Before I explain the grading system, two comments.
First up, I think of the grades as a good way of framing the review and putting the comments in perspective. While I try to be consistent, I’m well aware that the grades necessarily depend on subjective things like my taste or my mood on a given day.
Second, please note that a poor grade does not necessarily mean that there's no merit whatsoever to a given book, or that every single aspect of it, right down to the lettering or production, is terrible.
With that in mind, here’s the system.
Grade A+: A comic graded A+ is exceptionally ambitious and successful in its goals. It’s art with a capital A, a work of literary merit. It demonstrates the creators’ complete mastery of their craft, as well as their willingness and ability to break new ground. It’s thoroughly engrossing emotionally as well as intellectually. Every creative decision in it is a deliberate, finely calibrated means to an end. It offers profound insights. It stays with you long after you put it down.
Grade A: A comic graded A is by creators who are masters of their craft. It’s ambitious, and it succeeds fully in its goals. It’s devoid of any randomness or shortcuts. It’s an insightful work, engaging on more than one level. As a narrative, it transcends any boundaries of genre in its appeal.
Grade B: A comic graded B is by creators who are in full command of their craft. It may have lofty ambitions and not entirely succeed in its goals, or it may be an example of what a given genre can offer at its prime. Either way, it’s a thoroughly appealing piece of entertainment.
Grade C: A comic graded C is one whose creative goals are modest, and which doesn’t quite stand out because it sticks to the formula; or it may be an ambitious piece that doesn’t quite succeed, but is still interesting in its failure.
Grade D: A comic graded D is a below-average work, flawed in concept or execution, or both. It may be uninspired or highly derivative, or both. Its creators are able to demonstrate a basic level of competence at their craft.
Grade D-: A comic graded D- has major flaws in concept as well as execution. It may read like a carelessly slapped-together work. One or more of its creators may display a very shaky grasp of their craft. It should never have left the drawer.
Grade F: A comic graded F is an offensively bad piece of work. One or more of its creators should probably be doing something else with their time, like chopping wood.
Revised February 9, 2009.