I'll review your webcomic.

Think your comic can improve? Whether it's art or writing, composition or colouring, feel free to ask here! Critique and commentary welcome.

Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Wed Jul 17, 2013 12:44 pm

Chapters 2 and 3 move the action to a hellish prison, and the comic quickly turns into a gritty noir story. Schtein's constantly abused there by both the inmates and the prison staff, and, being obsessed with cleanliness, he's psychologically damaged by the filthy living conditions. He starts seeing haunting hallucinations, apparently because his mechanical eyes are malfunctioning. He's forced to do menial labor, held in solitary confinement, and heavily drugged, and it causes the once-arrogant Schtein to struggle to hold on to his personality and humanity. The various minor characters in the prison are all excellently written as well, with the manipulative sadist Phineas standing out as one of the webcomic's best characters. This is also the part of the comic where attention's first brought to the post-apocalyptic setting, secretive power-players, and Schtein's family, and it provides a bit of context for the bleak events.

With Chapter 4, the writing takes a dip in quality as, like in the problematic first chapter, String Theory focuses on Delia. It's apparent by this point that's she a Mary Sue: She's brilliant, attractive, athletic (at least according to her character bio), and her status as both a woman and a minority causes others to unfairly underestimate her. That she's pursued by several love interests and constantly victimized further serve to cement her portrayal as a "perfect" character. I'm also not a fan of her talking animal sidekick, Marcus, whose cuteness and weak comedy relief are underwhelming compared to the stellar writing in the previous two chapters. The drama and wackier bits here involving Delia aren't particularly unappealing, and Delia's new co-workers are interesting enough, but I found myself feeling impatient to get back to Schtein and his backstory. It was a relief, for instance, when the scene changed to a flashback of the secret experiments conducted by Schtein's grandfather.

Schtein's clearly the webcomic's most compelling character, although his portrayal isn't always consistent. He's introduced as being a genius, but he comes across as incompetent at times during the beginning of the story, such as when Delia's shown to be much more knowledgeable than he is. Then, on Page 41, he somehow forgets he can't see color, and in Chapter 2, the warden calls him an "idiot" for somehow forgetting to disable the security cameras when he sabotaged Langstrom's project in Chapter 1. The creator apologizes for this to an extent in her comments below that page, though, explaining that "not a lot of planning went into this comic" and she would "like to work hard to become a better writer." Her new approach definitely paid off, as from that point on, Schtein's presented as a highly intelligent person who's both arrogant and deeply flawed. A large part of his appeal's that it isn't clear if readers should be rooting for him or not. The story's told mostly from his point of view, and he's on the receiving end of a lot of abuse, but he's nevertheless self-centered and abrasive, and he never seems to feel notably guilty about the people he's killed. Schtein's also of German descent, a characteristic belonging to a lot of villains in pop culture. Schtein reminds me of some of Jhonen Vasquez's protagonists, like Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Invader Zim, in that he's ruthless and immoral, but he also's fascinating from the audience's perspective because he's exciting, violent, and strange, and he has a troubling past and bizarre environments. In the latest chapter, he describes himself as "the stalwart hero" of the story, but I find it unconvincing, and it really only makes him seem even more arrogant and unlikable. After all, when I think of examples of heroic figures, I don't imagine any of them boasting of how heroic and important they are while dismissing their allies as being expendable. Schtein's a highly original and well-developed character, and all of the scenes he's in after the first chapter are top-notch and keep leaving me eager to see what happens to him.

* continued in the next post *
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Wed Jul 17, 2013 12:55 pm

Art: While String Theory starts off as black-and-white, it's colored from Chapter 2 onwards, and its coloring's actually some of the best I've seen in a webcomic. The creator has a tendency to combine dark colors with bright ones, and it's one of the reasons the comic's able to successfully convey both noir and sci-fi tones. A good example of this in the latest chapter, where an irradiated Chicago's shown as bleak and lifeless but is also eerily lit with teals, greens, oranges, and reds. This color scheme's maintained throughout the chapter in the abstract backgrounds, the interior scenes, and in Schtein's glowing eyes, as well as throughout the entire story, and this helps the webcomic feel coherent and distinct.

Speaking of Schtein's eyes, this seemingly trivial detail is a brilliant move by the creator, as it adds a pervasive sense of creepiness and alienation throughout the comic. Shots like the bottom panel on this page portray Schtein as a nightmarish figure, and they push the other characters to antagonize him at the same time that the narrative structure encourages readers to take a more holistic perspective. In addition, while Schtein's robotic eyes make him seem less human on a physical level, their introduction marks the start of his path to becoming more human internally as he develops humility, a desire for intimacy, and a renewed sense of connection with his family. And while Schtein's glowing eyes, pointy nose, and unnatural hair color are stuck the way they are, his transition from a lab coat to a prison uniform to his current outfit show a movement away from the "mad scientist" persona that characterizes his grandfather and his past self. I feel pretty confident in saying that Schtein's one of the most well-designed characters in webcomics.

All aspects of the artwork's of a high quality, but what's most remarkable about it's the creator's ability to continue to improve with every chapter. While the webcomic's first two years show the most progress, there's a noticeable difference between the current pages and those from other recent chapters, even though the previous art was already outstanding. Reading through the archives, I kept expecting the creator to hit a plateau at some point, yet she never does, and the thought that such a capable artist has more room to grow has me feeling even more excited to follow the webcomic.

Overall: I'm beyond impressed with String Theory, and it's quickly become one of my favorite webcomics. The creator demonstrates mastery of the science-fiction genre, and she manages to deliver a fresh take on the classic "mad scientist" archetype. The comic's most glaring flaw is its lackluster introduction, but the more impatient readers out there can start with the second chapter without missing much.

5/5
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Wed Jul 17, 2013 1:42 pm

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:I sure hope blankd will do more reviews.
Me too. She seems pretty busy at the moment, though, so I don't know when to expect the next one.

Also, there are some others posted:

Cup of Olea review by robybang (which was posted on the SJ forums)

Nerd Rage review by melaredblu (this one's brand-new)
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Fri Jul 26, 2013 1:20 pm

Woo hoo! I think I've just had my first experience of not being able to get my point across to the person I'm reviewing!
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby RobboAKAscooby on Fri Jul 26, 2013 3:09 pm

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:Woo hoo! I think I've just had my first experience of not being able to get my point across to the person I'm reviewing!

Ooh ooh elaborate please?
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Fri Jul 26, 2013 6:56 pm

RobboAKAscooby wrote:
VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:Woo hoo! I think I've just had my first experience of not being able to get my point across to the person I'm reviewing!

Ooh ooh elaborate please?

Only for you, schoob. The review was really, really long.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Sat Aug 03, 2013 1:11 pm

Webcomic: What Birds Know
URL: http://fribergthorelli.com/wbk/
Creator/s: Emelie Friberg, Mattias Thorelli
Run: 10/05-current
Schedule: About three pages a week

Website: It's a relatively distinct layout for a ComicPress site, although the site's vertical nature seems unnecessary. The comic pages are much smaller than normal at only 463 pixels wide, and this makes some of the details harder to see as well as making the smaller font in the earlier pages harder to read. Meanwhile, the additional space gained from having small pages is only used to show pictures of the characters and the comic's creators. I actually found this somewhat distracting, as these images showed up prominently the entire time I was reading through the comic's archives. The site would also benefit from page-click and/or above-the-page navigation, as the fast-paced storytelling style is slowed down somewhat by forcing the reader to scroll down after reading each page.

There are a decent amount of special features, most notably being the handwritten character biographies. Each character has their own handwriting, and the bios are partially written by the other characters, which is neat. The archives page is also pretty easy to navigate, with each page getting its own hyperlink. Some of the site needs to be updated, though, as the fan art thumbnails don't show up in several browsers I viewed the site with, and the comic's Blogger and LiveJournal pages haven't had new content in several years. Also, the comic's Project Wonderful ad only shows up on the home page, meaning that a significant amount of the site's page views aren't being counted.

Writing: All of the fantasy webcomics I've reviewed so far have involved heroes going on an epic quest, much in the style of games like Dungeons & Dragons and World of Warcraft, so What Birds Know caught me by surprise with its focus on character development and dramatic tension. A lot of the story's spent in flashbacks that explore each of the three main characters' childhoods, meaning that only a small portion of the comic takes place in the hidden fantasy world. Compared to popular fantasy series like The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter, the mundane medieval setting presents more realistic situations, and the college-age protagonists and "14-and-up" rating indicate that the story's meant for more mature audiences.

The three female protagonists are initially unremarkable, and their "quest" that kicks off the events of the plot is merely a school assignment to collect mushrooms, which they quickly lose interest in. What makes each of them fascinating by the time the story gets to its fifth chapter is the gradual unveiling of their tragic childhoods and the personal "quests" they're pursuing as a result. Vandi, for instance, had to raise her twin brothers and take care of the household after her mom fell into a coma, leaving her yearning for the playful childhood she never got to experience. And Dores, a talented artist, is desperate for her mom's approval, destroying all of her own artwork on two separate occasions when her mom only viewed the creations as a waste of time. The most interesting of the three, though, is probably Elia, who, growing up in a broken home, is determined to provide a healthy environment for her own future children. What makes her somewhat more complex than the others is that the man she obsesses over is a known womanizer who's barely interested in her, making her perception of him as an ideal husband seem delusional. Each of the three women are extremely well-developed and have elaborate backstories.

Another way that What Birds Know differs from a typical fantasy webcomic is that it's female-oriented. Aside from the main characters being women, the flashbacks mainly focus on their relationships with their moms and the way their moms raised them, which places an emphasis on domestic environments much more than what a reader would expect in an action-oriented story. Sexuality comes up frequently as well, as several women are shown being sexually exploited, and the scene where Vandi discovers her breasts, and, therefore, reaches the end of her childhood, is one of the comic's most poignant moments. Finally, the eggs in the fantasy world are used to bring the characters' attitudes regarding maternity to the surface, as Vandi's shown to dread motherhood while Elia welcomes it, fantasizing that she'd like to "have, like, fifteen" children. This feminine perspective combines with the strange and mysterious fantasy elements to create a story unlike any I've read before.

And on the subject of the "strange and mysterious," the comic can get downright bizarre at times. There are several scenes that I'd call "WTF moments," such as when Vandi vomits an egg in Chapter 1, and the comic only gets more surrealistic and surprising as the story progresses. The women also behave erratically while in the fantasy world, with Elia giggling hysterically and Dores becoming more and more violent. Interestingly, Vandi doesn't seem to be affected by the fantasy world, and that combined with her ability to open the door in the tower and her dad's interest in obscure history suggests that she has a family secret that hasn't been revealed in the story yet. And while the comic's finally starting to explain the history of the tower in its fifth chapter, the magical elements are still left fairly vague at point, such as how the oracles were born with their powers for no apparent reason. And I'm left wondering if it's more than just an odd coincidence that both the protagonists and the oracles are a group of three young women. The suspense inherent in the characters encountering a weird and dangerous world they don't understand is one of the webcomic's main draws, and it also gives the creators an opportunity to let their imaginations run wild.

The comic can sometimes get a little implausible for the sake of dramatic effect, though. While the women set off on a five-day journey into the woods with no weapons, I don't recall a single page where any of them expressed concern for their safety, even after they've started seeing some really freaky stuff. They also repeatedly split up and wander in separate directions for insignificant reasons, which seems to always have unfortunate results. I guess that the fantasy world might have a magical effect on the women that makes them behave more recklessly, but I don't see that as being an effective plot device as much as just a way to shove the characters into dangerous situations. In addition, when the adults consider entering the forest to search for the women, they're afraid to go because they consider it to be too dangerous. Elia's mom even suggests that having a weapon, shield, and helmet's necessary to go looking after them. So, it doesn't really make sense that the families are fine with their children exploring the woods during the first three chapters, and then are suddenly terrified of the woods in Chapter 4.

Finally, the dialogue's so natural-sounding that readers might be surprised to learn that the creators are Swedish. An unusually high amount of pages have minimal or no text, though, which allows the creators to focus on visual storytelling and refine the dialogue that feel is necessary to include. Another major benefit of the textless pages is that it lets the creators include lengthy flashback scenes without slowing down the story's pacing much, making the webcomic a relatively quick read even though it's been updating regularly for almost eight years.

Art: As someone who complains fairly often about backgrounds in my reviews, I was pleasantly surprised at the almost excessive level of detail in the story. Throughout the entire 700-plus-page story, I don't recall seeing a single page that wasn't highly detailed. Outdoor scenes always have tons of flora around, and all of the town shots have buildings, background characters, and miscellaneous details, as well as the surrounding fields and mountains. The creators also use bird's-eye and top-down shots a lot, placing a heavy emphasis on showing off the environment and making it seem as if the characters are being watched by the birds that show up frequently throughout the comic. For instance, when the women first enter the fantasy world, the gnarled-looking trees there are shown prominently, which serves as the first indication of the place's sinister nature. Water's also given special attention, creating some spectacular landscapes. Occasionally, solid white backgrounds are used, but they're reserved for moments when a character feels depressed and isolated, making them dramatically appropriate.

The main characters are drawn in an unusually realistic and unflattering way, which is a major departure from the typical fantasy heroine. Each of the three has their own facial structure and body type, which is a nice touch, but even more noteworthy is how competently the creators are able to show the characters at different stages of their childhood and teenage years. The women are also all made to look similar to their moms, which leads readers to compare the two and wonder how much the characters will be alike with their moms in terms of personality. For instance, the moms aren't close with each other, which raises the question as to whether the young women have an expiration date on their friendship as they get older. Are their quarrels just benign misunderstandings, or are they the inevitable result of a transition towards adulthood? In any case, people of all ages are drawn expertly in this webcomic, with the sole flaw being that women's arms and hands are consistently drawn too large.

Lastly, the webcomic's bright coloring's somewhat jarring at first. Aside from there being a lot of bright-green leaves everywhere, the comic has neon-purple skies and neon-red candlelit rooms, and the interdimensional space is colored neon-blue. However, this coloring style grew on me over time, and it fits in well with the comic's surrealistic nature. These bold choices also give the comic a distinct look that helps it stand out.

Overall: What Birds Know is clearly one of the best fantasy webcomics around. What really makes it stand out, though, is that its focus on character development, dramatic tension, realistic dialogue, and visual storytelling gives it a broader appeal than a normal swords-'n'-sorcery tale would have. As such, I highly recommend it for any webcomic reader.

5/5
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue Aug 06, 2013 12:05 pm

Webcomic: Scandinavia and the World
URL: http://satwcomic.com/
Creator/s: "humon"
Run: 6/09-current
Schedule: Most Wednesdays
Section/s: Strips 254-295

Website: The layout's as simple as it gets, with abundant white space around the strips and some basic navigation buttons. A template from one of the free webcomic hosting sites offers more personality than can be seen here. The special features are decent, though, with a forum, Wiki, and store, and the archives are easy to use since it shows thumbnails for every page.

Writing: Having just finished reviewing the Swedish webcomic What Birds Know, this popular Scandinavian gag comic caught my attention with its unusual title. In the style of political cartoons, figures are used to represent different nationalities and draw attention to various cultural differences.

All of the comic's gags fall into one of three categories. The most prevalent one's the referential humor (1, 2, 3), where a joke's delivery relies heavily on the reader's familiarity with the subject matter. This kind of humor's generally overused and poorly executed in webcomics, but the creator takes it a step further by referring to obscure events and stereotypes, making the gags difficult to impossible to understand without reading the accompanying commentary. The second type of comic, which is the rarest, is when characters are shown in goofy poses and costumes (1, 2, 3). These strips are more like miscellaneous illustrations than comics, and their existence is particularly problematic in context of the webcomic's lack of humor. The final group of comics are those that make fun of the United States, which make up a third of the recent strips (1, 2, 3). These comics portray America as an obnoxious, oversized manchild who's repeatedly humiliated and portrayed in a condescending manner. Since the America-bashing comics offer only minor variations of the same joke, they're the worst gags in the webcomic and get tedious quickly.

The strips making fun of the United States and other countries are clearly intended to be playful and humorous, but the pervasive negativity and lack of intelligent commentary prevent this approach from being effective. Throughout the comic, the Scandinavian protagonists are shown as being reasonable, modern, and likable (1, 2, 3), while the other countries are shown as being backwards, stupid, and abrasive. In addition, the webcomic trivializes Jewish and Muslim orthodoxy, portrays Muslims as thieves, and the only strip I saw that includes a black person has a white character dress up in blackface. Also, America is colored as having dark skin, which further establishes its inferiority to the white Europeans. So, instead of showing Scandinavians as being normal people that the reader can relate to, the creator inadvertently makes them seem arrogant and racist. The comic's also hypocritical in the way it berates Americans for being dismissive of other cultures, while the comic constantly portrays non-Scandinavian cultures in a negative way.

* continued in the next post *
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue Aug 06, 2013 12:06 pm

Art: It reminds me of VG Cats, which relies heavily on goofy facial expressions for its humor. While the facial expressions here are pretty good, the amount of detail's much worse than in VG Cats, as the colors are flat, there aren't any backgrounds, and the characters are usually drawn waist-up and without arms. The occasional objects that show up are poorly drawn, and the creator frequently copy-pastes figures. But despite the quick, doodly nature of the artwork, the webcomic's been updating less than once a week so far this year.

As underwhelming as the artwork is, it's not because the creator can't do any better. The comic's store has several posters with shaded, full-body artwork that have backgrounds and look better than anything in the actual webcomic. And the creator's DeviantArt site has plenty of artwork in a variety of styles that are much better than anything in the webcomic. It's clear that the art seen in this comic represents the bare minimum the creator's capable of, with barely any improvement being noticeable in the four-plus years it's been updating.

Overall: Scandinavia and the World is a lazy, uncreative endeavor that has zero potential for improvement. It could've been somewhat decent if was created as a positive portrayal of Scandinavia, but the strips are so fixated on insulting minorities and people in other countries that it comes off as being mean-spirited and distasteful.

1.5/5
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby RobboAKAscooby on Tue Aug 06, 2013 12:40 pm

You know what LC, I'm so glad you posted Today, I was beginning to think everyone had abandoned this place and didn't tell me.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue Aug 06, 2013 12:52 pm

RobboAKAscooby wrote:You know what LC, I'm so glad you posted Today, I was beginning to think everyone had abandoned this place and didn't tell me.
Yeah, I noticed it's been quiet lately. I just haven't really had anything to say. I'm gonna try to get another review done this week, though, so that'll be... something.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:14 pm

You have my condolences for having had to spend time critically examining humon's work.

Yeah, things have been kinda dry around here, haven't they? It was like for a week or two we had a lot of activity (well, a lot relatively) and now we're back to a cessation of sorts :/
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:46 pm

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:You have my condolences for having had to spend time critically examining humon's work.
Well, I didn't have much to say about it, but it's just a weird comic, and this is the first review of it as far as I can tell. I didn't realize how infamous Humon is until you mentioned her, though, and I Googled her and saw that she has another comic called Niels that's on the BWW. I noticed earlier that she drew some porn comics on the side, but I didn't really care.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:Yeah, things have been kinda dry around here, haven't they? It was like for a week or two we had a lot of activity (well, a lot relatively) and now we're back to a cessation of sorts :/
I'm generally just gonna be quietly reviewing stuff until a discussion comes up. The words ain't gonna write themselves. =/
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby Humbug on Tue Aug 06, 2013 5:04 pm

She's quite vilified on Encyclopaedia Dramatica. Has a whole thread dedicated to her and everything. But I don't think there's too much hate for her outside of ED tho.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Tue Aug 06, 2013 5:08 pm

I've seen it elsewhere, but only in places that pay attention to webcomics to begin with. If I'm remembering correctly a lot of people take issue with the way rape is handled and the "Tee hee, what do you mean my comic is racist? You see, we here in Scandinavia don't have racism, so you Americans will have to explain to me how my comic is racist, tee hee, it's like I am an alien trying to understand your culture." (And, despite having it explained to her time and time again, doesn't actually intend to change anything because TEE HEE she's just so innocent and European you see)
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby RobboAKAscooby on Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:59 am

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote: a lot of people take issue with the way rape is handled


But didn't you know it's okay if women rape men....*obligatory Tee Hee?*
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Wed Aug 07, 2013 6:31 am

RobboAKAscooby wrote:
VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote: a lot of people take issue with the way rape is handled


But didn't you know it's okay if women rape men....*obligatory Tee Hee?*

sometimes I wonder if people find it easy to make light of rape because the word sounds like grape. And grapes are pretty cute little things.
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what if there was a fruit called smurder.

Postby Cope on Wed Aug 07, 2013 6:37 am

and now I can never eat grapes again.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Wed Aug 07, 2013 10:58 am

Humbug wrote:She's quite vilified on Encyclopaedia Dramatica. Has a whole thread dedicated to her and everything. But I don't think there's too much hate for her outside of ED tho.
I should probably get in the habit of checking ED before I review stuff.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:And, despite having it explained to her time and time again, doesn't actually intend to change anything because TEE HEE she's just so innocent and European you see
Nah, I think it's 'cause she's making money off this stuff. It's a business, and she's giving her customers what they want.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:43 pm

LibertyCabbage wrote:
VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:And, despite having it explained to her time and time again, doesn't actually intend to change anything because TEE HEE she's just so innocent and European you see
Nah, I think it's 'cause she's making money off this stuff. It's a business, and she's giving her customers what they want.

I specifically was talking about the racist aspects as opposed to the rape stuff, though I shouldn't be surprised that there's just as much an audience for bigoty comics as rape comics.
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