Friday, March 16, 2012

Review Criteria

For a blog called the "Wild Webcomic Review," there haven't been a lot of wild webcomic reviews lately, has there?  Well, the reasons are many fold, but mostly because it takes time to read through full archives, and I've been really distracted as of late (Champions Online and Star Trek Online have eaten way at my time, stupid MMOs).  This week is more of the same, so today, I'll cover what I look for in a comic when I review it.  These are more guideline than a solid criteria, and I'll try to list out comics that either are an example or a counter example.

The first thing that stands out for my is the website.  If I have to dig deep to get to a comic, I really get turned off.  Confusing things, like the way Supermassive Blackhole A* was a comic built from videos are very annoying and unpleasant.  The worst thing is having broken archive links, like Count Your Sheep.  That was so frustrating that if the comic wasn't as good as it was, I likely would have slammed it hard.  The website should be easy to navigate, with the comic taking front and center, or if not front and center, it's one click away.  Organization of the site is as important as anything else.

The art comes up next usually.  This is harder to judge as the art style of comic can change radically between the first comic and the current comic.  College Roomies from Hell is a great example of this, so I don't judge a comic on the early art if I can avoid it.  I do look to see how the art evolved over the life span of the comic, however, and if it improves, I make note.  I look more for style fitting the comic theme and direction.  I also look for distinction.  I want to be able to tell which characters are which, which environments are which and so on.  Lack of distinction can confuse a comic for me, like Prophecy of the Circle, where I wasn't QUITE able to tell who was who.  As long as I can easily identify them, I'm usually happy.  That said, there is a line where bad or lazy art will drive me away.

Figuring out the point of the comic usually comes next, and that can change over time.  Drama, adventure, epic, daily jokes and experimental all can be used to describe the various comics I've read, and most comics fall into one or even several of those categories. More often than not one will evolve into another, like how Sluggy Freelance went from a daily joke strip into a long term adventure/drama piece and even now has some hints of being a bit of an epic going on.

Once I have the gist of the strip, I start looking at the story/humor of the piece and see if it stands up. Story based comics should draw me in, encourage me to read further and look toward the future as to where everything is going.  They also shouldn't throw in random asides without purpose and actually DO something rather than wander around.  Comics that are complete (a rarity) should show a full story, resolve points that SHOULD be resolved while leaving enough room for the reader to imagine the future.  I'm also looking for logic failures, poor explanations, bad set ups and Mary Sueisms, though I am willing to give on each of those if they're done in a way that isn't distracting.  Humorwise, I want the jokes to be consistently funny, well structured and natural by the universe that is created.  If they're at least funny, especially if it's funny. Failure to be funny can ruin a comic for me.

With the story and humor I look at characters.  I'm looking for good characterization where it's required, and consistency in character, as well as growth as the comic goes on, where it's required.  Not every comic character needs to grow or develop, so I take that into account.  If I don't see much development when there should be development, that's a strike against the comic.

Finally I take the comic as a whole into consideration.  Did the various elements work together well even if, individually, they weren't that great.  Then I compare them to other comics I've read that are similar and judge whether it's worth continuing to read it.  After, of course, I see if the comic is still updating.  That's happened a few times.

When I sit down to write the review, I try to see if other people would like it as I have tastes that are a little different than others (I like Hudson Hawk, for example).  That's harder than you would think, and comics that I find uninteresting often get longer reviews as I explore whether another reader might like them.

And that's about it.  So what's up for next week?  Well, maybe a new batch of reviews.  Maybe.  We'll see, until then kiddies.

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