

  1. Let me tell you a story about reviewing comics on the internet. At one point I was doing weekly reviews for a site, unpaid, the only upside being that you would have a little something to put on your resume. The site didn't care at all what you reviewed, as long as it came out that week and you paid for it yourself. I did notice the one time I was overly critical of an issue, the review didn't get ran. To this day, I still believe it was shelved because it gave an extremely negative review and, as you pointed out in your previous column, this is a small community of people. Since then, I've always believed that online reviewers have only one of two goals in mind: to make the creators like them or to draw attention to themselves by pissing people off. Either way, I think it's almost impossible to find reviews that don't have any agenda larger than telling readers if the writer liked the book and why or why not.