We’ve switched over to a Five-Star grading system here on the Dork Forty. Which should be fairly self-explanatory, but because I can never resist an opportunity to talk about process… Here’s what each star level means…
FIVE STARS = EXCELLENT
A rare grade, given only to classic works that really blow me away with their quality. What counts as a “classic” is very difficult to tell when you’re in the reviewing trenches, of course, and sometimes I do get out of hand with my praise. But I’ll do my best to show restraint.
Examples: Watchmen. Maus. All-Star Superman.
FOUR STARS = VERY GOOD
A much more common grade, four stars are given to things I really like, but that don’t quite climb that Five-Star Everest.
Examples: Preacher. Sex Criminals. Grant Morrison’s Batman.
THREE STARS = PRETTY GOOD
Fun, and definitely worth reading, but maybe not a keeper.
Examples: Hellboy. Ed Brubaker’s Captain America. Most of the better corporate spandex books.
TWO STARS = NOT GOOD
Not entirely worthless, but a solid case of the bad outweighing the good. I can see why somebody might like a two-star book, but I definitely do not.
Examples: Scott Snyder’s Batman. Average corporate spandex work. The entire Geoff Johns library.
ONE STAR = EXECRABLE
Poor. Bad. Dreck. A work of little or no redeeming value.
Examples: The entire Rob Liefeld library.
So what makes something good or bad in my estimation? The examples should give you some insight on that front, I think, but just to clarify…
I like to work a bit as an audience, so I look for writing that doesn’t insult my intelligence by spelling every little thing out for me every step of the way. Exposition is the mind-killer. I also prize works of great imagination, innovation, and complexity. Style’s good, too. It won’t entirely take the place of substance, but it goes a long way. And I’m especially fond of work that pushes boundaries, even when its reach exceeds its grasp. I’ll take a glorious failure over a mediocre success any day of the week.
Mediocrity bores me in general, in fact. I tend not to like formula, or writing that’s derivative of things I’ve seen done better elsewhere. I’m also not fond of work that trades in easy sentimentality. And I especially hate jokey meta-commentary that plays to the audiences’ familiarity with formula instead of just avoiding those clichés in the first place (see: pretty much everything Joss Whedon has ever written).
But I don’t mean to make myself sound too high-falutin’ here. Mostly, I just like well-crafted adventure fiction. I especially like stuff with elements of noir and horror. And the weird. Good lord, do I love the weird. Give me bizarre, disturbing, unexplainable phenomena, and I’m a happy boy. I’m also a sucker for black humor, and nihilism balanced against hope. The world might suck for the most part, but it’s important to remember that not everything is horrible. That’s the kind of attitude that comes of growing up on a steady diet of monster movies and super hero comics, and that’s me in a nutshell.
So… uhm… There you go. More information than you probably ever wanted on how I grade funnybooks. If you’re still reading at this point… Thanks! And I hope it was informative.