The reviewers of the Indie Comix Dispatch (ICD) are all passionate about supporting indie comics and fairly reviewing indie comics. When I founded ICD, it was easy. It was just me in front of a webcam talking about indie comics. Over the past few months though, ICD has grown. We’ve added 4 additional reviewers, multiple social media channels, and a full website. So, recently the reviewers and I talked over our review system and we’re happy to announce the new ICD star rating system.

While every review is inevitably subjective to the reviewer, we hope that standardizing the criteria we are looking for will help both fans looking for books and creators looking for feedback. Each book we review is capable of earning 5 full stars, though our star system is a bit different than most.

In the ICD star system, a book can possibly earn 1, .5, or 0 Stars in 5 different categories – Art, Story, Dialogue, Editing, and Mechanics. Here’s how we see the 5 categories:

Art

Sequential art is the heart of comic books. The art in a comic presents the visual narrative of the story, it is equally as important as the written story. Well done art can be in many styles, but it should always enhance the written narrative.

Story

A great narrative keeps the audience engaged, gives a clear continuity, provides character development, and follows a clear story arc (within the issue and/or across multiple issues).

Dialogue 

Dialogue is one of the essential elements of storytelling. Poor dialogue can take you right out of a story, while great dialogue can make characters feel real.

Editing

Typos, grammatical errors, misused colloquialisms, and more detract from both the written and visual storytelling. A well-edited book will have little to no errors to distract the reader from the narrative.

Mechanics

Concepts like setting stakes and escalating them, building tension, pace, how multiple story threads are worked together so that the reader doesn’t lose sight of any of them, these are the many small, yet crucial, elements of story mechanics.

So, for example, a book with great art, story, and Dialogue may earn a full star for each of those categories (3 stars). That same book may have just average mechanics and earn a half star for Mechanics. The book may then have horrible editing, and get zero stars for Editing. So, in the end, the book would have a 3.5-star rating.

A more detailed example, and ICD’s first 5-star rating, of a very well structured comic would be Ayanmo Stigmata i02*:

Ayanmo Stigmata i01 from SoveReign Comics was definitely a solid 3.5 – 4-star book, but i02 improved on all the deficiencies of the first issue. The art, and especially the cover was improved and added deeply to the story giving Art a full star. The story was extremely well written and the opening story of the Lepusians propels the Story to earn a full star. Tyrone Jackson’s dialogue is always on-point and easily earns a full star. There are zero grammatical errors or misspelling in this issue, again, an easy full star for Editing. Finally, the base story combined with the tensions built through the Lepusians’ story, the arc of issue 2, and the ending earns Mechanics a full star.

* Full disclosure, Tyrone Jackson of SoveReign Comics is a reviewer for ICD, his position as a reviewer did not influence my rating of his book.
Ayanmo Stigmata Earns an ICD 5-star rating

As a side note, the ICD team all agrees that if a book will have less than a 2.5-star rating (below average), we won’t review it. We will instead give the creator private feedback in hopes that it helps that creator grow and creator a better follow-up issue.

While each reviewer brings their own unique flair and art form to the review, we hope that judging on these criteria will help better serve the indie community. And, spoiler alert, we’ll be adding a feature in the near future that allows you to rate a book if you have also read it! Look for that coming soon!