Monday, September 22, 2008

Why I Don't Give Stars

I like to read a lot of comics. And I like to read a lot about comics. And I like to read blogs. So, lo and behold, I read a bunch of comic book blogs. In the blogosphere, however small or large it might be, there exists a spectrum of blog-quality. Some people can write, other can't. The great blogs (eg. The ISB) forge ahead in their own way, creating new and unique content to eat up all the spare time of the audience and entertain them, enlighten and enrich them.. The not-so-great blogs simply eat up time. I like to think of "a lay of the land" being somewhere in the middle. I don't provide that zaniness that The ISB has in abundance, but neither do I write like a ten year old. I don't waste a lot of space complaining about companies and Greg Land and why X character is being mistreated and mishandled by Y writer. With my blog, I simply try to honestly talk about my love of comics, and review them when they get into my hot little hands.

However, what I don't do with my blog is asininely assign a haphazard generic rating system to comics or movies. That's not to say I don't like rating systems; I just don't think they're for me. Over at The Weekly Crisis, Kirk has a decent system of "Must Have", "Check It" and "Avoid It" and some other designations. As well, at The Savage Critics, their rating system is built into the website's header and logo. My favourite comic book critic, Jog, manages to work the rating into a sentence, which is worked into a paragraph, which is worked into an essay about the comic in question. It's all very intelligent and literate. These are the rating systems that work. For those writers on those blogs.

On the flipside, there are rating systems that don't work for the writer or the blog. Now, I'm not going to name names or get into a big blog fight, but I have found a couple blogs who not only have terrible rating systems, they might also have simply stolen it from another blog.

I don't use rating systems because most of the time, I can't simply sum up my feelings of a work in two words or put those feelings into a number. Sometimes I finish reviews with "I would/would not recommend this" and sometimes I finish reviews with "I would recommend this for fans of x" or what have you. Everybody has different tastes, so I would only recommend things to people who I know and who I would know (mostly) their tastes.

Even when I read reviews of comics, I tend to skip the numbers and read the analysis instead. Saying something is five stars out of ten doesn't tell me why this work failed or what parts didn't jive. The only way to explain why a comic is great or good or mediocre or awful is to explain why, in words, in the form of a review. That's why people read reviews. They want to know if it's worth buying. With my blog, I try to review and effectively critique, as I've been taught and as how the great critics of all time did. A review of high quality is one that understands the work being reviewed. I can't do that with numbers.

The Buy Pile, over at Comic Book Resources, has an interesting twist on the rating scale. Instead of organizing the review by comic, the writer organizes the comics by rating. Which means the buy pile is what's good, the meh pile is what's not and the "No, just No" pile is the absolute crap. But in this case, it absolutely works. For that blog, for that author.

It would not work for me. I need to flesh out my reasoning, I need to talk about it. Maybe one day, when I've enough practice reviewing comics, I could use a rating scale. But for me, for this blog, I can't use rating systems.

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