Graphic Novel Reading Group discussion

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Member GN/Comic Book Reviews > How do you review a graphic novel or comic book?

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message 1: by Alex (new)

Alex Makes sense to answer basic questions each time about the book. I tend to get caught up in whatever discussion there already is about the piece. Sometimes this leads me astray but other times it opens up another angle to view the piece at. I try and incorporate my response to other readers' thoughts along with a basic review. It can be both fun and frustrating :-)


message 2: by Seth (new)

Seth T. (sethhahne) | 63 comments I don't avoid the subjective questions like "Is it good or not?" (I believe that such questions, at the end of the day, must be subjective.) Instead, I try to relate the context of my personal reading of a book: what about the book, my circumstance, my history, my tastes, my understanding of the creators' competency, etc could be influencing my opinion on a book.

The way I figure is that if I give enough transparency to my place as a subjective viewer of the text, readers will better be able to see whether a book might be something they'll enjoy. Those who follow my review site will be better equipped to understand whether something I liked will be something they'll likewise appreciate.


message 3: by Sam (new)

Sam Quixote (samquixote) Shoot straight from the gut - what did you like and dislike about the book and why? All art is subjective and your experience of it is never going to be objective so try to express your views on the book as clearly and accurately as you can, whether people will agree with you or not they'll get an idea of your experience and judge for themselves to take the plunge or not. Mostly, try to say something specific about it. I hate reviews that say simply "I thought it was good" and leave it at that. Don't be bland, use examples.


message 4: by Alexandria (new)

Alexandria | 10 comments While I like the idea of having a set standard by which to judge all your reading material like you said Ken, I have done pretty much the opposite of that thing. (mind you I also don't post as many reviews as I feel I should )
I think the whole point of making a review is to state an opinion.

Did I like it? No.

Why? The characters were really out very well, and I wasn't attached to anyone so it didn't matter if they died.

That sort of thing.

Art is always a big toss up for me though. I have a hard time judging a comic based on it artwork. I can like some drawings but think they're totally out of context with the story, but does that make it a bad comic?

Either way, I think a comic or graphic novel or any thing you're reading with the intent of reviewing, should be read with an emotional speedometer. I love reading reviews on peoples emotional response to a book.


message 5: by Steven (new)

Steven M Long (stevenmlong) I just started reviewing graphic novels, but I've done book reviews before, so for me it's similar: story, characters, vision, enjoyment - I have a list.

Toss on top of that the graphical element, whether I like it, how it impacts the story, and you're pretty much there.


message 6: by Andrew (new)

Andrew (mr_andrew_c) I agree that reviews are subjective. That just means we have to explain our reactions to the book.

I am torn about including cost as a factor. Ideally that shouldn't matter, but when I read a book in 20 minutes that retails for $20, I feel like it was a waste of money. Yes, that may make me shallow.

I have decided to write a review for every 1 star or 5 star rating I give. If my feelings were that strong, I should be able to justify them in a concise manner. If I can't, then my rating is invalid and needs to be changed.


message 7: by Ryan (new)

Ryan O'Sullivan Taste is subjective, but some reviewers have finer palates.


message 8: by Eisah (last edited Dec 26, 2014 09:35AM) (new)

Eisah Eisah I review it the same way I review anything: Did I like it? Why/why not? When you publish something, it's out there for criticism and you can't really expect anything else. Some will like certain things that others hate, including art.

One of the series I love (Patalliro!) has artwork that a lot of people dislike because it's an old and distinctive style. That's fine, it took me a bit to get used to, too. You can't force people to like a certain art style.


message 9: by Lára (last edited Dec 26, 2014 08:32AM) (new)

Lára There's one rule I have for it: since it contains art, I never ever give it less than 3 stars, even if I don't like the whole thing.

Otherwise, I rate it similar or almost the same as all the other books: Goodreads star system.

3 stars: I liked it (might be only the art that I liked, or nothing that I liked at all, but since it's illustrated and I do know it takes a lot to draw something, I won't give it less than 3 stars)
4 stars: I really liked it (I liked both, the story and the art)
5 stars: It was amazing

Written reviews (other than rating which I consider reviewing of a sort, too) are reserved mostly for 5 stars books, if at all. Usually only rate.


message 10: by Alex (last edited Dec 26, 2014 11:46AM) (new)

Alex (asato) Steven wrote: "I just started reviewing graphic novels, but I've done book reviews before, so for me it's similar: story, characters, vision, enjoyment - I have a list.

Toss on top of that the graphical element,..."


I agree with Steven in that reviewing graphic and written works is very similar; I also agree with the others regarding subjectivity and taste.

My goal is to provide the reader with enough information to quickly decide whether they want to read the book or not. Keeping that in mind, I've developed these guidelines for my reviews (be they graphic or written works):

* Review in comparison to other works in the same genre and audience
* Succinct
* Systematic
* Divided into the following sections:

1.Originality - How original are the ideas, story, characters.
2.Artwork/Writing - Basic quality of artwork (Manga) or writing--not style (which I cover in Personal Notes).
3.Story - Complexity, pacing, descriptions, narrative (panel sequences, dialogue, and sound effects for Manga), suspension of disbelief
4.Characterization - Complexity, detail, internal consistency of characters.
5.Personal Notes - Inessential to the basic review: reasons for choosing the work; style, which is subjective; cross-references to other info; blah blah.


message 11: by Tommy (new)

Tommy Hancock (tommyhancock) | 47 comments It's weird, the art is clearly what separates graphic novels/comics/manga from novels, but when it comes to my overall opinion on a story, the art only affects it if I really love it, or really dislike it.

As for reviewing, I review it the same way I review anything. I say what I liked and disliked about. In my reviews I always try to find a story a new home even if I dislike it, so I'll point out the things certain readers may like, and if I think it will appeal to fans of any specific work, I'll say so.


message 12: by Trike (new)

Trike | 112 comments Lára wrote: "There's one rule I have for it: since it contains art, I never ever give it less than 3 stars, even if I don't like the whole thing."

That's odd. What if the art is simply bad?

For instance, there was a run of Flash Gordon from a couple years ago where the art itself was fine -- the guy had a distinctive style and his grasp of biology was decent -- but it was so horrendously laid out that it was clear he had absolutely zero idea of how to tell a story.

There is an art to comic book art (if I may get so recursive) and some of these draftsmen simply don't have it. I certainly wouldn't give someone 3 stars just for showing up on the job: you also need to do it well.


message 13: by Marcus (new)

Marcus | 17 comments I stick with "why I liked it/why I didn't " , I can make excuses/rationales for poor art/writing if the total package is something I enjoyed. "From hell" immediately comes to mind, as does that eclipso run with Bart Sears art


message 14: by Lára (last edited Dec 27, 2014 05:12AM) (new)

Lára Trike wrote: "Lára wrote: "There's one rule I have for it: since it contains art, I never ever give it less than 3 stars, even if I don't like the whole thing."

That's odd. What if the art is simply bad?

For ..."


I know it happens, but I'd still aknowledge the effort and not give it less than 3 stars.

For example, I didn't like the art in The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll's House but I still just couldn't make myself to give it less than 3. I've also seen artwork even more uglier (yes, I did say that: it's ugly) than this but it probably took a lot to draw it anyway

Story is completely different thing. I've once read an author (she's only a writer, not an artist) saying that she had hard time making her book to fit into a graphic novel. If professional storyteller have hard time doing it, I imagine it can be only harder for artists to make their drawings/painting to fit into a story or to make everything fit perfectly. I believe it's even harder when one person do it all alone. You need knowledge to draw and you also need to have that something to create the original story, and if you do both, well I won't give you less than 3, not even if you suck in one of the two

I prefer to give graphic novels a plus from the start, I just can't do it any other way. but that's why I don't give 4 or 5 stars that easily.

edit: I prefer manga over comics


message 15: by Brandon (new)

Brandon (sholundil) | 34 comments I try to remain neutral whenever I review partly because my tastes may not be for everyone and also because I assume the reader doesn't want to hear me being petty and gripping about something he or she may not care about but I often fine that hard to do with graphic novels because there is so much that affects the reading experience. Good artwork can be aversely affect by bad writing or ridiculous story arcs and vise-versa. Modern comics are a corporate endeavor involving multiple talents and various influences and it's hard to review any comic without acknowledging these factors. Also graphic novels are a collaborative effort and sometimes it's seems that the creative team and the big shots are not on the same page leaving the reader with a rehashed jumbled mess, especially with the numerous crossover events that dominate modern comics. This is not a problem when reading print novels.

I try to focus on the elements that make comics different to other mediums and the difficulty of working in that limited space. Can the writer maintain the character and his reactions to events using only thought panels and speech bubbles and the restrictions they create and if the artwork compliments the writers vision or adds to it and if another character - added by some corporate intervention - has a reason to be in this story line that doesn't involve self-promotion for that character. I can be forgiving on the stories despite some of them being pretty far out there. Alien invasions, magical relics, zombie this and that, alternate universe where good is bad and bad is good. It can demand a lot from the reader but I always enjoyed good fantasy and the current comic books are giving us some of the best fantasy/sci-fi writing around something that should be acknowledged more by the publishing industry.

So I do try to remain objective but the industry doesn't always help - try reading Wonder Woman with out following the Justice League or Iron Man without knowing who S.H.I.E.L.D. are - and these are things that can't be ignored and the neutrality can be difficult because when a creative team is clicking the graphic novel can be a pure joy but when they aren't or the outside influence interfere they can disappoint on a grand scale and this is something I feel I have to express.


message 16: by Jim (new)

Jim (jkmfilms) I intend to review graphic novels like I do other books - as I read I write down reactions and thoughts about the book.

But upon reviewing my graphic novel reviews, it turns out that I don't do that - since graphic novels are that much shorter, it's likely that I'll read one in a single sitting and write the review later.

Even when they're short, I try to be specific in giving my reactions. I'll note whether or not it was entertaining, if I liked the story, what I thought about the art.

I also tend to be shorter on later volumes on a story. If nothing stood out, or I can't say anything new, I'll note that it continues to be a good story or something like that.

I think I tend to be more verbose on 5-star or 1-star reviews since there's more to talk about :)


message 17: by Jim (last edited Feb 26, 2015 10:31AM) (new)

Jim (jkmfilms) Andrew wrote: "I agree that reviews are subjective. That just means we have to explain our reactions to the book.

I am torn about including cost as a factor. Ideally that shouldn't matter, but when I read a book in 20 minutes that retails for $20, I feel like it was a waste of money. Yes, that may make me shallow."


I think that's fair. I mean, I probably wouldn't include it as a factor for the rating, but would definitely mention it if warranted in the review. For example, I paid $1 for a short story that was less than 20 pages - that's a really short short story. I had to mention that, even though I gave it a 4-star rating, I didn't think it was worth $1 - I would have rather bought it as a part of a bigger collection of short stories.

Maybe that makes me cheap :)


message 18: by Trike (new)

Trike | 112 comments I used to buy entire novels for 95 cents, so it often gives me pause when I have to buy a paperback for $7.99. I almost never buy the larger books for $15, because that just feels like too much. I have to *really* want it, which happens maybe once every couple years.

Graphic novels are tough that way because they're so much more expensive per page. DK Books has shown that large books with full illustrations don't need to be hugely expensive, so comparing the two directly shows that graphic novels are about 50-75% more than the cost of similar books.


message 19: by Jim (new)

Jim (jkmfilms) Trike wrote: "I used to buy entire novels for 95 cents, so it often gives me pause when I have to buy a paperback for $7.99. I almost never buy the larger books for $15, because that just feels like too much. I ..."

Trike wrote: "I used to buy entire novels for 95 cents, so it often gives me pause when I have to buy a paperback for $7.99. I almost never buy the larger books for $15, because that just feels like too much. I ..."

I'm so thankful I have access to a decent library. It's worth it to pay the annual $20 fee since I'm out of county. They don't have all the books I'm looking for, but they do have a good selection. I agree, I just can't shell out $15-20 for a trade that's going to take me an hour to read.


message 20: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 16, 2016 06:27AM) (new)

Because the format is sequential art, I focus on the art, framing and ease of following story line. The most important to me is the art... what kind of art is it, stylistically?

Then I critique if it is well-edited, not too wordy., etc.

I ask myself if the artwork is better than the story?

After get the basic art style and narrative style then I rate it based on how original and/or trendy it is. I like to keep my own personal bias out of reviews.


message 21: by Trike (new)

Trike | 112 comments Sonja wrote: "I like to keep my own personal bias out of reviews. "

That's impossible. No one can do that.

Just the fact that you ding it for being too wordy is your bias presenting itself, front and center. Some stories and characters demand more words than others. Not accepting that is a bias.


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

Trike wrote: "Sonja wrote: "I like to keep my own personal bias out of reviews. "

That's impossible. No one can do that.

Just the fact that you ding it for being too wordy is your bias presenting itself, front..."

Yes, you're right. Even if I say I like to try doesn't mean that I can.
However, I'm pretty sure this group is a supportive and friendly community. I'm brand new to this thread and to this discussion group. I don't feel very welcome when anyone is telling me what I feel... or what I can't accept is a bias. Please leave me be. Thanks.


message 23: by Trike (new)

Trike | 112 comments deleted user wrote: "However, I'm pretty sure this group is a supportive and friendly community. I'm brand new to this thread and to this discussion group. I don't feel very welcome when anyone is telling me what I feel... or what I can't accept is a bias. Please leave me be. Thanks. "

How is what I said in any way mean, insensitive or disrespectful?

If you thought that was mean, stay off the internet, especially places like YouTube or Reddit; they'll eat you alive.


message 24: by Shelly (new)

Shelly | 11 comments I mostly just write what I think of the work, if I enjoyed the story, if I liked the art. I tend to tell more of the plot of a novel than I do with comics and graphic novels. My reviews in general tend to be brief. Unless it's something I am completely in love with; then I write a lot of glowing things about it.


message 25: by A.P. (new)

A.P. Sia (apsia) | 1 comments Hello,

I am looking for someone to review my comic book just published at amazon. Can anyone know where to post such request for comic book review?

Thank you,

A P Sia


message 26: by Ronyell (new)

Ronyell (rabbitearsblog) | 345 comments I review graphic novels the same way I review books except that I also rate the artwork and if the artwork is either too ugly or too scratchy for my tastes, then I tend to dock off points for the artwork.

Like for example, with my review of Jughead Volume 1, I ended up docking off half a point from the rating because I felt that the artwork was a bit too wacky for my tastes.


message 27: by Will (new)

Will Robinson Jr. | 42 comments I usually base my reviews first on the writing and dialogue, then we include the illustrations and coloring, and finally I judge its fun factor.


message 28: by Dan (last edited Aug 20, 2017 11:35AM) (new)

Dan (dan2345) | 17 comments Basically the same way I review a book. Did I like it? Did I not like it? What exactly did and didn't I like? Except I'll talk about the artist and if I think they are good, if I like their style or not and if I think they are a good at laying out a page. And I'll talk about the writer too and if I think they are good.


message 29: by Dan (new)

Dan (dan2345) | 17 comments I was looking for a place to post this. Has anyone else read this book? I'm currently reading it Punk Rock Jesus (Punk Rock Jesus, #1) by Sean Gordon Murphy
If so, what's your opinion of it?


message 30: by Richard Kenneth (new)

Richard Kenneth Conde | 283 comments Mod
Provide a synopsis of what you read. Advise spoilers if you are applying them. And talk about the content of the story and the illustrations.

It's as simple as that and you can start reviewing Graphic Novels/Comic Books.


message 31: by Scotty (new)

Scotty (c_scott_smith) | 3 comments Just like other books. Did I enjoy reading the book? Sometimes I'll comment on the artistic aspect, other times the writing. Tend to leave in-depth reviews to others. Mainly note to keep me from re-reading if I have forgot I read the book — frequently happens.


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