What I bought - 1 August 2012

"It is only petty men who seem normal." (Umberto Eco, from The Name of the Rose)

Avengers Academy #34 ("Final Exam Part 1 of 4") by Christos Gage (writer), Tom Grummett (penciler), Cory Hamscher (inker), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I'm a little disappointed that Chad closed the comments to his Random Thoughts (how random of him!), because in the 24 July version, he countered what I wrote about Avengers Academy and my perception of how he reads the book. That's fine - agree to disagree, and all that - but I was bummed because at the end of his explanation of why I was wrong, he wrote: "You tell the teenage boy that, no, he can’t have a genocide machine as a pet and you destroy the fucking thing before the god-like being decides that, hey, there are seven billion people on the planet and 12 of them suddenly disappearing won’t make much of a difference. Because it wouldn’t." I wanted so badly to leave a comment that simply said, "Well put, Harry Lime." It was too perfect a statement not to write that. So I did, right now. You may not think it's clever, but I don't care!

Anyway, let's move on to "Final Exam," which is a big storyline involving Jeremy Briggs, the philanthropist whom Gage is using as an example of someone who is trying to "change the paradigm" of superhero clashes but who we already know is evil even if he didn't show a bit of that in this issue. I appreciate what Gage is trying to do, and he spends a good deal of the issue bashing AvX (and I never get tired of AvX bashing, I'll tell you that much!), but unfortunately, jaded readers of superhero books know that there's no way in hell this will end well for anyone. Briggs will get his comeuppance in a way that makes it clear that even if his ideas are sound, you can't muck with free well, damn it! (Gage has already brought that idea up in this issue.) The AA kids will accept the status quo, perhaps bitching about it a lot but basically accepting it, and if they don't, the book will get cancelled and they'll fade into oblivion. That's just the way it is these days in Big Two superhero comics. There is no forward momentum, at least none that sticks. So Briggs is the obvious villain even before he shows some of his true colors, and that's just the way it is. It's frustrating, because Gage has to bring this "paradigm shift" theme to a head eventually, and this is it. The book is surviving, at least for one issue past this story arc (maybe it will get swept up into Marvel NOW! and get the ax soon enough, but at least it gets one issue after "Final Exam"!), but if Gage doesn't punk out, there's not a lot left he can do with these kids. Maybe I'm being overly dramatic and pessimistic, but that's the way I see it. Oh well.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Gødland #36 ("Gotterdammeragnahabharata") by Joe Casey (writer), Tom Scioli (artist), Brad Simpson (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $3.99, 50 pgs, FC, Image.

Okay, so this is the penultimate issue of Casey and Scioli's epic, so nothing I say will get you to buy the issue if you're not already getting it, right? That's good, because I don't even know how to describe this issue. Yes, it's 50 pages packed with absolutely staggering Scioli artwork, including 9 double-page spreads that completely earn their double-pagedness (unlike so many we see from DC these days). I honestly don't even know what to say about this issue. Basically, Adam Archer fights R@d-ur Rezz because R@d-ur is an agent of entropy and wants to destroy the universe. He succeeds, but Adam is so powerful that he can reset things. But should he? And what happens if he decides on a slightly different path? It's mind-boggling and beautiful and I'd say it's the best issue of this decade except that Casey has one more issue to go, and I wouldn't count him out to top even this one. Sheesh, this is a great comic book. I hope the final issue will be out before my daughter goes to college in 11 years!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

One totally Airwolf panel:

Hawkeye #1 ("Lucky") by Matt Fraction (writer), David Aja (artist), Matt Hollingsworth (colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

On one level, I enjoyed Hawkeye, and I wish I could only enjoy it one level, because I want to love a second Fraction/Aja book as I much I dig the first, but then there's another level to this book where it completely falls apart. As a simple action/adventure (and single-issue story!), it works pretty well, and Fraction tells the story fairly well, jumping back and forth in time to make a simple story of Clint trying to save the tenants in his building from an evil landlord more complex. I always like it when writers try to tell stories in different ways, and Fraction does a nice job here. As a bit of a primer on Hawkeye and his thing, it's perfectly fine. Aja's gritty-yet-clear linework is suited well for a superhero book about a street-level kind of guy, and he really creates a nice mood for the book and fills it with good details of a dirty-ish city (I don't know if it looks like Bedford-Stuyvesant exactly, but it certainly seems like it could). So it's a breezy kind of read, and that's that.

But then I started thinking about it. Oh, my evil brain. The book is gossamer-thin, liable to dissolve if you touch it a bit too hard, and I really can't help doing that. Let's begin at the end, with Steve Wacker's, um, wacky introduction. His first paragraph exemplifies all that is wrong with modern mainstream comics, in my humble opinion: "This in your hands is the purest, crystallized Marvel Comics of 2015 distilled to its perfected form. Shaped by the cop shows and pop-funk of the 1970s and given a modern sheen thanks to the renowned creative team of Matt Fraction and David Aja." I added the emphasis because that phrase makes me shake my head sadly. Is that something to proud of, that we're cannibalizing older culture instead of striving for something new? I know we always do this, but to proclaim it so baldly and proudly is sad. Every third fucking comic or so is "shaped by the cop shows and pop-funk of the 1970s and given a modern sheen." I'm a bit fucking sick of it. Then, in a paragraph that I hope made Kelly Thompson's head explode (okay, I hope it didn't, because Kelly is boss, but I fear it might have) (Kelly loved the issue, by the way, but she doesn't mention the backmatter), Wacker writes, "By now you've no doubt seen the favorite son of Waverly, Iowa - Hawkeye! - in action amidst the sturm-und-drang of the Avengers movie where he fulfilled the role that refined comics fans have known him to be for decades ... flat-out coolest Marvel super hero around." Look, I know Wacker's job is to promote rather than to, you know, edit, but even that's a bit goofy. But it speaks to the fact that Stan Lee's huckerism is alive and well at Modern Marvel. Good to know!

Let's get back to the book. On pages 1-2 Clint falls out of a building. He falls at least seven floors onto the roof of a car. Now, Fraction does give him a bunch of injuries - a shattered pelvis, three broken ribs, a sprained neck, a cracked fibia, left clavicle, and right ulna - but he's up and walking in six weeks. SIX WEEKS! Okay, it's COMICS!, but even so - if you're going to go through the motions of showing how dangerous Clint's lifestyle is because he doesn't have superpowers, you have to go all the way. Fraction wusses out. Oh well. Then there's the dog. Clint brings a dog into a veterinary clinic after it's been hit by a car. Its injuries are as bad as Clint's, but Clint demands that the doctor fix him. If you've ever read a work of fiction in your life, you know that there is no way that dog is dying. I mean, come on. That dog should be dead. But he's too motherfucking tough, man! (This should be known as the Independence Day Principle, but it probably isn't.) Moving on, I guess someone knows why Clint has 13 million dollars lying around, but that seems to be stretching it. I mean, that's a shitload of money. Is it really 13 million? It seems like it is. Why does Clint have that much money?

You say that I should just let it go and enjoy. Well, for the most part, I did like Hawkeye #1. Shit like this bothers me, though. It feels lazy, as if Fraction didn't put much thought into it. I mean, I can deal with the fact that Clint falls off a building but doesn't get hurt too much. Hell, I've been reading that kind of story for years. But if you're going to go out of the way to injure your hero, don't call attention to the fact that Clint heals really, really fast. I don't know - just ignore me. I'm cranky. This is a nice-looking book, at least. I'll probably get the trade.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Higher Earth #3 by Sam Humphries (writer), Francesco Biagini (artist), Manuel Bracchi (artist), Andrew Crossley (colorist), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Meanwhile, speaking of ridiculous books, Higher Earth continues to zoom along. Last time, Rex and the girl (whose name escapes me) ended up on an Earth where dinosaurs still exist, and now the girl wants to stay there, because it's keen. Humphries has actually put some thought into this series, as Rex explains why she can't stay there, but lucky for us, their idyll is interrupted by that mean dude who started chasing them in issue #1. We find out who he is, and we get a sense of the bigger story behind all of this, but this continues to be a wild action blast with lots of violence. There's a dinosaur attack, two different body parts getting removed (see one below!), and a nice sense of forward motion to the plot. No, it's not the greatest comic in the world. But Humphries appears to be having fun writing it, and Biagini, Bracchi, and Crossley make the whole thing look superb, so that's that. Why not give it a look?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Mind MGMT #3 by Matt Kindt (writer/artist). $3.99, 26 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

I'm not a huge fan of Kindt's cover motif - a giant face every time? - but dang, that's a cool one. The dragons in the hair, the kneeling person bleeding out as the nose and mouth ... good stuff.

Kindt continues his weird adventure, as Meru finds the narrator, who's going to tell her all about "Mind MGMT," while the bad guys are right on her tail. Oh dear. She learns a tiny bit about herself, but presumably the real answers are coming next issue. Kindt seems to be a bit more confident about his colors - some of the watercolors in this book are painfully beautiful - with the light reds and oranges giving the book a slightly nostalgic hue, which is somewhat appropriate, as Meru is leaving her past behind slowly but surely. We still get two other short stories in the book that helps flesh out the world of Mind MGMT, which is always nice. As I've pointed out, Kindt's art is somewhat of an acquired taste, but this book is definitely worth a look if you're in the mood for something a bit weird.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Mind the Gap #3 ("Intimate Strangers Part 3: Jane") by Jim McCann (writer), Rodin Esquejo (artist), Sonia Oback (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 25 pgs, FC, Image.

I have no idea why Esquejo decided to homage The Breakfast Club on this cover. It's very weird.

Speaking of weird, why is this book called "Mind the Gap"? I mean, I know why it's called that, because Elle has a "gap" in her life and it's clever and it allows McCann and Esquejo to use those iconic London Tube signs as chapter markers, but it still seems odd. McCann is not British. This book doesn't take place in Britain. It seems very weird to link the comic with something in London just to seem clever. I don't know, it's like a British writer setting a book in a London prison that allows prisoners to communicate with the outside world via wireless telephones and calling it "The Cell." Or something like that.

McCann continues to spin his little yarn, as Elle tries to communicate with her best friend Jo after she possessed that dude in issues #1-2, and she manages to convince Jo that it's really her. Meanwhile, of course Elle's father is having an affair, and it doesn't look like that will lead to anything good. McCann and Esquejo bring in Elle's "memory wall," which she uses to figure out what happened to her, and McCann drops a significant clue about the whole thing. Like the first two issues, it moves along at a nice clip, with every character getting their say and using those opportunities to say portentous things. I'm a bit confused, though. I just looked at issue #2 (issue #1 is packed away already, so I'm not going to check that out), and it doesn't seem like Elle suffers from memory loss. Suddenly, in this issue, she has a fairly convenient problem with her memory. Did this come up in issue #1? I - ahem - can't remember. If it didn't, that's kind of annoying, because McCann has obviously thought this thing out, and to not mention a lack in her memory until it's convenient is a problem. I mean, I get that she doesn't know what happened to her in the recent past, but she doesn't seem to know much about herself, which is weird. The thing that threw me is the fact that she doesn't know if she knows about sailing - shouldn't that be something she remembers? It kind of took me out of the story, because it felt too contrived, and I was really trying to recall if she mentioned this problem with her memory in issue #1.

I still enjoy this book, because I like a good mystery, but I wonder if McCann is planning on making this an ongoing, because how would that work? I do hope he doesn't stretch this out too long. A good mystery is one thing, but extending it too long will become vexing. Does no one remember Lost?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Mondo #3 (of 3) ("Fustercluck on Venice Beach!") by Ted McKeever (writer/artist). $4.99, 30 pgs, BW, Image/Shadowline.

McKeever's latest epic comes to an end, and it's as insane as the first two issues. It's very hard to describe - there's a giant squid attacking Venice Beach (or is it????), there's a satellite speeding toward the Earth, there's the hot chick with a gun, there's our hero, doing his hero thing, and there are tiny naked monks. Oh, and the giant rooster. You know, for variety. McKeever just turns them loose, with big fights and violence and the ultimate irony and ... you know, it's best if you just get the trade. Mondo is a blast to read, and it features absolutely stunning artwork, with McKeever blending a precise and detailed realism with the craziness of a giant, muscled dude and a curvaceous roller babe (not to mention the tiny naked monks). It's really a wild comic, and it's well worth a look.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Shadow #4 ("The Fire of Creation Part Four") by Garth Ennis (writer), Aaron Campbell (artist), Carlos Lopez (colorist), and Rob Steen (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

It's always nice to be reminded that when Ennis isn't allowed to curse every other word and the characters have to keep their clothes on, he can write a damned good comic. The Shadow isn't a classic, of course, but it's turning into a very good read, filled with little Ennis touches that made me like him in the first place. The panel below is toward the end of Kondo's explanation of the the Shadow's "origin," so to speak, and those pages - the first six of the comic - are amazing, even though it's just some dude talking (well, with artwork, too, but basically just one guy talking). There's no cursing, there's no talk of penises or hummers or felching or cunts or anything, just Ennis telling a gripping story. Then, toward the end, Lamont Cranston, Margo Lane, and the others on the boat find a village that the Japanese have destroyed, and once again, Ennis shows his chops, as Lamont forces Margo to confront the evil they're dealing with. It's really impressive writing, and while the gist of it isn't that unique - I don't know how much he tweaks the Shadow's origin, but it seems like the old one, and it's not too hard to explain that the Japanese and Nazis are doing horrible things - the way Ennis writes the two sections is very impressive. Campbell manages to give us two intense drawings during those sections - a silhouette of Lamont Cranston meting out justice to Shanghai's underworld and a full-page composite of the Shadow hovering over marching Nazis and Japanese - and the art on the rest of the book is quite good, too. It's a very neat issue.

I know that people are raving about Ennis' latest Fury mini-series (which I'll be getting in trade), and I know our buddy Chad loves The Boys, and that's fine. To me, however, Ennis is one of those writers who needs some boundaries, because he often goes off the rails when his id is unleashed. With a licensed character, I'm sure he can't go too nuts, and that makes the writing on this book far more interesting than it's been on other recent stuff of his I've read (which, I'll admit, hasn't been much, because he's disappointed me so much recently). It's also basically an Ennis war story, and Ennis is really good at war stories, so there's that, too.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Think Tank #1 by Matt Hawkins (writer), Rahsan Ekedal (artist), and Troy Peteri (letterer). $3.99, 26 pgs, BW, Image/Top Cow.

I read someone dismissing this comic and Harvest, which also came out this week, as thinly-veiled television pitches, which puzzled me. I mean, sure, you can read it as that, if you so choose, but so what? A lot of comics can be seen as thinly-veiled television pitches, but the only thing that should matter is whether they're good or not. Look, I understand the resentment that some people feel toward television and film people from "outside comics" slumming in the industry because they think they can get their project approved more easily if they already have a screenplay (I'm not saying that's what this comic is, you know - I'm speaking very generally). It's kind of dumb, but I understand it, especially when you get stuff like Jon Favreau's Iron Man book or Damon Lindelof's Hulk/Wolverine book. But again, who cares? If Hawkins wants to turn this into a television show, more power to him. Right now, it's a nifty first issue. Can't we just judge it on that level? I mean, Hawkeye #1 reads like a television pitch - Wacker even alludes to its influences in television in the backmatter - but I imagine in all the gushing over it (and I'm fairly confident there will be gushing), no one will mention derisively that it reads like a thinly-veiled television pitch, even though it feels far more like one than this one does. I just don't get the angry tone some people have when they refer to books like that. Who cares? It's a comic. Read it, like it, hate it, throw it away, whatever. Judge it on its own merits! Wouldn't that be nice?

Phew! Okay, now that the rant is over, I can write about this comic. Hawkins introduces us to David Loren, a slacker genius (just like Val Kilmer!) who works for a think tank that develops weapons but is going through a moral crisis about designing said weapons (just like Val Kilmer, sort of). The book begins with a death and then, I think, flashes back to show, I suppose, how we got to the first couple of pages (I could be completely wrong - the person in the front of the book is never identified, so it could just be a random dude, but I suppose we'll find out if Hawkins never goes back to that moment). David hasn't come up with anything good recently, and his military boss is on his ass. His friend, Manish Pavi, is the only one who can keep him in line, but even he's having trouble now that he's conflicted about designing weapons. He figures out a way to create a machine that reads minds (and turns them into texts on his phone), which he field tests by scoring with a woman at a bar. Of course, the military doesn't look kindly on this, and the issue ends with them surrounding the young lady's house. Oh dear.

It's a nice high concept, and Hawkins does a pretty good job with the characters, even if they slot easily into the archetypes that we expect (wait, the Indian dude is a nervous nellie? quelle surprise! - why, the dude who plays Pindar on Franklin & Bash would be perfect for the role!). In a first issue like this, we don't really read for the characters - we want to get into the high concept, and Hawkins does that quite deftly. For me, the star of the book is Ekedal, who has really become a superb artist. He is very good with characters, both in their facial expressions and their body language, and he draws David as scroungily as possible - it appears he hasn't washed his hair in a while, which fits very well with what we know about his character. Ekedal gray scales his comics very nicely - he's much better in black and white - giving each panel a great deal of nuance and liveliness. His work is nice and fluid, so that everything feels like it's part of the whole rather than elements getting dropped in and manipulated around. It's a beautiful comic, and Ekedal helps take Hawkins' somewhat standard plot and make it far more interesting. The plot itself is fine, but the art makes the book much more interesting.

Hawkins claims in the backmatter that he's in this for the long haul, even though he could be lying and is planning on taking this to FX or AMC as soon as possible. If you're interested in something that feels familiar but is still a pretty good read, I encourage you to go find this. It wouldn't kill you, would it?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

X-Factor #241 ("Breaking Points: Day One") by Peter David (writer), Leonard Kirk (penciler), Matt Milla (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

On the first day of August, 2012, the twelfth issue of X-Factor in 2012 was released to the public. I know you can say that about a lot of Marvel comics, but damn, that's a lot of issues.

Anyway, this has the feeling of a "writer-leaving-the-book" kind of story, except that David never actually leaves a comic book unless the Marvel editors pry it from his cold, dead fingers, so I imagine this will just be a giant shake-up (we can guess that Havok is leaving, because he's on the new X-Vengers book that's coming out) and David will move on with a new direction. That's what he does, man!

In this issue, we check back in with the various weird people that Jamie brought back from all those multiverses he was zipping through a while back. There's Dormammu, Steve "Deathlok" Rogers, and Vanora, that wolf-chick. Long-time evil dude Tryp shows up and tells them it's time to fuck some shit up, and so they put their plan into action. It doesn't go exactly as planned, but it does gum up the works with regard to Monet and Guido, who have a serious falling-out that leads to Guido encountering someone who can't be up to any good. Oh dear. I'm still not sure that I buy this Monet, who seems far more ... well, not exactly nice, but compassionate, I guess, than the one in the past. I know that David has been working hard to make her care about a person's soul so that she can criticize Guido for not having one, but I'm not sure if it's worked. I can't say it's come out of nowhere, because David's been laying the groundwork for a while, but I still don't know if I buy it. Religion in comics is such a weird topic to write about, because these are people who meet gods with stunning regularity, and it's also difficult to get into such esoteric stuff in a funnybook. How does Monet know that Guido would have let Dormammu kill his hostage? Couldn't it have been a clever ploy to throw him off his game, as it in fact did? I suppose David is implying that Monet is overreacting a bit, but her overreaction would work better if I believed more in her beliefs. Oh well. It's certainly not a bad issue, but that part was a bit weird.

Kirk is back on art, and he does a very nice job. I still don't like the way he draws Longshot's hair, but such is life!

Oh, and I'm glad David finally made a Tron joke. And I'm glad Alex didn't get it. That was pretty fun.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Summit of the Gods volume 3 (of 5) by Yumemakura Baku (writer) and Jiro Taniguchi (artist). $25.00, 335 pgs, BW, Fanfare/Ponent Mon.

When I bought the first volume of this, I thought it was the only volume. Then I thought it was two volumes. Now I learn it's five volumes! Will it ever end, or are the creators just adding more stuff to it? Either way, it's a fine adventure about mountain climbing. Maybe one day I'll get to read the whole thing!


It's late July/August, which means there ain't nuthin' going on. My wife and daughter are in Disneyland, and I'm home with my other daughter, and we're having a grand old time. The Olympics are on, and I have, quite literally, zero interest in watching any event whatsoever. I was last a fan of the Olympics in 1984, when my cousins and I were weirdly obsessed with the women's gymnastics team. I was 13, so you can chalk it up to that, I suppose, but I don't recall it being sexual in any way - we just loved watching those young ladies compete. We knew all their names and when they were supposed to compete and what events they were competing in. Call it raging hormones if you must, but that was the last time I followed the Olympics in any meaningful way. No, not even these people can get me to watch them.

And no, I still haven't seen the Batman movie. Maybe next week, after school starts. It's been tough getting a sitter recently - our regular one is pregnant, so she can't lift my older daughter anymore, so we have to wait until after she has the kid in September before she might be able to come around again. The other sitter who we've used before is far too busy these days, so she's out. So no Batman. I'll get around to it!

So let's check out The Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "Boat On The River" - Styx (1979) "Time stands still as I gaze in her waters; she eases me down, touching me gently"12. "Learning To Fly" - Pink Floyd (1987) "A fatal attraction is holding me fast, how can I escape this irresistible grasp?"3. "Let England Shake" - PJ Harvey (2011) "Pack up your troubles, let's head out to the fountain of death"4. "Overfloater" - Soundgarden (1996) "I'm here and now I'm gone; I'm there and far beyond"5. "Midlife Crisis" - Faith No More (1992) "You're perfect, yes, it's true, but without me you're only you" 6. "Queen Of The Savages" - Magnetic Fields (1999) "We live on the fruits of her pillages"27. "You're My Home" - Billy Joel (1973) "Long as I have you by my side, there's a roof above and good walls all around"8. "I Do Not Hook Up" - Kelly Clarkson (2009) "This may not last but this is now"39. "Alaskan Pipeline" - James (2001) "With all my words, I can't find one to help you understand"10. "Prove My Love"4 - Violent Femmes (1982) "Just last night I was reminded of just how bad it had gotten and just how sick I had become"

1 Tommy Shaw on the mandolin and autoharp, and Dennis DeYoung on the motherfucking accordion, wooooooo!

2 I really don't think Stephen Merritt gets enough credit for being a brilliant songwriter. Whenever a Magnetic Fields song comes on my iPod, I'm always blown away by how good he is, even if I've heard the song many times before. Merritt should be a bigger name in popular music, I think. Unless he is and I just don't know it. If so, carry on!

3 As always, feel free to mock. I don't care - I can take it!

4 Giant acoustic bass FTMFW!

No one got the lyrics last week, but they were from "My Philosophy" by Boogie Down Productions. Fine stuff, there! Here are some more Totally Random Lyrics!

"He was a man, just a simple manDied at the place of his birthHis tombstone shared by the familyA silent place on the earth

An old man stands by the side of the graveAnd this man's heart is to heavy to prayFor he is numb with the painOf the love that he couldn't share"

Have fun with that! And have a nice weekend, everyone. Take care of yourselves!

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