Instructions for the Graphic Novel Review
Type: Review/ Analysis
Length: 2-3 pages 600-900 words
Audience: A diverse audience of educated adults
Due Date: See assignment calendar for due dates
Choose a graphic novel a write a 2-3 page “book review.” You can choose just about any graphic novel that interests you, but before you begin, you will need to send me an email with the title and author of the novel you have chosen and wait for my approval. It is best to choose work that has a clear beginning and end, as opposed to a serialized comic or manga that goes on indefinitely. If you really want to write about an ongoing comic, then try to identify a story arc so that you have a focused review.
Your book review should have 5 parts
- Essential information
- The hook
- Closing and recommendation
Introduction: begin with the essential information and the “hook”
The first thing you need to accomplish in a book review is to tell your reader what book you are writing about. That includes the title, the creators (writer, illustrator, colorist), the publisher, date published and any other information that is important to know about the book. Does it belong to particular genre? Is the book the first in a series or a sequel to a popular work? How does the work compare to other works in the genre or time period?
You will also need to use your introduction to peak your readers interest. What is something about the book that will make your reader want to continue reading? This is what we call the “hook.” The website Grammerly.com gives us a couple of examples:
A “hook” is a line that catches your audience’s attention and piques their interest so they’ll continue reading your review instead of scrolling past it.
Your hook could be a compelling or provocative statement:
Margaret Atwood’s subversive brilliance shines in new and unexpected ways with this masterpiece.
Or even a question:
Ever wondered what the lovechild of Twilight and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would look like?
If we were writing about the Dark Knight Returns we might come up with a hook like this:
What happens when Batman grows old, gets angry and almost loses his mind?
This part is pretty easy. Summarize the plot and briefly introduce the main characters. You need to give your readers a sense of what happens in the book without spoiling it. Keep the summary brief, avoid using too much detail and, once again, no spoilers.
. In a good book review, the writer needs to discuss how all of the elements of the book come together to convey ideas and emotions.
The longest (and most difficult) part of your essay is the critique. Often in a critique, the writer will focus on the theme of the story and then explain how that theme is conveyed. Start by asking yourself: what is this book really about? Keep in mind that almost every story conveys some truth about human nature and the world we live in, whether that be love, death, friendship, betrayal, revenge, triumph, grief or happiness.
If we think more deeply about The Dark Knight Returns, we can see it’s about a lot of things: the breakdown of civil society, urban violence, the need for people to believe in something—a symbol, the nature of crime and justice, the corruption of heroes and the symbiotic relationship between heroes and villains. In other words, when you are writing your critique, you need to identify the novel’s theme. A novel can have more than one them, but you should try to focus on just one.
After you have identified the theme, you want to explain to your reader how the author and illustrator convey the theme. Is it through dialogue? Illustrations? Colors? Narration? What are the most important parts or passages that convey this theme? Talk about specific passages that best convey this theme. Use direct quotations and images to help support your discussion.
Here are some examples of the critique section of reviews of the books we are reading this semester:
“The moral question explored by the book’s author and artist really goes to lengths to get the reader thinking about Means and Ends — and it’s not at all clear who one should root for. It helps that Light, despite having an ego that won’t quit, is almost entirely unselfish in his motivation. Death Note is, in its way, a narrative distillation of an ethics bomb, an exploration of right and wrong and whys and wherefores.”
– Death Note Review published in Good Ok Bad.
“In one scene, the 10-year-old Satrapi on learning how her grandpa had been tortured in prison – sometimes put in a cell filled with water for hours at stretch – stays in her bath for a whole night in an attempt to understand what it would be like to be in a cell filled with water. And, when she gets out, she finds her hands wrinkled up like her grandpa’s. This is what sets Persepolis apart; to be introduced to 20th-century Iranian politics through the impressionable eyes of a ten-year-old is fascinating, to say the least.
In another telling scene, Marji and her friends on learning that their classmate Raman’s father used to be in the Shah’s secret police and has apparently killed a million people, decide to attack Raman with nails between their fingers like American brass knuckles. Satrapi’s mother intervenes in the middle of all the euphoria and teaches her the importance of forgiveness.”
– By: Nikhil Sreekandan
“After a few chapters, we begin to internalize the implacable rhythms Moon and Ba construct, and find ourselves growing increasingly complicit in Bras’ fate — with every turn of a page we’re speeding him toward some new bad end. And just when we start to weary of the drumbeat, the creators literally mix things up, and allow the walls separating Bras’ various incarnations to crumble.
What happens next turns the book from a series of anagrammatic short stories into a novel — and sets up the book’s mysterious, contemplative and satisfyingly hopeful ending.”
In each of these examples, the author goes beyond plot summary and interprets the story, helping the reader understand the effect the story has on the reader. This will be the most difficult part of your review, but also the most important part!
Here are some final tips on writing the critique section:
- Locate a problem or pattern in the novel. Think about why the author sets up this problem or pattern and how it might connect to a theme
- Try explaining how the visuals—the illustrations and coloring—convey some aspect of the theme.
- What commentary does the story make about human nature?
Closing and Recommendation
Finally you want to write a conclusion and offer your recommendation. Is it a great book that will please just about any audience? Or perhaps it’s a story that was mildly entertaining but also a little cliché. Close your essay by giving an overall impression of the book and let your reader know if it is worth reading.
In a nutshell, here’s what I’ll be looking for in your final draft:
- Each of the five parts listed above
- A critique section that demonstrates critical thinking about the story.
- Use of images and quotations from the book
- Well organized and written in clear, correct formal English