What Does A Good Reviewer Do For You?

I’ve recently run across this article by Travis Pullen that discusses what a good comic book reviewer does over at Film Fodder. According to the article, a reviewer primarily helps you to sort out what you’ll like and what is a waste of your time. That’s useful in this information saturated world we are in today.

I think it even goes beyond that. Well written reviews can be entertaining in their own right and they may even rouse up your positive interest in the material/movie/diner/webcomic (Mr. Pullen specifically mentions the negative, or backlash interest.) However, this is more than just a result of a reviewer spewing an opinion.

Some reviewers (especially for movies) seem to have this outlook that their opinion is somehow more valid than mine. Specifically – what they like is the standard to which everyone must ascribe to. Instead, I think reviewers have an obligation to describe what they’ve experienced with reasonable accuracy. I do not think that requires me to hammer on the weaknesses of a work or to overly praise the the good points that resonate with my personal likes. My personal judgement is not the most valuable thing I have to offer.

Take a webcomic’s art, for example. Perhaps it appears like a four year old drew it. In my opinion, the readers are experts at what they like and can clearly see the sample image for themselves. Within thirty seconds, they’ll make their own value judgement – unless there are other circumstances you should inform them of. Does the artist also put on great airs and brag about their natural talent? Is the artist actually four years old? To properly understand what they are seeing and reading, the readers need to know what it is they can’t see for themselves.

So am I against offering up personal opinion? No. There’s plenty of room for reviewer opinion and I’d even say it was necessary. Did I like it? And why? These are subjective yet valid questions which help the reader decide if they’ll like it or not. I just reviewed a webcomic that, due my personal experience and outlook, I began to dislike more and more as I read it. Someone without a similar experience or outlook might have found it whimsical or even amusing.

It’s not my job as reviewer to presume that I know what my readers will like. My obligation is to show you what I found and how I felt about it – despite any personal bias I might have. Any review, negative or positive,  which allows unstated assumptions or bias to decide the day is a bad review. Reviews should offer a mixture of personal opinion, facts and entertainment and should ultimately be useful to the reader.


  1. The Doctor

    Well said. Reviews need to be a mixture of opinion, honest criticism, and a straightforward look at the comic or item itself. To leave any one of those three out is to have an incomplete review.

  2. The Doctor

    Although, to add something else – I think the article needs to also realize that unless one is versed in art, artistic method and style, and the like, that it will be virtually impossible to give anything OTHER than personal opinions. I could, for example, make all kinds of critiques of the work you do, but unless I am an artist myself, I really shouldn’t be trying to do it from an artistic standpoint. There’s nothing wrong with criticism, even from a personal standpoint, as long as the criticism is not personally directed at the artist.

  3. I read the last comment a couple of hours ago and I’ve been musing on it. My first thought is that it can be easy to be too critical, but that wasn’t the actual issue I was taking up with.

    My only problem with criticism is when the critic uses it to elevate themselves instead of analyze the subject. I used to watch those movie review guys but they mainly discussed whether or not a certain movie was up to their standards. It was more about showing them as experts than the movie they were examining.

    Criticism is a tool for understanding, not self promotion.

  4. The Doctor

    I agree wholeheartedly. But then, that’s not honest criticism – that’s self promotion or bragging couched in “criticism.” I think most people would see through that.

    Your personal standards have a place in a review (things you found offensive, etc) but I think it’s understood that that’s your opinion – which is, after all, what a reviewer gives.

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