Funnybook Babylon

April 3, 2008

Overt Invasion of Terrible Criticism

Filed under: Blurbs — David Uzumeri @ 6:36 pm

Readers of this site might remember earlier this week I posted an article about my exasperation with the contentless snark that’s become the de facto mood and tone across the Internet comics community. I don’t think many people read it, I sighed, and I got back to work.

Then Secret Invasion #1 came out, and the shit hit the fan.

In the two days since that comic hit, I have seen some of the most pointless, masturbatory “reviews” of comics I’ve ever seen on the Internet. Reviews that proudly, defiantly, provide no information or content or point of view to the reader, reviews that refuse to judge the book by any reasonable metric, reviews that aren’t reviews at all but just shittily strung together jokes hitting the easiest possible targets – or, even worse, one long, extended, unfunny, drawn-out joke that doesn’t even address the comic.

Let’s start off with Kevin Church‘s “review” over at CBR, which appears to be doing its level best to replicate the critical stylings of late-’90s era Pitchfork Media – that is to say, none at all. His review consists of a faux-Bendislike conversation (a criticism and joke that can be called tired at best) between two people, one of whom, I assume, is an “average person” who got the comic. Church’s complaints seem to be A) the average person will read it too quickly to feel it’s worth $4 and B) that people who picked it up based on the Entertainment Weekly preview will be disappointed the story doesn’t end in one issue – neither of which are actually valid criticisms of Secret Invasion itself. Church then proceeds to completely ignore discussing the plot or pacing, focusing on the same Bendis dialogue joke that has all the subtlety of a Kuribo’s Shoe. I honestly can’t find anything about this review that’s even remotely informative, or even anything that remotely depends on the actual contents of the issue. Any single comic could have come out, written by Bendis, with some superheroes, and this “review” would more or less apply. That is a bad review.

Oh, hey, someone just sent me a link to this quote from Church on Twitter:

APPARENTLY, somebody thinks my review of SECRET INVASION #1 was not good comics journalism. Uh. yeah, because SI #1 deserves that.

You know what? It’s not your place to judge what does and doesn’t ‘deserve’ good journalism, because that’s bringing a dumb and unfair bias to the review as soon as you do so. Why would anybody want to read a review of a book by someone who feels the book doesn’t deserve to be reviewed? Who are you writing for? Why not just make fun of it, stop calling it a review and be done with it?

Second up is snarkmaster Abhay Khosla over at Savage Critics. Khosla liked the book, and makes no bones about that fact, nor that he was looking forward to it. However, he goes through Herculean pains to make it clear that, no, he has not gone superhero-comic native and readers should have no worries that he might, I don’t know, start discussing superhero comics without immediate dismissal or anything. Actual quote:

I liked it! It’s the Marvel Universe versus Islam. What’s not to like about that? And the Marvel Universe doesn’t have to go to heaven to know where to find 72 virgins! This is one crossover I’m not going to say “I divorce you” to three times! (I know, I know: it’s more complicated than that…).

So, this issue is all about the New Avengers squaring off with the Badly Written Avengers, when WHAM, the little green not-reflective-of-true-Islam boo-boo-makers, or whatever the politically acceptable term is these days– they do their whole 9/11 thing. That one scene, of everything all ape-shit? Let’s just do that for the next, like, 5 or 6 years.

What does this even mean? Other than a bunch of shit stated as truisms and a horrible joke about comic fans not getting laid. The rest of his review goes on to talk about anal fisting with Rubik’s cubes and suggests that it would be funny to see a bunch of stereotypical black people a la Def Comedy Jam watch it and go “OH NO THAT’S A SKRULL!”. This is not criticism. This isn’t a review, it’s a bunch of jokes about the comic strung together by manic defensiveness for enjoying it. The review reads less like a recommendation and more like an apology that he wasn’t cool enough to hate it. He sure did type “fuck” and make dirty jokes a lot, though, which is apparently gold bullion in the currency of Internet criticism.

Next up is Brian Cronin of Comics Should Be Good, whose review of “Big Crossover #1” attempts to genericize as many proper names as possible in an attempt to get across how assembly-line and corporate the creation of large companywide crossover events is. You see, every Big Crossover is basically the same, so judging Secret Invasion as an individual story is apparently… a concept without merit? I don’t know, the review ends with this:

So this was a decent Big Crossover issue, but not as good as the first issue of either Millar’s Big Crossover OR Pak’s Big Crossover (although I doubt Bendis will let the quality drop as low as Pak’s, or even Millar’s, later issues), so I’m optimistic that this will be a pretty enjoyable Big Crossover, just not one that is about much of anything beyond being, well, a Big Crossover.

Not Recommended.

There are a few parts of this that just kill me. First of all, he’s optimistic that it’ll be pretty enjoyable, but a purchase is not recommended. Secondly, the review barely mentions the actual events of the book except for this:

The Second Big Shock, though, was kinda silly, as Big Crossover is ABOUT shapeshifting aliens (or as Chris Claremont would have a character call them “shapestealers!”) invading Earth, right? So how can it be any much of a shock to have Characters X, Y and Z turn out to be Skrulls?

That’s the WHOLE POINT OF THE STORY!

What? What metric is this being judged by? “Comic book promising shock shapeshifter reveals has shocking shapeshifter reveals; no other shocks, therefore not shocking enough”? The book promised what it was going to deliver, and it delivered on that. You can criticize the execution, the pacing, the dialogue or even the basic idea, but this is like being disappointed by the fact that Juno didn’t give birth to a facehugger. Cronin established expectations external to those promised, and then criticized the book for not meeting them. That’s not a fair review, not a fair criticism, and not useful to anybody. It’s like slamming the new Ghostface album due to a lack of Rod Stewart.

On top of that, the entire approach of calling the book “Big Crossover” in an underhanded trick to diminish the appearance of artistry is just dumb. Of course it’s easy to criticize something when you mock it like that, but I don’t recall Roger Ebert reviewing Speed as “Big Summer Movie,” first of all because it’d make him look like a dismissive tool and second of all because it’s a bad joke. “Big Crossover” sounds like the comics break-in of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer.

Finally, we get to – and the CBR focus here is, I swear, not on purpose! – The Buy Pile‘s Hannibal Tabu. Tabu, who’s known for “reviews” like these:

While we’re asking questions, why does issue eight of “Infinity, Inc.” say it’s their “first mission?” You’re starting missions in issue eight? Let’s “WTH” Award that just for the cover.

Re: “Crime Bible: The Five Lessons of Blood” #5 — this was so much better when this ending was in “Agents of Atlas.”

This week’s “WTH?” Award goes to “Wildstorm Revelations” #2 — seriously, WTH?

Also in the running, the ending from “Batman” #672, as Bruce gets a steady girlfriend, base jumps and has an impostor. Yeah, there’s that … but no.

Those are his full comments on the books. Granted, he does have some longer pieces (up to a paragraph), but these are his sole comments on certain books. Why write this? Let’s say I’m curious about Wildstorm Revelations #2. I like to check out The Buy Pile on Thursday morning to see what my boy Hannibal Tabu thought of Wildstorm Revelations #2, because I’m considering grabbing it. And what am I told? “WTH.” That does not tell me jack shit. It does not tell anyone jack shit. It is a review that, to understand, you must first read the comic, which pretty effectively stops it from being an actual review and more of a snide comment. Or what about Batman? Girlfriend and base jumping, but he just says “but no.” Well, that clears everything up.

It’s become devastatingly clear to me over the course of this article that these aren’t even really meant to be traditional reviews, formulated to inform people as to the quality of the book and how successfully that book achieves its goals. Instead, they’re just joke dumps for snide remarks thought of while reading the comic. It’s frustrating, then, to see these passed off as intelligent criticism. It’s equally frustrating to know some people might believe them. I mean no personal insult to Messrs. Church, Tabu, Cronin and Khosla but – if you have no respect for the material you’re reviewing before you even open the cover, if you feel compelled to repeatedly defend any enjoyment you may have of it, if the very concept of the product is so bothersome to you – why write about it? It’s one thing to judge Secret Invasion on its merits and find it lacking as a story, but none of the reviews above have done that. Church even goes so far as to state it’s not worth the effort. Then why is it worth the effort of people to read what you’ve written? If you’re going to insult the readers considering picking the book up, why write? If you’re going to take a reviewing position on a much-visited website, why approach mainstream superhero-comic tastes with such total derision?

The problem with all of this is, for the most part, that this is the way the tide is turning. This is a mentality that’s long been present in the blogs and is now moving into actual “comics journalism.” Hell, look at The Comics Journal – Dirk Deppey’s Journalista, ostensibly a linkblog, somehow manages to link to two negative reviews of Secret Invasion #1 with no opposing viewpoint. This isn’t because this is the consensus; this is because Deppey is not-so-subtly infusing his editorial viewpoint. I’m curious if Deppey even read the issue, or if he is, like others, immediately writing off any artistic merit that might be within for the purpose of maintaining a facade of indie cred cool. It’s childish. Someone can love Kevin Huizenga, Adrian Tomine, Grant Morrison, Brian Michael Bendis and Geoff Johns at the same time, all for different reasons. It doesn’t make any work more or less worthy of discussion, or respect, than another. In any other medium, where a major genre wasn’t ridiculously ghettoized, none of this criticism could be printed. Even Pitchfork has slowed down since the earlier days, because they accidentally got readers and drifted away from the underground. To look even remotely intelligent or trustworthy when discussing something, you have to have an open mind and give things a fair chance. Otherwise, you’re just a bizarro version of the superhero fanboy.

In Roger Ebert Talks About Movies and More, Ebert states that “the job of a movie critic is to see. To be an ideal member of the audience.” The reviews above all, willingly, refuse to see – for seeing is admitting the possibility of being mistaken, or of having to accept that your viewpoint isn’t the only one. The job of the reviewer is not to judge an audience but to attempt to place himself into that audience. By separating itself from the audience, this Pitchfork-inspired snark-heavy cynical approach to comics discussion is resulting in a whole lot of words and not a lot of ideas. Grow up.

UPDATE: I just came across Don MacPherson’s negative review at Eye on Comics, and wanted to point it out as a review that judges the book on reasonable expectations and merits and the reviewer found it lacking. I don’t agree with it, but it’s a decent review from a fair viewpoint that paid attention to the story. Just to not be totally negative.

DOUBLE UPDATE: The anonymous David Brothers over at 4thletter pointed me towards the review at Every Day Is Like Wednesday, which, again, I don’t agree with but is a totally fair review of the book.

35 Comments »

  1. So, did you read Secret Invasion and like it? Or did you just read the reviews and not like them? I’d love to see what a “real critic” thought of the comic.

    Comment by Corey Dalton — April 3, 2008 @ 6:43 pm

  2. My review is a few posts back on this blog, with my other reviews for this week. http://www.funnybookbabylon.com/2008/04/02/pull-list-reviews-for-april-2-2008/

    Also, did you even read the article before commenting?

    Comment by David Uzumeri — April 3, 2008 @ 6:44 pm

  3. I’ll probably drop by to say a little bit more later, but yes. No more childish efforts at comedy posing as commentary.

    Comment by Jamaal Thomas — April 3, 2008 @ 7:07 pm

  4. I have to mostly agree with you here.

    Reviewing a comic book is a tricky thing, because unlike a feature film, a comic book is heavily serialized storytelling. (Serialized dramas or mini-series also suffer from the reviewer only being able to view the first few installments, but I guess that’s the nature of the beast.) Worse yet, comics are a disposable medium, and if you didn’t pick up a title on Wednesday it’s unlikely that a review on Thursday night is going to change your mind.

    Even if the Secret Invasion mini-series itself is enjoyable (which I’m doubting at this point,) the event will be considered a failure if the tie-ins and its’ longterm consequences on the Marvel Universe are not significant.

    Honestly, I don’t know why anyone would bother to review the first issue of a crossover at all. More often than not the reviewer doesn’t want to spoil the plot, and as a result says almost nothing about the book itself.

    Of course, if the writer only has snark to work with I’d rather they not write a review at all.

    Excellent article, btw. I always look forward to updates from this site.

    Comment by TheBraveandtheBlog — April 3, 2008 @ 7:30 pm

  5. Great article. Spot on with that Pitchfork comparison.

    Comment by Sean — April 3, 2008 @ 7:37 pm

  6. OK, I’m feeling considerably less dense today and I’m beginning to see your point! lol But I still contend there’s nothing redeemable to talk about in Black Panther! lol

    I’m honestly hoping Secret Invasion and Final Crisis lead to a bunch of cool, fun stories. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with hoping that or enjoying either book.

    I get dismayed when I read reviews like the ones you linked to. I read most of the reviews you linked to and had pretty much the same thoughts. I just don’t get what the point is of bashing Secret Invasion for being new reader unfriendly or decrying it of not having any shocks beyond the ones presented in the premise of the story. I mean, if someone’s going to be upset Secret Invasion is all about Skrulls posing as heroes and nothing more, then why read it?

    Comment by Kenny — April 3, 2008 @ 7:58 pm

  7. I’m confused as to why snark directed from this site, at say Jeph Loeb and Greg Land’s work (both of whom deserve mockery and derision), but nobody else is allowed to do the same thing?

    Yes, there is a tendency toward unoriginal, bad criticism in the blogosphere. I agree on that.

    But I’d say both Church and Cronin are solid and enjoyable reviewers. And Khosla ? Easily my favorite reviewer out there. If you want a dull product description to inform purchasing; than yeah he doesn’t do that. Maybe it’s all just bullshitting(though I doubt it),but I find his skewed approach to reviewing as thought provoking as it is funny.

    If you want your, in my opinion, limiting definition of a reviwer than your welcome to it. Hopefully you’ll start living up to your own standard.

    Comment by James — April 3, 2008 @ 9:35 pm

  8. I don’t have an issue with snark so much as its overuse. And I’d argue that snarky criticisms of Loeb and Land are, at least, informed by having read the work, comprehended it, seen what it was going for, and still found it lacking.

    Sorry you didn’t like the article, and I hope you keep reading.

    Comment by David Uzumeri — April 3, 2008 @ 9:38 pm

  9. James, where is the snark on this site for Land?

    We pretty much call out his work for it’s flaws and back it up with legitimate reasons why we don’t care for it. Damn, I wrote like a shitload of crazy words seriously examing his flaws today.

    I could say we do it less with Jeph Loeb, but we gone into great enough detail on the podcast for the reasons we don’t care about greg land.

    I Like church and cronin’s reviews in general, but in all honesty their Secret Invasion reviews were not reviews at all but an excuse to discuss their issues with things outside the comics.

    If Cronin wants to talk about the way he feels about Big Event comics in general then maybe he should do it as an article and title it that instead of what he did. If Church doesn’t like the fact that comics are told in serial issue narrative form or the nature of Bendis’ dialogue then maybe he should also do that seperately, but in all honesty, neither one is a review of the book.

    It’s as bad as when Deppey posted a swipe file accusing Mike Choi of being a hack and used it as a spring board to accuse the companies that hire him as being full of people who don’t know what they are doing. Deppey really doesn’t care about Mike Choi’s work, it’s just an excuse to attack his the people he really doesn’t like.

    It just makes the overall writing less substantive.

    Comment by Pedro Tejeda — April 3, 2008 @ 10:43 pm

  10. Thanks for the kind words, David. I try to craft my negative reviews as constructive as possible.

    It is incredibly easy to fall back on snarky comments to build a negative review that entertains, but I try to bear in mind that the creators whose work I’m reviewing are people too. Sometimes, sarcasm has its place, but not always.

    Comment by Don MacPherson — April 3, 2008 @ 11:11 pm

  11. I could swear there were some very funny comments on Land in a podcast. If I’m wrong on the specifics I apologize. For the record I like the jokes and think many of them are justified. Which is kind of what I find strange about this piece.

    I’d agree that this was not Church’s best review. It didn’t offend me either.

    Cronin’s review does discuss the contents of the book . He is contextualizing it by referring to other material and also making fun of it, but it definitely refers to the content of Secret Invasion (even mentioning details of the story). I’d say that’s a review.

    Or do you mean that a review should never refer to anything outside the pages of the material being review? If that’s the case, it seems an odd way to view material in a share superhero universe.

    Similerly, Khosla’s review on Savage Critic engages in the content of Secret Invasion, albeit in his unique style. There are jokes about fisting but he also goes into how the event books he favors (iand specifically SI) focus on the characters the reader is already meant to care about which grounds the proceedings. I’d say that counts as genuine, thought out criticism even if it’s expressed in an usual way.

    I’d agree that frothing, unbacked criticism is bad. I’d just say most of these examples don’t fall into that camp.

    I also kind of get the impression what we want/expect out of a reviewer is different. Perhaps we’ll just have to agree to disagree on it.

    Comment by James — April 3, 2008 @ 11:55 pm

  12. Here’s the thing: a review is not criticism. The two metrics are not comparable. I can do criticism and analysis, but Secret Invasion, as the latest Marvel blockbuster, simply doesn’t deserve it at the same level as other comics. At least, you know, in my opinion. Which is what I get paid for.

    You can find plenty of POVs from people who are actively engaged in the Marvel Universe and I was attempting to offer something different. Before it hit the website, it went through at least two levels of review, so there must have been some merit seen in my approach. I notice that you don’t say anything about my criticism of why Bendis’s dialogue is a sticking point or the fact that the comic’s marketing in places like Entertainment Weekly only points out the weaknesses of the serialized, continuity-heavy formats taht both publishers are pursuing Maybe I should have said just that instead of assuming people could extract the information themselves?

    Comment by Kevin Church — April 4, 2008 @ 12:04 am

  13. Well, in that case, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. Nor can I really find a definition of the word “review” that doesn’t involve criticism, but you’re entitled to your definition. Thanks for reading.

    Comment by David Uzumeri — April 4, 2008 @ 12:09 am

  14. Also: I am plenty enthusiastic about comics I love. My blog proves that.

    Comment by Kevin Church — April 4, 2008 @ 12:10 am

  15. Additionally, I’m aware of the subtext of your review, my complaint was with the fact that that argument seemed so generic it could be applied to any comic Bendis put out in the past few years – it’s not a criticism of the book itself as much as the author’s style (which is very polarizing) and the circumstances of the current marketplace. With regards to your blog, I’m more than aware that you (and everyone else I linked to) love comics, and I don’t recall putting that in question – I meant what I said when I said there was no personal slight attached, I was just bothered by the pieces themselves and the larger (what I perceive as a) problem they are symptoms of. I have kept up with your blog and I guess even if you were to criticize it I expected something more than a cliched Bendis dialogue parody. Again, thanks for responding.

    Comment by David Uzumeri — April 4, 2008 @ 12:22 am

  16. oh my god! now, this is my fave blog.

    ”which appears to be doing its level best to replicate the critical stylings of late-’90s era Pitchfork Media – …”

    Comment by suetkafa — April 4, 2008 @ 5:27 am

  17. In any other medium, where a major genre wasn’t ridiculously ghettoized, none of this criticism could be printed.

    At Rotten Tomatoes one person who reviewed Transformers literally broke down and wrote “it doesn’t matter what I write or how badly I critize it, you’re going to see it.” while someone for 300 wrote “it’s dumb as hell, but man, scene/character X sure is great! Four stars!” Those were professional critics. Or at the very least hired by the paper. (No, I’m not going to provide the links as it’s almost six in the morning and I’m tired.)

    Seriously, how do you write a critical review for something, dislike it, and not have it sound exactly the same from other reviewers who dislike it for almost the exact same reasons and knowing full well that your opinion will more than likely be in the monority
    and that said something will succeed regardless of what you do?

    The answer is you don’t. Or at the very least shouldn’t. Unfortunately when you run a business or service and said item is the “hot thing” you kind of have to or risk losing customers (or whatever it is internet people get).

    And as far as people hating Bendis for the dialogue, do you honestly believe it’s just for that? Not that save for one title all his books featured the formula of
    Smith/Tarantino dialogue/mannerisms, random, hard to follow panel within panel splash page actions scenes, Deus Ex Machina for the past five or so years or that everyone from college graduates, super scientists, royaly from both foreign countries and alien civilizations, and dimensionally displaced aliens who picked up our language from reading the dictionary all sound exactly alike, his willful ignoring of even simple character continuity or that he basically admitted within his own letter column he’d rather be doing something else is essentially now in charge of the entire line might have something to do with it?

    You honestly think there isn’t something wierd that with all the things I mentioned his big story is “There’s aliens afoot, and guess who they are!” and it doesn’t sound like a massive Get Out Of Jail free card for lazy writing or Easy Retcon Central?

    And even if this story does escapes these tropes and formula, the fact that it took five years worth of planning just to do so kind brings about the question of why Bendis is even in the business of writing monthlies.

    I agree in general about what you’re trying to do, but like the reviewers themselves did: why waste bullets on something that’s bulletproof?

    Comment by El Bastardo Magnifico — April 4, 2008 @ 5:53 am

  18. I woke up this morning and Mike Choi has a post that really covers a lot of ground.

    I already said my piece earlier to James, I just don’t think Funny = Snark and there is kind of different context between a podcast and a review.

    You don’t think SI or what ever comic book is not worth a serious discussion or a review, fine just up right say that. Post your non-review up wherever and say this is some thoughts you have about bendis and the book.

    Mr. Bastard :

    Maybe I’m misreading what you are saying, but I am also mystified and dumbfounded by your suggestion that a critic basically ignore his job because his opinion is insignificant and use the time and place to attract an audience less interested in commentary and more comedy. My favorite critics are the ones who basically go ahead and rarely blowoff a review for a comedy bit, which frustrates me the most about Cronin and Church’s latest. They seemed more interested in being funny than being critical and I think that shift in the comic blogosphere has been really depressing. I’m not saying make fun of what you are reading but not at the expense of criticism.

    There many reasons to not like Bendis, but what do they have to do here? The article isn’t about how people should like Bendis, it’s about how people should attempt to critique the book they are discussing in a review about the book.

    Lastly, I wish that Bendis hates Superhero comics thing would die because he didn’t say that. Jesus, that thing isn’t even remotely true in any way or fashion. Why do you feel the need to say things that aren’t true and make you look as if you are just spouting shit when further exposed?

    Comment by Pedro Tejeda — April 4, 2008 @ 6:47 am

  19. EBM, Church’s review focused solely on Bendis’s dialogue tics and the story’s context. Secondly, Bendis *never, ever* said he did not want to work in superhero comics, that was *Mike Oeming*. That quote is misattributed all the damn time.

    At the end of the day, we disagree about Bendis, but I linked two solid negative reviews. That’s what I’m talking about. It’s clear to me that there’s nothing the story could have been to make you believe it’s anything other than a corporate shill, nor that there’s anything it could be, so if that’s the case, why in the world would you comment regularly on superhero comics?

    I like Bendis. You don’t. That’s not the point. Say it in a way that tells people why. But Church says a review is not criticism, and from that definition, I guess he’s right. I don’t understand that definition at all, but there you go.

    I’m also just tired of the implication that Bendis has no personal involvement in his stories – have you ever heard him talk? The dude is wildly enthused. I’m sure it must be frustrating to put a shitload of work and effort into a story you’re proud of and find it being called not even worth discussion or criticism because nobody thinks you care.

    Comment by David Uzumeri — April 4, 2008 @ 7:41 am

  20. I think the issue might be that there needs to be a line between what is a Review for a comic, and what is a Commentary Piece on a comic. A subtle distinction, but an important one.

    Comment by Strider — April 4, 2008 @ 9:04 am

  21. Damn, Mike Choi is a beast. Why isn’t he in our blogroll? I’m going to look into that.

    Comment by Jonathan Bernhardt — April 4, 2008 @ 10:20 am

  22. The thing that bothers me the most about snark is how insular it can be. You really have to be in the know about Bendis’ ticks and the plot of secret invasion and the past crossover’s to even begin to get the jokes going on in their reviews.

    It’s very familiar to the way CBG would dismiss something. It kind of makes things a fandom instead of a readership.

    Comment by Pedro Tejeda — April 4, 2008 @ 10:54 am

  23. I wish my full-time job was responding to blog posts; I’d be happier and have more time to talk here…

    David, when I linked to your first post on this topic, you sorta slapped my hand (which I probably deserved):

    I don’t mean to criticize – thanks for the link! – but “if you hate it so much, why you all postin’ about it and shit” really isn’t the crux of what I’m getting to. I have absolutely no problem with people who read a comic, dislike it, and blog about it. I do it, everyone does it, that’s the nature of criticism. But I’m getting really fucking sick and tired of 70-post threads largely by people who read two pages of the issue on scans_daily and decided this gave them a snark license. Making fun of bad comics is good. Making fun of comics you haven’t read because you assume they’re bad because, hey, it’s just comics! is retarded.

    This is exactly what I’m talking about, what you wrote about today, and you say exactly what I’m thinking, which is why I want to make man babies with you:

    if you have no respect for the material you’re reviewing before you even open the cover, if you feel compelled to repeatedly defend any enjoyment you may have of it, if the very concept of the product is so bothersome to you – why write about it?

    EXACTLY. And that’s what I think I thought you were saying the first time, but now I know exactly what you’re saying, or I think I do, and I don’t think I could agree more if I had knocked you unconscious, grabbed your fingers, and typed using your very own hands.

    I understand “reviewers are paid to review,” and that’s fine, but unless you work for some horrific comics reviewing sweatshop where you are forced under duress to write about comics you hate, certainly any reviewer can spend their time writing about things they like, or writing constructively and insightfully about things they hate, rather than just picking out fish from the corporate superhero barrel and putting guns to their heads?

    Comment by Matt — April 4, 2008 @ 3:30 pm

  24. Well if nothing else, I found Abhay’s “review” funny. Thats gotta count for something. And I use Tabu’s weekly Buy Pile column to get a laugh, weekly.

    Comment by Moored — April 4, 2008 @ 3:55 pm

  25. Love the blog! But.

    The review at the bottom linked to… it just reprises Abhay’s (look… fucking excellent) review; I think you’re generally right about Beaucoup Kevin’s review which was – it was pretty tired. Maybe he was tired; I’ve enjoyed his website for a couple years but recently, I just *ach* (Scotland-style) looking at it. (Let’s all have a pointless non-feud with Valerie d’Orazio! Hurray!)

    Anyway, I’m just starting in el blogosphere – I’d give SI 6.5/10, a far from overwhelming prospect which has actually gone down surprisingly well so far (why? SKRULLS – it was okay, the comic, you know?) but Abhay is an intimidating presence. Oh, has Tucker Stone done his yet? I can’t fuckin wait for that.

    Comment by Duncan — April 4, 2008 @ 4:18 pm

  26. Ok. Wow. What makes sense or seems well thought out when you’ve been up for twenty hours kinda fall apart once you get some sleep. Apologies for the rant.

    My initial point I was trying to get at was comics are not the only medium where reviews and criticisms based on snark, humor and nothing else see the light of day and that. From what I’ve seen Fox News seems to be nothing but “X is bad, I don’t have to explain why, and am going to use up my time to tell mean jokes about it.”

    There could also be any number of reasons for doing so ranging from it’s easy, someone told them to do so, it’s their site so they can do whatever they want, to it being the straw that broke the camel’s back, so goodbye restraint or some combination of the above.

    I think the best review I’ve read for Secret Invasion came from Chris Simms, someone who is one of the most cheerful and optimistic comic guys I ever read and who devotes entire posts and pages to how good or bad something is, even if it’s just three panels worth of stuff, couldn’t even be bothered or be moved enough to write more than two dismissive sentences about it.

    All that being said I look foward to the next (or is it last?) installment of Downcounting.

    Comment by El Bastardo Magnifico — April 4, 2008 @ 5:27 pm

  27. EBM,

    I think that Sims review is kind of the problem. I don’t think Secret Invasion was the best comic ever, or even the best comic of the week. But I thought it was pretty enjoyable. People are running around mostly calling Bendis a shitty writer and the concept retarded and letting off little rejoinders which has given the consensus that the comic was beneath contempt, just absolute shit that no one in their right mind would go anywhere near. Snarky dismissive three sentence reviews really don’t do anyone any favors other than people who get off seeing people agree with them in the most dickish way possible.

    Downcounting, when I started it, was snarky as hell was but attempted, to the best of my abilities, to explain exactly why the book was so goddamn awful. As my soul got increasingly crushed by how bad it was, I realized I wasn’t really coming up with much other than “something happened but it was too stupid for words!” which is not doing anything for anyone. I’m working on a post-mortem for the book right now, looking at how it went so horribly wrong and whether anything in it was redeemable.

    To me, if you want to bitch about shitty comics, that is the way to do it. Explain why it is shitty. Do something besides being the Zing King of the Blogalaxy. Because otherwise you’re basically a cut-rate insular Don Rickles.

    Comment by Chris Eckert — April 4, 2008 @ 7:31 pm

  28. Hannibal Tabu is a very bad writer. That said, many of these other reviewers are decent writers, but they seem unwilling to identify what they do and do not appreciate for fear of offending sensibilities, and find it screechingly funny to divorce themselves from what they are reviewing.

    Comment by Jbird — April 5, 2008 @ 1:07 am

  29. Don’t be hard on yourself, Chris – Downcounting was a public service to DC fans who did not want to reward the company for the series.

    Comment by HowSteakIsDone — April 5, 2008 @ 1:10 am

  30. Nobody commenting here need concern themselves with SI. The quality of the comic is not the focus, but rather the failure of the comics blogosphere to fairly and intelligently review it.

    I agree! Thank you for writing this. I am frequently discouraged by the state of comic book criticism. As you said, most “reviews” are just rapid-fire snark dumps where both the reviewers and readers are so bored of the material they’re covering and so thoroughly lacking in respect or interest to begin with, they can barely muster the wherewithal to discuss the comic in frank terms.

    I think there are a few components to the problem. The first is sheer volume of material being covered. Most comics reviewers, it seems to me, just go over way too much shit. Imagine having several comics to read per week and needing to write a convenient little synopsis of each one. You can’t possibly devote too much time to reading and thoroughly analyzing each one, because you have to eat, sleep, and work. You daren’t devote too lengthy a blog post to each one, because readers’ attention spans shorten as broadband increases. Warren Ellis said it best when he discussed “burst culture” (I don’t have a link… it was on his blog) and modern culture’s insistence on taking in information in sound bite format. This means that since you can’t really discuss the comic, a quick “Yeah, this is brilliant…” will have to suffice.

    Second problem is that the people reading the comics and reviewing them simply don’t give a rats ass. Church’s response that SI doesn’t merit a legitimate review isn’t an indication to anything except he doesn’t give a damn, so why is he wasting his own time and ours? If you don’t care enough to write a proper review, step aside and say nothing at all. Clogging blogs with reviews that aren’t really reviews defeats the purpose of either positive or negative constructive criticism.

    The third problem is that the internet ASKS snark. Sincerity marks you as a lower life-form, one who isn’t quite clever enough to understand the subtle and beautiful art of sneering sarcasm. Try it sometime: attempt a genuine opinion not dripping with freshman-year eye rolls and watch as people instantly assume you don’t get it. I hate to use Church’s response as an example again, but it works so well to illustrate what I’m talking about. “Um, yeah, because SI #1 deserves that” basically equates to “Get a clue, dipshit.”

    I agree with whomever said that this type of snark is wholly insular. It makes it easier to define what’s OK to like and isn’t. If a book falls on one side of the “snark barrier” it is dismissed outright and the reviewer doesn’t have to respect it enough to read it, making his job a lot easier. If it falls on the other side, a legitimate review is then warranted. The problem with confusing snark with actual commentary is that too much sarcasm distances the reviewer from the work and the audience from the reviewer and the audience from the work. It’s just cold, detached, and pointless.

    When my brother was a junior and senior in high school, he was going through his “surly asshole” phase. This is a phase that almost all young men go through and comic book fans never emerge from. You could ask him any question, and he’d give you a sarcastic answer, but it was never the kind of sarcasm that illuminated some kind of truth, or provided a laugh. It was just a cold and joyless exercise in distancing himself from both you and the conversation for the sake of it. If you said “Is it hot out today?” he might answer “Nooo… it’s freezing…” in a typical “blah” tone. It wasn’t funny, no point was made, it wasn’t an opportune time to be glib. There was no exaggeration to be pointed out, nothing was gained, and it wasn’t funny. So why bother?

    He just acted like that because he didn’t feel like talking and found that artificially elevating himself above your question was a good way to avoid the topic. That was it. Comic book reviewers do the same thing. The question on the table is whether or not SI was worth purchasing, which is legitimate and said reviewers are expected to answer. A surly “Gee, dumbass, what do you think??” is the answer. It’s idiotic.

    Don’t say anything if you don’t have anything to say.

    Thanks again for the article and I agree that Don MacPherson is one of the most reliable, intelligent, and thoughtful reviewers out there. Thumbs-up to Don if you’re reading this.

    Comment by sleeper — April 5, 2008 @ 4:02 pm

  31. Now THIS (and I’m referring to the original post, not necessarily the reaction comments) is intelligent criticism and discussion! I agree wholeheartedly about the current deplorable state of message board snark, so-called “reviews” and comics “journalism”. Too many people, I guess who have tried and failed to break into comics as either writers or artists, so they feel the need to vent their frustrations on those who have succeeded where they have failed. I dunno, or something like that.

    Hannibal Tabu’s “reviews” are a constant source of bafflement and amazement to me. How that guy landed a regular weekly column is beyond me — he has nothing intelligent to say, and his reviewing modus operandi seems peculiarly flawed — grabbing a few mainstream books off the shelf of a comic shop, scanning through them at the store in about 10 minutes and composing a “witty” column based on knee-jerk reactions makes for lousy and pointless to me, but hey, he’s a wannabe writer himself, so I guess that says something.

    I avoid most internet “reviews” on the whole.. that is until I discovered this site.

    Comment by Pop-Monkey — April 7, 2008 @ 11:46 pm

  32. So…the consensus leads me to believe that many of you would feel I was completely just in personally referring to him as Hannibal Shatu. ;)

    Comment by Kevin Huxford — April 13, 2008 @ 2:06 am

  33. No, because replacing part of the name of something you don’t like with a (in your case questionably) rhyming insult makes you look like a clown.

    “Hannibal Shatu” and other similar content-free, internet white noise snark bullshit is the reason David wrote this article, so it’s kind of confusing why you’d post this in the comments for it.

    Comment by Jonathan Bernhardt — April 13, 2008 @ 6:33 pm

  34. Chris Eckhert said “Do something besides being the Zing King of the Blogalaxy. Because otherwise you’re basically a cut-rate insular Don Rickles.”

    Man, if there’s one person in the world that should be emulated way more frequently, it’s Don Rickles. I mean that with no sarcasm, although I can totally see myself as guilty-as-charged of being a “content-free, internet white noise snark bullshit” kind of guy. But if someday I could be involved in something that was as funny as even cut-rate Rickles, then I’d keep my mouth shut and read more Countdown. Or Secret Invasion Wars of the Millenium X-Factor Vs. Panda Bear’s Person Pitch not as Good as Water Curses.

    Comment by Tucker Stone — April 16, 2008 @ 10:46 pm

  35. […] it was a pretty great detonator for a summer crossover. Hell, I liked it to the point where I wrote an article about some of the Internet reaction to it that made Kevin Church hate me forever. I remember […]

    Pingback by Funnybook Babylon · Archives · Remember That Secret Invasion Comic? — December 23, 2008 @ 3:27 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Powered by WordPress