I’ve been reading more graphic novels of late, due to my responsibility as the first round selection judge on the CYBILS Graphic Novels (both MG and YA) panel. And my mind swirls — especially after reading many reviews of graphic novels: both from educators/librarians and from GN fan sites. What glares back at me review after review is how most people spend at least 85%, if not more, of the review addressing plot, character, setting, writing style, etc. and only one or two sentences on the artwork. Often these sentences are general, broad, and feel like an after-thought.
Very few reviewers get into the actual artistic aspects of the books — how the artist uses lines (effectively or excessively?); how the facial expressions are captured (or not); do the background/foreground receive the same details (should they or should they not, depending on the style and the demand of the narrative); are there effectively varied perspectives; are depths of perception employed (in a good way or unnecessarily?); what TYPES of artistic styles or media are employed: cartoony? impressionistic? modern? realistic? pen-and-ink? watercolor?; how about tonal discussion: humorous? harsh? gentle? intense? and how did the artist achieve these tones? And so so many more things that should be addressed in any review of a graphic novel — including the colorist’s achievement, the letterer’s choice and accomplishment (yes, many people use computer fonts instead of hand lettering now, but the CHOICE of font is still important), the panel layouts, the employment of comic books conventional elements such as gutters, speech bubble placements/usages, narrative boxes, etc.
I am no art critic and have only a limited vocabulary when it comes to discussing artwork and layout designs but I intend to improve upon that and hopefully in the future, when I write about graphic novels, I will include a good balance between discussion of the text and examination of the artwork.