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However, being bored over the long weekend, I spent a few hours reading through a bunch of reviews, and something struck me as...odd. This being BWW, I don't expect positive reviews; if the comic wasn't bad, it probably wouldn't be here. Some of my favorites certainly aren't; a few I used to follow rabidly are (LICD, Questionable Content, Sinfest, etc...for reasons I generally agree with in their review).
But it strikes me as odd that most reviews are horrific in their opinion on the art. No matter what style, no matter what story, the art is generally slammed. Granted, some of the webcomics here deserve it, looking like a spastic five-year old got hold of their crayons...if not bodily excretions...and made a masterpiece for Mommy.
It does seem like it's an unspoken rule for a review, though..."Oh, yeah, and the art sucks." I am far from an artist; I couldn't even draw XKCD, never mind LICD or GRRL POWER. However, I do know what I like, and I happen to like some of the art that's panned. I dropped Questionable Content for the SJW Dramafests, but the art fit the story...or found itself comfortable. Not sure of the correct terms, but JJ found a style that was consistent and `fit' the comic, and stuck with it. Is it photo-realistic? No. Is it life-like? No. Does it *have* to be? I don't believe so.
Critiquing art is such a fine line, since art is mostly subjective. 'Peanuts' kept the same art style over how many years? One might call it `iconic'; there was no need to change or `evolve' since it fit the story and was recognizable immediately as Peanuts. Same with many long-running old-style comics.
Change in art style is not *always* a good or necessary thing. `Calvin & Hobbes', `Doonesbury', "Bloom County'...I would say the un-evolving art is a plus to those comics. Likewise for a strip such as `User Friendly'; it doesn't need to be more than it is. It began as it went on...the reviewer may not like it for a particular reason, but there is no Ultimate Guide To Perfect Art. Iliad likely started out with a few crude doodles and some nerd jokes to tell and constantly refined and evolved his drawing skill until he was capable of rendering his characters in a photo-realistic manner...but was it necessary for the strip to do what he intended? Would the nerd jokes be more interesting or meaningful to non-nerds if it was drawn by Whelan or Vallejo?
I'm not sure how the reviews/reviewers work, what the process is for getting a review posted. Is there any kind of oversight? Some of the reviews seem a trifle...personal (and I'm being conservative by saying `some'). I lost track of how many times an artist/writer was labeled a mysoginist-pedophile-racist-etc in the various reviews. In my opinion, which is worth absolutely nothing to anyone but me, that seems to be slightly less than constructive criticism or an objective critique. Sure, a comic like Shadbase (or site; I don't think it can actually be called a webcomic) lends itself to those charges, but the majority of every comic reviewed? I don't think a comic with a nagging wife or well-endowed female who wears revealing clothing is automatically mysoginistic. As well accuse any comic with a male who drinks too much or is a rabid sports fan or gym fanatic to be misandrist. There really *are* people like that out there in the real world; why shouldn't they show up in webcomics?
In opposition to the established doctrine: *tell* me why you think the art sucks; if it's because the art hasn't changed, tell me *why* you think it necessary. *Why* do you think so-and-so is a pedophile? To really upset the status quo...I am sorry, but webcomics are a visual medium. However, you must keep in mind that so is the written word. "Show, don't tell!" scream the reviewers...completely forgetting the *vast* majority of human interaction is via speech. How do you present that in a `visual medium' such as a webcomic? By writing *words*. Exposition. Not to the exclusion of the pictures, but to support...as the picture should support the words.
To sum up: webcomics are like any other form of art; much of it is up to the interpretation of the viewer. BWW is a good reference for readers in many ways; I personally think there's a little too much vitriol and not enough objectivity in many of the reviews. I'm not a frequent enough visitor to state it categorically, but maybe the vitriol is their schtick. Sure, a lot of the comics here *are* horrendously bad and deserve a lot of venom, but many reviews read, in a nutshell, "I didn't like it, so the art sucks, the artist is a pedophile, and you're a sick monkey if you read it."
On the other hand, the reviewers have gotten far more snickers out of me than most of the comics they've reviewed. They're *good* at the bashing.