Poll: tell me how you prefer your webcomic reviews

I’ve been reading John Teti’s excellent article over at Gameological about the nature of reviewing called “Chasing The Dragon.” The article calls out Warren Spector, who posits that video games won’t gain legitimacy unless there are noted reviewers like Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert on the movie side to filter the content through tastemaking outlets. Teti counters, though, that the internet has changed much of that dynamic:

It makes more sense for the shape of the discourse to shift over time, regardless of the supposed authorities in a given moment. As art evolves, criticism changes as well, not just in its content but also in its form. Criticism ought to be (and inevitably is) more responsive than any one-size-fits-all maturation process could accommodate.

Teti points out that TV criticism, for example, didn’t take off until it was implemented in an episodic format.

That has changed in recent years as the episodic review format has taken hold online. Newspaper and magazine critics tended to check in on programs sporadically—typically during premieres—and then the conversation would end. The space constraints of print made any more intensive converage impractical. On the web, though, writers like Alan Sepinwall and Stephanie Zacharek—not to mention the staff of Television Without Pity—discovered that they could comment on TV with a frequency and depth that did justice to the episodic form.

Naturally, this got me to thinking about this site. There really are two ways of doing webcomic reviews online. Websnark, perhaps the most well known webcomic review site, follows Teti’s recommendation of episodic reviews. This site — and most other sites I’m aware of — treat each webcomic as an individual entity, assessing the whole work in one post.

But … which is right? The episodic format often demands that you stay to the same ten or so webcomics. A one-review-per-webcomic format lets you cover more, but reviews tend to get obsolete quickly.

If you read a lot of webcomic reviews, which is the type of review that you prefer to read?

(Apologies for the self-serving nature of this post. I should have a proper review up by the end of this week, by the way.)

About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on August 5, 2013, in The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Poll, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. You are my main choice for webcomic reviews. I did say I liked one review per webcomic but I trust you to be engaging regardless.

  2. I think it may depend on the webcomic. Episodic reviewing makes sense for webcomics with an extended storyline or multiple story arcs spanning multiple pages. However I don’t think episodic reviews would be necessary or practical for something like “Three Word Phrase” or “Whomp!”

  3. I think both works for different things. I like overall reviews because I get the general gist of things and what a comic is like and if I should read it. But I think “espisodic” reviews would be pretty interesting. Like comparing how different chapters of Gunnerkrigg Court or Cucumber Quest hold up against previous chapters.

    I dunno, webcomics are so weird and interesting. I like regular reviews, but maybe a couple articles about recent outstanding (or terrible) webcomic story arcs would be cool too.

  4. In theory I’d like the notion of episodic reviews but I really fear that the result would be more like tangents where I’m constantly rolling my eyes at another review of a Something Positive (or other comic that keeps getting revisited) strip.

    • In the case of my site, it used to be “another OOTS/David Morgan-Mar review?” (ironically, Robert A Howard himself once complained about that) and now it’s “another OOTS/Homestuck review?” (because we don’t have enough people episodically reading Homestuck on Tumblr already). I broadened my purview to Gunnerkrigg Court and Questionable Content for a while, but let them fall off.

  5. I think revisiting a comic once is often good. Not many comics are alive several years later, but if they are, they deserve another (shorter) review if they weren’t just “average, somewhat boring” in the first review. Maybe one that was only “good” now truly shines, and vice versa.

  6. Reepicheep-chan

    I prefer episodic in general, but I think you should keep doing what you are doing.

  7. I feel like “only one review ever” is only valid for stories with an ending. Especially ones that have reached that end.

    I mean, you can talk about “last night’s episode of the Simpsons”, or “this season of the Simpsons”, or you can write a seventeen-part essay about how the Simpsons has gone downhill over time. Those are all valid scales to talk about that show at. With a long-running webcomic, you have all of those scales available to you – “this page/strip”, “this arc”, “the whole thing”.

  8. *SHAMELESS PLUG* On my site, I do both. I’ll give a full review to a webcomic at first, then if I decide to keep reading I’ll check in at major story developments.

  9. webcomicsunited

    I have a hard time voting for this. These are two ways of doing the same thing that resonate better with different audiences.

    Single reviews work best as a “here’s a comic you don’t know” experience. When someone wants to find new webcomics to add to their already bloated RSS list or if they been hearing about a comic and want to know what it’s about. It also works better with comics that are established and have either a plot set up or are completely plotless(gag-a-day, as they say). Because you either have a full body of work you can review as a whole, or you have a simple basic concept that underlines everything.

    On the other hand, episodic reviews appeal to the knowing reader. To those who are following the comic and know what’s going on. And of course it’s the best way to review those pesky “we’re pretty much making up as we go along” soap-opera style comics. Hell, Sluggy Freelance is a comic that’s really impossible to review in one go, because there’s not a single plot or a single concept you can pick up and analyze efficiently.

    But if I have to pick, I’d stay with the single reviews. In general, I enjoy reviews best as a way of expanding my cultural reference than as some sort of forum where only the mediator can create topics. :P

  10. There are so few reviewers doing webcomics, the one per comic is really the only choice if you want to learn about more than just one or two comics ever.

  11. Most webcomics don’t move fast enough to warrant constant coverage. In some cases it might be rewarding to revisit them once or twice over the course of a few years, especially if the comic or the field of comics changed in some noticable way. For instance, a short update on Spinnerette, as it’s done a few arcs since the review, and it’s been doing a few things regular superhero comics rarely pull off.

    As someone who tends to drop webcomics that don’t seem to hold up well, I tend to appreciate a follow-up to get me reading again.

  12. Aside from the fact that I do one comic/one review, I think it probably best encapsulates the work of the artist. It gives space for the reviewer to really explore the whole of the comic, it’s successes and failures, and whether reading it at all or continuing to do so is worth the effort and time.

    HOWEVER, a review cannot be allowed to be the final word on any webcomic. Webcomics evolve and grow over time, and so once a baseline review is established, follow up reviews should be done as necessary. I wouldn’t do it after EVERY storyline, but only when the comic has changed enough to deserve a re-examination. Maybe it’s about time, though more likely it’ll be after a major change or event. Something that shakes up the comic for better or worse.

  13. I find that I much prefer to read webcomic reviews as one-off affairs; depending on the reviewer, obsoletion isn’t actually that much of a problem I’ve found. If the creator does end up making significant changes to their comic post-review then perhaps a follow-up a few months later noting its progress (linked somehow to the original review) might be in order, but honestly out of all the webcomic reviews I’ve read there were very few cases where I’d feel that would be necessary. Sometimes I’ve read reviews that were months or even years old, and found on digging further that the comic was still ongoing– but all of the points made by the review were still perfectly valid.

    Doing episodic reviews of webcomics would get pretty old unless you spaced them out to be years apart, at which point they don’t really fit the definition of ‘episodic’ anymore.

  14. “Like a Movie Review” — I find it an interesting way to address the work, but I’ll admit since many webcomics you review are unfinished, reviews might need to be updated every once in a while. (Or note that the review pertains only up to a certain point in the comic at the point of writing.) If other websites do the episodic thing, that’s also one more reason for you to do it this way.

    There’s another (personal) reason why I like your overarching reviews — I’m currently working on my own webcomic slated to go live some time in 2014 ( http://www.synthesiscomic.com ) — and I love reading your reviews as a means to learn what other webcomics do successfully, where they stumble, things I should watch out for in the writing development of my own. It’s a helpful (and entertaining) resource. Like TVtropes.

  15. I like the idea of revisiting comics that you have something new to say about, are highly requested for a revisit, and/or revisiting a comic once it’s completed. Other than that I think your current format works fine.

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