-In making the case against opening a new comics store, Guy LeCharles Gonzalez gives the following, somewhat strange reason: Steven Grant considers the 22 page comic to be dead. Now, this does sound like a problem for publishers; as Grant notes, alternative formats have been tried and rejected by readers. (Which is too bad, because I think the anthology format might be just right for the devoted fans of second- and third-tier Marvel and DC characters; it would give them the chance to read new stories featuring their beloved Manhunter, but doesn't force the character to carry a book on her own.) But how does this affect the retailer? Graphic novel sales continue to grow, and Grant himself says, "Retailers mostly seem fine with [the 22-page format], since it semi-guarantees a steady flow of product." Maybe Gonzalez doesn't want to live in a world where he can't sell anthologies and mini-series to the people of central Pennsylvania.
-I've seen a lot of entries on the new comics weblog update thing for a blog called Make Mine Marvel. Is this place just a repository for Marvel-related PR? Does the guy (I have to assume--I can't imagine a woman would adopt the identity of Uatu) get anything from Marvel in return?
-If you're going to review comics, learn to how to say something meaningful about the art. Or include a sample of the art. Don't let "the faces were too exaggerated" be the only concrete criticism of the art in your whole review.
Which brings me to a larger concern: why do so many reviews, particularly of mainstream books by people who only (or mostly) review mainstream books, fail to address art in anything more than a perfunctory manner? I get the idea that far too many reviewers perceive art as a binary: it's either adequate or inadequate. In this case, "inadequate" means "art that forces you to stop and think about it." Common complaints include poor anatomy (Liefeld), overly "cartoony" look (Ramos, Scott), over-reliance on photo reference (Land--although I must point out he has a shocking number of fans), and unappealing style of drawing (Yu). More advanced reviewers might include complaints of confusing or disorienting storytelling (Bachalo). None of the first four should stand on their own as a legitimate criticism of art. Any of these techniques have their place in comics. As for complaints about storytelling, I often wonder if the reviewer has put enough effort into trying to figure out what is actually happening on the page, or consider that disorientation might be intentional.
Strangely, though, many of these same reviewers tend to shake this bad habit once they move beyond DC and Marvel comics. This is not to say that reviews of non-mainstream comics (and I'm defining this broadly to include DC's various imprints) are much better at considering the role of art; I still get the sense that most seem to see art as playing a supporting role to story. Even still, a discussion of art is better than no discussion at all.
What do I make of all this? First, I think it's clear that most DC/Marvel reviews are written by unabashed continuity porn fiends or latent continuity porn fiends. (BTW, who invented that term? It's one of the best neologisms to come out of the blogosphere. It's a harsh term, but this age calls for harsh terms.) I think that's why so many Marvel/DC reviews do not address the actual quality of the issue, but instead express outrage at the treatment of beloved (or quasi-beloved) characters. The quality of art is irrelevant to such people, as are most writing techniques. (Discussion of pacing="nothing happened this issue;" discussion of dialogue="the characters won't shut up, and Captain America doesn't talk like that anyway;" there is no discernible discussion of symbolism or metaphor, except to complain about Civil War being ham-handed.) The only literary technique besides plotting I ever see discussed at length in these types of reviews is characterization, and that gets right back to continuity porn most of the time.
Second, it's just harder to talk about art than it is to talk about writing. It's much easier to write a review if you think of artists as people who are illustrating the writer's ideas, since that's a fairly easy category to judge. It's much harder to talk about the interplay of words and pictures, especially if they are not working in harmony. In this way comics reviews remind me of rock music reviews. Too many rock critics focus on lyrics because lyrics are easier to write about than music. Rock critics are a step ahead of mainstream comics critics, however, because they do usually talk about the music in some way--even if it's bland descriptions like "catchy," "heavy," or "dissonant." (Mainstream film criticism has its problems as well--the focus is on acting and writing, with maybe a few vague words about the visual aspects of the film. However, it's much harder to write intelligently about cinematography, lighting, staging, set design, etc., than it is to write about comics art, since the artist has much greater control over the visual appearance of a comic than the director has over the visual aspects of a movie.)
Third, I still think there is an Image backlash, even 10+ years after its heyday. Or maybe this backlash is confined to online comics fans, considering how well books drawn by Jim Lee or Michael Turner sell. Actually, I suspect that comics fans on the pre-www internet of the early 90s were also anti-Image--it's just that nobody cared. Somewhat like today, actually.
Is this a straw man argument I've set up? Does anyone else feel the same way about the vast majority of comics reviews? I try to avoid the really awful review sites (some of which are linked to above), but there are more than a few respected internet critics (some of whom are linked to above) who seem to fall into these habits.
Back to the other stuff:
-Here's a philosophical question: Do you really need to make a post on your own blog to defend yourself against a comment someone left in response to a post on a different blog, especially after making two posts in reply to said comment which said basically the same thing as you're saying on your own blog?
-If you see anything which you think I should see, or if you want to say something which you'd prefer other people not to see, email me at the address on the sidebar.