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Monday, September 06, 2010

Do Comic Book Reviews Work?

I love comic book reviews. I LOVE them. I can’t count the number of times reviews have either saved me from 22-page personifications of buyer’s remorse or pointed me in the direction of a comic book gem that made my life as a comic book fan complete. It’s why I do comic book reviews myself. I want people to know which comic books to have and which to avoid like the biblical plague. And I’m not alone in this.

Thanks to the Internet, comic book geeks now have unparalleled access to what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to their monthly addiction in the form of comic book reviews. Every Wednesday, the internet lights up with thousands of comic book reviews from comic book experts to armchair critics to guys like me that just want a better product.

But does it work? Do comic book reviews shake things up, or are we preaching to the choir here? I'd like to think I'm doing something of a service by reviewing comics every Friday here, and I'd like to think it works. That is, until you get comics like Jeph Loeb’s Hulk.

Hulk was where Loeb introduced the Red Hulk, the guy who punched the Watcher in the face, slapped Thor around with the Thunder God’s own hammer, and kicked off what probably was a year long storyline about Red’s identity. Sounds awesome? Well, considering that the reviews for Loeb’s run hovered between "It's silly but fun!" to "It's ridiculous, period." to “What the hell happened?”, it’s hard to say. I wanted to try it out for myself to see what the fuss was all about, but when some people say they love it, others say they want to stab their eyes out after reading, and the middle ground is littered with the bones of discontinuity and ‘stupid fun’, I courteously avoided it. But despite the amount of online vitriol spat in Loeb's direction, Red Hulk was a consistent best seller in comic book sales charts, with some issues selling more than 100,000 copies and often necessitated multiple printings.

Old example, I know, but one that illustrates what piques my interest. Despite the reviews, people lined up to buy Hulk as if it had dollar bills stuffed in between the pages. What happened here? Did the reviews not matter? Or did no one care what IGN or Newsarama thought as long as they were enjoying the comic? I know of one comic book I loved that would have needed that kind of blind devotion to.

Captain Britain and the MI: 13 spun off of Secret Invasion with the kind of quality storytelling and comic book fun that was sorely lacking in modern comic books, and a good number of people agreed. However, even the sheer amount of internet noise for this series wasn't enough to save it from cancellation, and the book folded by issue 15 due to low sales.

This was a good comic, and just like me, a lot of people did their best to hype this book. Well, we all know how that worked out.

But then again, are reviews to blame? Is the responsibility of making or breaking a comic book solely on the shoulders of comic book reviews? I'd like to think so, if not for the single reason that the layman has nowhere else to go. Nowhere else to know if a comic book sucks balls or is worthy of being preserved in the National Library but from someone who's read it, who's been through it's pages and decidedly judged what's inside, subjectively or objectively. For me personally, in today's $3.99 comic book world, it’s bad business for people to fly into this hobby blind, or to continue blindly following a comic book title not knowing when it's going to get good.

But let's hear it from you guys. Do comic book reviews matter to you? Do the people ranting and raving online have some sort of bearing (and I say some sort, since in the end the decision is up to you) on whether you'd want to check out certain comics? I'd really love to know.

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