Broken Plot Device
Two Guys and Guy
Dead Hand Used Bookstore
Miracle of Science
Black and Blue
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Not dead, just very busy. In the meantime, go check out Squid Row. A slice-of-life strip about a freelance artist and her friends. Good stuff.
A quickie post as I'm still rather busy. One of my favorite completed comics from a few years back: Muktuk Wolfsbreath, Hard Boiled Shaman!
Muktuk is a completed single storyline, in the old Sam Spade detective noir style, but set in Siberia. Muktuk himself is the classic hard-story type, but instead of a snubnose .38, he has his potions and magic- and gets paid in meat and tobacco. It's very well done, with a unique art style and a great story. Grab a cup 'o coffee and have a read.
You people are reading Godslave, right? :)
A relatively new story by the inestimable author of Take Off, with an interesting Egyptian mythology flavor. A little early in the storyline to get a good handle on what's going on, but so far we have a girl, who finds a dog in a jar, who are then attacked by... some guy made of metamorphic rock, apparently? All of whom are currently duking it out inside the museum. It's much, much better than my description. :)
Serial storyline, start from the beginning!
My apologies for missing today's review, but as is all too common, work beckons and I have a lot of irons in the fire.
I would like to take a moment and say that I've found I hate comics that jam the artists' political views- whatever they are- into the strip. Now, I'm not talking about political comics- everyone knows you're going to get the leftist-70's-drugged-out-hippie point of view when you read Doonesbury, and the rightwing only-reads-NewsMax point of view when you read Mallard Fillmore. Those are expressly political comics.
What I'm talking about is an otherwise typical comic that shoehorns the authors' political pet peeve into the storyline, out of the blue. It's like going to read Garfield only to find the entire strip is just Garfield addressing the audience directly and telling them to spay and neuter their pets. It's out of place, annoying and bordering on rude. I've stopped reading at least a dozen otherwise-enjoyable webcomics over the years because of that- once or twice, no problem. Twice a month, you're losing me.
And for any comic authors that may be reading- if any- it's worth keeping in mind that when you throw your personal political opinion into your strip, you're alienating half your potential audience.
March 16th Update: Just dumped another otherwise-decent strip from my daily list.
You want me to read your comic? It's real simple- Don't lecture me, or try to tell me I'm a jackass for holding an opinion different from yours.
Reintroducing Broken Plot Device!
A rarity in the world of webcomics, a popular strip- ended/dead/hiatused/kidnapped-and-trapped-in-a-dungeon - has actually returned from exile.
Seriously- I can count the number of comics that went on hiatus for a year or more, and then started updating again, on the fingers of one elbow. But hey, I'll take it. :)
I always enjoyed BPD- Liz' art was always very well done, her characters expressive and the writing very good. Certainly better than I can muster without the aid of recreational pharmaceuticals, anyway, but that's a low bar to hurdle indeed.
The return of BPD is just as well done- we're treated to a 25 page reintroduction, were we (re)meet the principal characters, and get caught up- for those that had read the strip before- with what they've been up to, where they've been in the past "year", and apparently who's doing who. I like that the characters have not stagnated- the author did not just pick up where she'd left off. Things have changed, and not always for the better.
And, of course, we're given the first taste of the plotline-to-be. Give it a try.
Digging up a kind of cool comic book style comic, Introducing The Weapon!
The Weapon is a typical Marvel/DC style action comic- Thomas Zhou is an inventor who has developed a way to produce "solid light" generators- or functional holograms that can be programmed in the shape of weapons. He's putting on a demonstration at a tech expo- by himself, with 'the last of his money' despite the fact that such groundbreaking technology would have netted him a quarter billion dollar contract even back in the development stages- when he's attacked by sword-wielding booth babes.
That battle spills out onto the highway, the highway battle leads to a flight to Kuai, which leads to a mountaintop observatory (and another battle) which leads to an ancient, hidden cave deep in the jungle... that has a laser security system.
It's quite well done, fairly fast paced, and just under a hundred pages.
|March.... March already?!? 3rd:
Introducing Chicken Wings!
Chicken Wings, like TWB, centers around a specific activity- in this case, flying small aircraft. Chuck, the main pilot, is something of a hapless sort- the type that thinks he's much, much better at what he does, than he actually is- and spends much of his time either getting lost in the air, getting lost on the ground, getting slapped at the bar, or trying to assemble his own plane from parts he buys from eBay. The author is clearly an enthusiast, as the gags are witty, often clever, and clearly have an insiders' view of light aviation.
You don't have to be a pilot (or airplane mechanic) to enjoy the humor.... but it helps. :)
Switching over to newsprint comics for a moment, I used to complain about the comics page being clogged with old, dead strips, being kept alive by the syndicates basically just to make money. It's not the "making money" part I didn't like, it was the old n' dead part. The guy that used to draw Shoe, died fifteen years ago. The guy that drew Hagar the Horrible died twenty-six years ago. The guy that used to draw Blondie died forty-two years ago!
Personally, I've long thought that once the original author passes away, the strip should be retired as well. I mean, does anyone- that is, anyone that's not at least 87 and in a retirement home- actually read Apartment 7G or Mary Worth?
One would think that an ideal arrangement would be to have the old strips fade away, with the retirement or death of the author, and would be replaced by a newer, more modern strip. Leaving aside the idea that the syndicates are not about to let go of a cash cow teat without gunplay being involved, it sounds like a reasonable idea, right?
The problem is, then you get crap like this.
I'm not sure it'd be worth it.
Instead, have a good comic. Introducing Two Guys and Guy!
An old favorite, but Commander Kitty is still with us!
A purple spacecat, a red panda with a quick-detachable robot arm, a disembodied android head and a ferret named Mr. Socks as First Officer. What's not to like? CK is one of those comics that's been around longer than it seems- started, abandoned, restarted, ended and started again, maybe even rebooted a couple of times for good measure. Lighthearted silliness but with a plot. Give it a read and make Scotty happy.
Sorry I missed an update earlier this week, I got my non-shop time caught up working on The Definitive Guide the Paintball in the Movies!
But, to make up for it, I have another excellent comic for you: Introducing Twenty-Seven.
Garland is a rockstar. Touring with his band on their first album, he's on top of the world... until his hand fails him. Unable to play means unable to perform, and unable to perform, for a musician, means unable to work. Garland goes to see doctors... there's nothing much they can do. Increasingly desperate, he sees acupuncturists, faith healers, voodoo doctors, and finally, with the last of his money- and on his 27th birthday- he finds a new doctor. One who promises miracles.
The doctor offers a cure, but one that requires the sacrifice of nine cats. Nine cats, nine lives each for a total of eighty-one. Eight plus one equals nine again.
Unsure, but still desperate for help, Garland submits- the process consumes the cats, but something takes the doctor as well- and rather than a cure, that something gives him a different kind of gift. A button, a device implanted in his chest that, when pressed, grants him skills or even superpowers. But each use lasts only three hours, and there are only 27 uses in total. (2 plus 7 is 9, 27 times 3 is 81, 8 plus 1 is 9 again.)
The rest of the story follows Garland as he seeks help to figure ot what the device is. He meets the entities who gave it to him, and faces a woman who would like to take it for herself. It's an interesting and unique story, and the art is exellent, stylized and expressive. Well worth your time.
Another shiny new comic I've already begun looking forward to: Introducing The Dead Hand Used Bookstore.
It may appear easy to dismiss; a young orphaned child with an unusual forehead mark goes to live in a place of magic, with people she does not really know. Seems familiar in some way, doesn't it? Admittedly it's hard to tell at the moment, this early in the story, but the writing and the art, thus far, strike me as excellent. Actually, the art is wonderful, an excellent style that's detailed where it needs to be, loose where it doesn't, and colored beautifully.
The About page suggests more of the wider story, and as I said, I'm looking forward to reading it. I'm not sure of the update schedule, as I can't find a single date anywhere on either strip or site. It was listed as updating monthy, so we'll see.
[cracks knuckles] It's time to get back to a real live Introspect, and I have one that's even new to me: Cassiopeia Quinn!
I found this the other day, and enjoyed every minute of it. Our protagonist Cassiopeia, is a happy-go-lucky space pirate; we meet her floating in space, amidst a close-quarters space battle, where she promptly hijacks a drone fighter, and uses it to sneak onto the mother ship. Which she then hijacks.
The Captain of said hijacked ship, Vrax, whom Cass maroons on a beach on an unihabited planet, naturally vows revenge and strikes back out to track her down. Later, Captain Vrax meets up with the jello-like Vanaa people, to inspect their newest medical cruiser... just in time for Cassiopeia to hijack it, too. At this moment in the story, Cass is trying hard to evadeVrax in her stolen ship- Vrax is blowing up methane planets by igniting them, Cass is... steering the ship with her butt.
The art is very good, going from a nice, fluid B&W early on, to a well-done and detailed full color later on. The story is engaging, fairly fast-paced, quite funny and does some very good world-building. Only about 52 pages in at the moment, so easy enough to get up to speed.
A bit late and another brief one, as I had a great deal of work to do. So let's rummage through the ol' bookmarks and see what we can find.
Hmmm... I'm sure you all know about Schlock Mercenary, of course, and Something Positive. (And if you don't, welcome to the internet!)
There's XKCD, Girl Genius, Penny Arcade, Girls with Slingshots and The Adventures of Dr. McNinja. We're looking for something a little less common...
Here we go, have a look at the Clockwork Game, a completed story of a chess-playing robot, first built in the late 1700s. Based, believe it or not, largely on actual events and automatons.
|February (already!) 3rd:
Still pretty busy, but I got a good'un for ya: Sin Titulo.
Another excellent B&W (or at least, sparsely colored) longform comic, completed, about 160 pages. Something of a mystery of the mind, the old theme of the one man who can see what's going on when no one else can. Marvelous read, save it for when it's quiet and you won't be disturbed.
I'm rather short on time at the moment, so... (rummage rummage)... Ah! Introducing Miracle of Science!
Complete longform comic, good hard sci-fi and some great characters. Over 400 pages, so pack a lunch.
I owe a fair correction to last weeks' Intro of Fleep. The page I'd bookmarked was a repost- the poster apparently had difficulties viewing the original comic format, and reformatted it as a single long page. That poster, if the links and Google are to be believed, was Aaron Swartz, the "hacktivist" who, after being charged with multiple counts wire and computer fraud, took his own life.
As this is a blog about webcomics and not political activism, we'll return to the sjubject at hand. The author of Fleep is Jason Shiga, who has some other wonderful works online- although a direct link to his page would, at the moment, bring the reader into a spoilery part of the currently updating comic Demon. So instead, we will introduce the complete work Bookhunter.
Bookhunter is an excellent long-form comic about- I'm not kidding- the Library Police. It's set in California, 1973, and treats the whole idea as completely serious- the library police have disguised surveillance vans, an on-call SWAT team, and the authority to shoot... people who have stolen books from libraries. Of course, although the characters treat it as completely serious- at one point the Chief says Bay has a fully-fueled Apache gunship at his disposal - to the reader it comes off as hilarious.
It's not all gags and dry humor, though- the plot is very well done, and surprisingly gripping. Sometimes the plot plods along as they search for clues, and minutes later Agent Bay is climbing along the outside of their speeding Bookmobile because there's no time to stop to get the reverse-lookup directory out of the back. And yes, there is a book-cart chase scene.
The detail given, too, is amazing- in the search for clues, we learn (probably) how long fingerprints last on book paper, stitches, cloths and papers used in bookbinding, and how Pac Bell telephone systems worked in 1973. The detectives try to date a book by detecting trace radioactive potassium-argon, bring in a profiler to do a work up on the perp, and manually search microfiche records with the help of a little dramamine.
A fairly quick read at 145 pages, and worth every click.
Longtime readers of TWB may remember the good old days of my "Webcomic Link O' The Week". One of the more interesting strips, which I just happened across while trying to transfer over bookmarks from one PC to another, was Fleep.
Fleep was an intriguing little standlone story, the entirety of which takes place inside a single telephone booth. And unlike the movie Phone Booth, all we ever see is inside that phone booth, and only inside that phone booth. We start with the common trope of our hero waking up in an unfamiliar place, finding himself in an unfamiliar situation, and attempting to reason it out. The phone booth turns out to be encased on concrete. The phone book is written in gibberish. Anyone he calls on the phone speaks only more gibberish.
It's very well done, with a bit of a twist at the end. It's all on one long page, and loads quickly.
Correction, per the Jan 27th post:
The author's own site for Fleep is here. The one linked above was a repost to put it all on one page.
An even-shorter-than-usual Introspection today, as I still haven't figured out where they put everything in this new Win8 box.
But, that said, Introducing Conspiracy Friends!
An absurd- in a good way- B&W daily comic, it follows several unlikely conspirators as they communicate with each other through coded messages in alt-weekly newspapers, hide out in the basement of Burger Kings, and get replaced by robot doppelgangers. And then get attacked by Hasbro, aided by a Lady Gaga clone, and drive for several days soothed by the incessant beeping of a bug detector that only detects itself.
Click your seatbelt, start at the beginning, and hang on.
Skin Deep is off a well-earned hiatus and updating again!
A truly excellent longform full-color, full-page comic, Skin Deep is currently one of my top favorites. At first blush, the story is a simple one, nothing more than a few college-age friends trying to keep up on their studies, fretting about buddies moving away, or going out to a corn maze on Halloween.
Except that one of them discovers she's a Sphynx. That leads to her discovering another is a satyr, a third a nixie, and yet another a gryphon- who, as it turns out, suffers from a hereditary curse that gives him long, bright green hair. Along the way, they meet bugbears, bandersnatches, Bohemian lions, an angel who smokes and a dragon who is supposed to be dead. And this isn't a trip into Narnia- one of the bugbears was helping run the corn maze. Another works at a record store.
The story is a bit slow-paced, thanks in part to the once-weekly update schedule (every Tuesday) but it's still a great read. The author divides the overall plot up into books- both literally and figuratively. They're interconnected, but still standalone stories that can be taken in in a sitting. At present, we have a couple of groups in America, another in England- with one mutual character so far- and the promise of more.
The worldbuilding is some of the best I've read in a while. The creatures exist in amongst regular humans by the use of medallions- magical necklaces that can hide the person's true form. It's not a transformation, it's an illusion- hence the title Skin Deep. They've established Avalons, refuges where they need not hide from each other, and where monsters- creatures without medallions who cannot thus pass for human- can stay and live, away from prying eyes. We learn there's a council, that can punish a creature by taking away its medallion (thus restricting them to the Avalon, as well as, presumably, the potential lack of opposable thumbs among other things) and we learn that hybrids are rare and mistrusted even by other monsters.
And, over time, we're given a glimpse of the overall plot- a great war between dragons and sphynxes, a collusion between dragons and demons- which I, for one, can't wait to read.
Apparently 'dead' comics are a popular topic for you readers. (Is a popular topic?)
After the last entry, I received quite a few submissions of old, ended or dead comics, as well as a few asking if I knew what had happened to certain comics. Were they still up somewhere, just under a new name, were the archives available somewhere, did I know if the author had gone off to do another strip they didn't know about.
On the submitted comics, I was familiar with most, but got a couple that were new to me, and yes, I'll be adding those to the review-queue. On the questions of 'disappeared' comics, in one case I know a little, but for most of them, they're as much a mystery to me as anyone else. The only one I knew anything about was an old strip called Albion Fuzz (later Bohemials.) It was a well-done B&W strip based in England, starring an unlikely group of twentysomethings, including Alex (who worked for a porn mag) Sybil (who was originally homeless) and later a larger ensemble of young college-bound and artsy types.
Quite well written, with often clever and intelligent dialogue. I read it back when it was updating, and was sorry to see it end.
Oh, and a bit on definitions of comic schedules, for this kind of strip: To steal a bit from The Belfry's system, there's "sporadic", which means they update irregularly. Could be once or twice a month, or just a few times per year. Next there's "on hiatus", which usually means the author has posted a statement saying the strip is going on hiatus for whatever reason. Sometimes it's a fixed hiatus ("just until midterms are over") and sometimes it's open-ended ("I'll start it back up when I feel inspired again".)
Then there's "inactive", generally meaning the strip hasn't updated in a while, but that there's been no official announcement that it's ending or on hiatus or over, etc. Then there's "ended", which means there has been some sort of announcement from the author that it won't be updating anymore. A close cousin is "completed", meaning the story wrapped up with a proper conclusion.
And finally, there's "lost". Meaning the comic is simply gone. Usually had already ended, but now even the archives are gone and/or the site is down. Pretty much the definition of "dead and buried".
Dead-Comic O' the Week:
Having read webcomics on a regular basis for many years now, I've seen more than a few come and go. Some show up, run for years, and quietly disappear. Others are introduced with thundrous fanfare, and end just as suddenly. Some end properly- the story is told, and it's time to move on. Others just... end. Updates end abruptly, or updates simply get less and less frequent until all of a sudden you realize you've been checking the site for two years, for an update that will never come.
Some comics end because the author got burned out, or got tired of the update schedule, or lost interest in the characters. Some end because the author was doing it in their spare time, or during a college art class. The author then gets a new job, or a new client, or graduates, and finds he or she doesn't have time for it anymore.
Whatever the reason, it can be frustrating to a comic enthusiast such as myself- the story is left hanging and unresolved. What if The Avengers ended just as the Hulk jumped out of the Helicarrier at that jet?
So on occasion, Introspect will revisit some of those "dead" comics, if their archives can still be found. They may not be updating, their authors may in some cases not know the site is even still active. But there is still a snippet of story worth reading and some art to be savored.
As an inaugrual D-COW we introduce Monica Furious.
Furious tells the (start of) the story of a 23rd century mercenary. Wired and augmented and thoroughly bad-ass. She's given the job of "extracting" a target from a heavily-fortified downtown installation, a task which she starts off by hacking into and airdropping their own heavy assault drones as a distraction.
The art is excellent, detailed and shaded B&W line drawings, good character design, awesome vehicle and tech designs, and a solid feel for mood, pacing and perspective.
Unfortunately, about a third of the pages were uploaded without the speech-bubbles layer, and are thus dialogueless. In some cases, it didn't matter- I read the originals years ago, and several pages had no speech- or at least, none of any consequence. Others are a loss- as I recall, the woman in the tube is a sort of facility AI, controlling sensors and defenses, and some key information is missing without her dialogue.
But the story can still be followed, and the action is well worth a look. There's just 49 pages, and it goes quick. (Let the site load.)
Just a quick note: If anyone would like to submit a guest review (or rant, or diatribe, etc.) please feel free to send it in.
And, coming on Thursday, my pick for Dead Comic of the Week!
On the number of comics I read, I'm asked an interesting pair of questions: Either something like "how do you keep up with so many?", or "why aren't you also reading [comic], [comic], or [comic]?"
In other words, some wonder how I can read so many, while others wonder why I'm not reading more.
On the one hand, as I've said before, given that not every comic on my list updates every day, an average nights' reading might be as few as just 30 strips, or perhaps as many as 60. Mechanically, I have multiple monitors and use multiple browsers, so it's easy to flick around and multitask.
Intellectually, most of the strips are essentially gag-a-day, or have fairly simple storylines. To use a newspaper analogy, it wasn't hard to keep track of what was going on in strips like The Far Side or Calvin & Hobbes.
However, I do admit I have occasionally lost track of what's going on in some of the long-form strips, especially those with a slow update schedule. I may have missed the "big reveal" because I'd forgotten who the revealed character was, or what his or her connection to the story was, or missed the clues leading up to the event, because they were spaced so widely.
Something Positive is, to me, a bad one for this. SP has a huge cast, and Randy loves to bring back characters from literally five or six years ago. I have more than once assumed he or she was a brand-new character, until days later when the dialogue makes it clear they're a recurring character.
And that said, I also have to admit I have given up on some comics because I had simply completely lost track of what was going on. The classic example of this, for me, is Sluggy Freelance. I started reading that one very early on- before I even started my own strip. And I read it faithfully even as the storyline got more and more convoluted, as the setting expanded to span the globe and eventually off into other dimensions and alternate timelines.
I give Pete lots of kudos (which I've always assumed was a sort of corn chip) for keeping it up as long as he has, and writing such a detailed world. The art is good, and when he sets his mind to it, awesome. But the more convoluted the plot became, the more opaque it became for new readers. It is now virtually impossible for a new reader to pick it up and follow along. Going back for my first look in several years, going through a full month of the last updates (that is, apart from the stick-figure filler) other than Torg, I have no idea who these people are or what they're doing.
To be fair, I tend to be a busy person, and I don't have all that many clock cycles to spare. If a long strip like that was the only one I read, or one of only a bare few, perhaps it would be easier. But I'm kind of a glutton. I have always liked comics, and there's just too many of them out there that need reading.
4th, later in the evening:
For an inaugural review, I'd like to bring your attention to a new strip called Black & Blue.
Billed as a noir/sci-fi story, we first meet a woman, angry and sealed in a lab, forced to "manufacture" against her will, and driven to attempt an escape the most desperate way possible. We're given hints of details- there's a villain, of course, and compatriots, a vow of revenge and a plan set in motion. But then...
The story is dark, as a classic film-noir should be. We're shown a near-future world with robots and cyborgs, but which still uses pickup trucks and holes are dug with shovels. Thugs are paid in coin and crooks drive vans. Yes, it's dark and inner-city but not necessarily dystopian. It's intriguing and well done- we've met at least three groups and diseparate as they are we can already see the single thread of the storyline that ties them together. Robots- or more likely, "synthetics" with human brains- are apparently commonplace, and treated as human. Including the need to hide, it seems, from justice or retribution.
And I love the art. A limited-palette style of deep blues punctuated by the occasional spot of color- the flame of a cigarette lighter, a smear of blood. A few key scenes even have a touch of animation- enough to add flavor, but not overdone. Some static on a monitor screen, passing lights reflected in a motorcycle windshield.
Behind the scenes, as they say, the website is nicely minimalist, there is little to distract the reader from the strip itself. My only complaint would be that it needs navigation buttons below the comic- it's a natural flow to read from top to bottom and find the "next" button there, instead of having to scroll back to the top for it. Admittedly a minor issue, as one can just click on the comic itself to advance to the next strip.
I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how this story unfolds.
Some ground rules. Sorry, this isn't a Wordpress or Comicpress or any other kind of common blog format. There's no comment section, no Facebook "like" buttons, no Twitter feeds. Perhaps those things will come later, but for the moment, this is what I can offer and what I can work with. You're welcome to email me at the link up above, or post a rebuttal to the Tinker's Guild.
And as below, I can't say there will be any kind of a fixed update schedule. I'd like to say there should be something posted at least once a week, but I already have a pretty full plate. You're welcome to submit a comic to be reviewed, just please don't take it personally if I either don't have time that week, or it's "not my thing", or it happens to be a strip/author/click-baiter I'd rather not promote.
If you're looking for a webcomic reviewer that can properly use terms like "zitgeist" or "paradigm" or even "anthroposophy", you might be a bit disappointed. The bulk of my reviews will be simply if I like it or not, and if I do, what, specifically, I like about it. While I do enjoy works that may have effectively, as they say, reflected the human condtion, often I just like to see somebody blow something up with a Plasgun. I do hope I don't wind up grunting "He done art good. Go read." and then go off to bang more rocks together, but I'm also hardly likely to provide you a stirring description of the finer points of gender-relation studies as envisioned by a small mallard duck.
Yes, I will almost certainly, at some point, review a comic I don't like. It may be that I don't like the art, or I don't like the writing, or maybe I just think the author is a big jerk. Most commonly, of course, it will likely be a case of a strip I once favored, but to again paraphrase Websnark, found myself asking "why am I still reading this, again?"
And finally, yes, I will at times post about non-webcomic subjects, such as movies. Bear with me.
An introduction to Introspect.
First off, I am not trying to be like Websnark. None can replace the inestimable Mr. Burns, nor shall I try. Sometimes I just want to talk about webcomics.
I am no particular authority apart from being an enthusiast of the medium, but often that's all it takes. To borrow a bit of Erics' lexicon, my 'daily trawl'- the comics I read daily, or whenever they update- currently stands around a hundred titles. Some only update once a week, a few only once a month, and most only semi-weekly, so an average nights read could be anywhere from 30 to 60 strips.
I enjoy a wide variety of comics, from the daily sci-fi space opera, to the weekly longform fantasy. There are strips I've been reading for over fifteen years, and strips that just started. I've been doing my own strip since 2002, read by possibly as many as six people outside my immediate family. Some strips in my list are there only out of sheer inertia- they're merely okay, but update regularly enough I keep reading it anyway. Others I await with such anticipation I might start checking for an update hours before it's due.
I have no idea how long- or even if- I will keep this up. I have a day job that all too often doesn't even leave me enough time for my own webcomic, let alone the time to rant about others. But on the other hand, back in 2002, I honestly expected this while "drawing on a whiteboard" thing to only last a few weeks, so let's just see what happens.
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