Ah, event comics. What would we do without you? Plus: The Dude! Who doesn’t love the Dude?!?!?
To begin, let’s look at the books people suggested and why I may not have picked them up. See below for Bat Lash. I didn’t get Green Lantern Corps because I got Green Lantern, and GLC comes after that. I’ll probably read it this weekend, but won’t review it. I looked around for Poison Elves but didn’t see it, but I’d be interested in reading it just because of the circumstances of its release. I own every issue of Ant-Man, so I skipped the digest. I’ll probably pick up Punisher: War Journal over the weekend, because I read the last issue and enjoyed it, but not enough to start buying it. Elephantmen: War Toys is a comic I would definitely recommend, but I always wait on them because I never know if Richard Starkings will send it to me. That sounds snotty, but it’s true – he’s sent me every issue of Elephantmen so far, but they usually get here a week or so after they’re released. If I don’t see it in a month, I’ll go back and buy it. I like Orson Scott Card, but I’m not that keen on Ultimate Iron Man II. Maybe I’ll check it out. As for DMZ … see below! I bought the first trade of Scalped and liked it, and I’m waiting for the second one (I don’t think it’s come out yet). It’s a pretty cool book, and maybe I’ll read the next issue and talk about it here. I may have to read the new Battlestar Galactica book just to see what’s what, but I didn’t get it in time for this post. MarkAndrew has a low opinion of comic shoppes out here in the desert, and he’s right. I could get The Comics Journal, but I’d have to order it, and I don’t. Meanwhile, I looked briefly for Hate but didn’t see it. If I do, I’ll pick it up. I did not like the only issue of Apocalypse Nerd I read, though, so I’m a bit wary. Wonder Woman and Nexus: The Origin – see below. Thanks, as usual, for all your suggestions. I love being able to read books for free, and I do try to check out all your suggestions!
There’s not really a whole lot that’s terribly unique about the first issue of Bat Lash, but that may or may not work in its favor. If you’re looking for a comfortable Western that doesn’t really fool around with the conventions of the genre too much and features solid art by Severin (who might have a good future in this business – someone should sign him up!), you might want to check this out. My biggest problem with it is that it doesn’t feel original at all. We’ve read this all before. It’s not a bad comic, but it’s just a bland Western. I haven’t read any of Brandvold’s Western novels, but this book doesn’t show any of the nasty wit Aragones shows on Groo. Bat Lash is the kid from the wrong side of the tracks (so to speak), who’s in love with the rich man’s daughter, who wants her to marry the local corrupt sheriff. The evil sheriff is about to hang Bat Lash for fooling around with the girl, but Bat is rescued by Comanches, and of course he’s friends with one of them because he saved the native’s life. The evil landowner not only has a problem with a poor kid like Bat Lash schtupping his daughter, he also wants to take Bat Lash’s family’s land away because, well, he’s an evil landowner. The sheriff decides he can’t marry the daughter because she’s “impure,” but that doesn’t mean he can’t do some raping! That’s where we end, with the evil sheriff about to take some liberties with Dominique. That dastardly bastard! Who will save her? Will anyone save her?
It’s not a bad comic, but it’s somewhat predictable. Maybe it will get better, but for a first issue, it doesn’t really leap off the page.
Boy, that’s a great cover. One of the best of the year, I’d say. Also, I guess there are mild SPOILERS down below, although we know early on what happens. Still, beware.
I read the first few issues of DMZ (up to #5, I think) and decided to drop it, because it didn’t seem that Wood was doing anything all that different from dozens of stories of journalists in war-torn countries that we’ve seen before. After the novelty of this taking place in Manhattan wore off, it didn’t seem all that interesting or novel. Of course, since then, I’ve heard nothing but great things about it, so maybe I’ll have to pick up a trade and check it out, but when I saw that this was a single-issue story, I figured I’d give it another chance. Have a revised my original assessment?
Well, not really. This is a pretty good issue, however. It tells a tale of Kelly, a journalist in the DMZ who ends up dead on the second page. The issue is about her life and Matty Roth’s relationship with her (Roth is the protagonist of the book, in case you’ve never read it). He and Kelly worked together and slept together, and through Matty, we learn about Kelly the journalist and Kelly the person. It’s a well-written issue with very nice Burchielli art (especially the two pages on which Kelly makes a fateful decision after seeing a soldier get his legs blown off), and the idea that Kelly knew she would die in the DMZ and planned ahead allows Matty to make a nice final statement about her, but it still felt somehow ordinary. When I say “well-written,” I mean that Wood does a good job bringing Kelly to life in a few short pages, and her relationships with Matty and the soldiers in the DMZ are sketched very well. But the overall arc – that she’s a complete bitch who cares only about her job, but then regains a bit of her humanity – is well-trod, especially in stories about newsmen in conflict zones (I’m thinking of The Year of Living Dangerously and Welcome to Sarajevo in particular, but could probably come up with others if I thought about it). That doesn’t nullify the power of the story, but it does temper it a bit. In the context of the series, it might work better, but it doesn’t establish the series as a must-buy. I guess I will have to go buy a trade, eh?
The one thing that really confused me about the book is that two-page sequence I mentioned. Kelly sees a soldier get his legs blown off, and it appears that she kind of commits suicide. Is that what happens? The final panel of the sequence remains a bit vague, and seemingly contradicts the fact that Matty was there, as we see in the beginning (unless that’s much later). Does anyone want to explain things to stupid old me?
This is the kind of book I really want to like. It’s by a writer I like and respect for his past (and current) work, and I like the fact that Wood seems to demand that non-American artists get work on big American comics. I just don’t love this comic. Go ahead, tell me how wrong I am.
When I first read this book, I enjoyed it but wasn’t completely sold on it. Now, as I’ve looked through it a bit more, I’m starting to like it more. Churilla’s art is bombastic and dynamic, and a couple of pages are truly spectacular. The end sequence, where the Engineer uses a gigantic pipe organ to travel between dimensions, is wonderful and spooky all at once. The Konstrukt of the title is a device that gives its wielder the ability to “manipulate the very fabric of reality” – that’s kind of handy – which the wielder can then use to defeat the Lahar, an entity that feeds on “the very fabric of space and time” – yes, “the very fabric” is used in consecutive panels on page 1. The Konstrukt has been dismantled, and now the Engineer is trying to bring all the pieces back together. This means he has to go to various alien worlds and retrieve these pieces, many of which are relics honored by the civilizations on these worlds. So they aren’t terribly happy about giving them up. The first part of the book is the Engineer trying to steal one of these components and the difficulty he has, plus it introduces us to the three “ladies” who assist him. These ladies are strange, snakelike beings who think nothing of killing entire planets to achieve their ends. Who they are and what their involvement in the rebuilding of the Konstrukt is not explained yet. The second half of the issue focuses on the Engineer and his home base, as we learn a bit about his assistant, Roland, and his strange relationship with chickens, as well as more about the Engineer’s mission. I’m hoping we learn about the Engineer’s home base, because it appears to be in some 19th-century fishing village. What’s up with that? Anyway, this is an unusual comic that could be very interesting. At least, for the first issue of a mini-series, it’s intriguing. And that ain’t bad.
It’s been brewing for a while, but the Ambrose-as-Jesus metaphor that Willingham has been toying with really comes to the fore in this issue, and signals the beginning of the end game of “The Good Prince.” We are left on pins and needles for the next issue, as we leave the book at the exact moment when we want it to continue. Willingham has become quite good at this without making each ending a momentous cliffhanger. Occasionally the book ends awkwardly, but most of the time, we reach a logical and organic point in the story that leaves us wanting more without forcing it on us. Very neat.
Meanwhile, of course, all sorts of preparations are being made back in Fabletown. One wonders if the long-promised war will actually come. Maybe Ambrose’s actions will divert it. As always, it will be fun to find out.
And, of course, there’s not much to say about it. When the storyline actually ends we can assess it, but for now, it’s another excellent issue. I know, amazing.
This is a stand-alone issue that sets up the next big storyline, which apparently involves a war. Ah, war. It makes the blood race, doesn’t it?
David does an interesting thing with this issue, which is remind us that Lee is actually a teacher. It’s been a while since we were reminded of this – I don’t think we’ve seen this in the IDW series, and in the latter issues of the DC series it was ignored – and it’s nice to see that David still mentions it occasionally. It also makes the nature of Bete Noire more unusual, as the narrator of the issue, a young boy named James, visits it while sleepwalking, and implies that all the inhabitants of the city are actually dreaming their lives there. That link has been implied before, but here it becomes more explicit. Another unusual point is that Lee retains her powers while she’s at her job (which came up in the DC series as well), so perhaps the dreams of the inhabitants of Bete Noire reflect reality. David has continually written clues about the city and its position in the world into the comic, and this issue is another one. The story itself is somewhat standard, as James sleepwalks because his parents fight all the time and he wants to escape, and when he finds himself in Bete Noire he witnesses what appears to be the first salvo in the war that’s coming. Later, James draws his adventure and takes from it the strength to tell his parents how he feels. While the plot of the issue is nothing special, David always gives us interesting characters who learn and grow, and that’s the case here.
Woodward does something neat with the art, too. When we’re in Bete Noire, he alters his style to be slightly more cartoonish, as the faces of the characters become more angular and Lee herself looking more cherubic than usual. He does this because it’s a story James is illustrating, so he draws it in “his” style. The framing story looks more like Woodward’s art in the other issues of the series, and it’s a nice contrast that takes us in and draws us back out of the interior tale. It’s subtle but well done.
One more point about the issue that might be important: the bad guy who attacks Jude and Lee is named Gilles de Rais. De Rais lived in the early fifteenth century and may have been friends with Joan of Arc. In 1440 he was arrested and executed for some horrific crimes, including the murders of dozens if not hundreds of children, leading many historians to view him as a precursor of modern serial killers. Robert Nye wrote a very interesting novel about him, if you’re interested. I’m not sure if this character is supposed to be the historical Gilles de Rais, but knowing David, I have to think it is. This makes the nature of Bete Noire even more interesting – does it exist at all times at once? De Rais will presumably return in this comic, so I’m curious to see what David does with him.
I should probably SPOIL this for you: Sinestro doesn’t win. I know, shocking. More stunning SPOILERS below!
I have been reading a few of the “Sinestro Corps War” issues, and I haven’t been too blown away by them. I mean, it’s not a bad story by any means, but like a lot of the Big Two’s big events, it feels hollow. I haven’t been blown away by “Messiah Complex” either, but I’m a bit more invested in the characters than I am in the Green Lanterns. If you’re more into the GLs than the mutants, you’ll probably like this more. That’s cool. But the only thing this Big Event seems to do in the grand scheme of things is allow the GLs to use lethal force. 11 chapters for that? Obviously, I’ve missed some issues, but in this, the big finale, all the bad guys are defeated but none of them are dealt with permanently. Usually the writers at least pretend something has been decided, but Johns doesn’t even allow us to bask in the GLs’ triumph before pointing out that Sinestro, Cyborg-Supes, SuperBOY, and the Anti-Monitor are all relatively undamaged. I guess I have to commend him for his honesty, but it makes the “defeat” of the Yellow Lanterns largely unfulfilling. 11 issues for that resolution, plus the hardly-original concept that the reason Sinestro could never win was because GLs do feel fear, but they overcome it? Considering that the rings run on willpower, I think we could have figured that one out. The interesting “big” idea to come out of the event is that Sinestro thinks he’s won because the GLs are now killing people. This is his vision, because he believes that to make a happy universal omelet, you really have to bust up some bad eggs. So the GLs “descent” into lethal force is welcomed by Sinestro. Again, I’m not entirely sure we needed 11 issues for that.
There are some minor things that bug me, but they’re mostly nitpicky (and gosh, don’t I just love to do that?). Of course, some minor things made me happy, too. The idea of a Roy G. Biv Corps cracked me up, not because it’s inherently silly, but because such groups as those wielding the Violet or Indigo Lanterns (for “love” and “compassion”) are just as willing to indulge in bloodshed as the Red Lanterns (for “hate”). I guess they’re just defending themselves, but it strikes me as a fundamentally flawed concept. As much as I love Guy Gardner’s evocation of Red Dawn (great 1980s movie, or greatest 1980s movie?), why did he mix his metaphors by putting University of Michigan arm bands on his wolverines? The “Wolverines” of the movie were not from Michigan, after all. Still, a very cool scene, although it would have been funnier if one of them looked sort of like a certain mutant (they could have done it so as to not violate copyrights, right?). I do like that Gardner, of all people, knows the correct usage of “lie” (“I’m not dyin’ lying down,” he says, and usually you see that written as “laying down,” so I was happy to see it). Finally, the end of the book promises that “the dead will rise” in 2009. Wow. How is that any different than any other year? The dead are always rising in DC and Marvel comics!
The last thing to mention is the art. Reis and van Sciver do a pretty good job, and as I mentioned when Wizard named Reis their artist of the year (using a two-page spread from this issue as proof), I’m perfectly fine with their choice. The problem I see is that this art, as pretty as it is, feels sterile to me. Reis and van Sciver both seem to be doing a lot of stuff without photocopying or photoshopping images, which is great, but it doesn’t change the fact that most of the panels, even the most spectacular ones, feel emotionless. It’s as if in their pursuit of “realistic” drawing, Reis and van Sciver have taken all the quirkiness out of their art, and that’s part of what makes comics so entertaining. This looks like it could be a movie because it’s so “realistic.” In comparing this to some of the other artists this week, it’s clear that this is far more pretty and takes a lot of skill (I’m not going to say more skill than the others, but definitely a lot of skill), but it’s lacking the comedic verve of Ben Templesmith, or the grunginess of Paul Azaceta, or the bloodiness of Riccardo Burchielli (we believe Kelly is really dead, while the corpses that pile up in this book don’t make much of an impression), or even the stylistic panel layouts of the Dude. The art in this book is stunning, certainly, but it’s antiseptic, and lacking in any kind of mood. Art should reflect the quirkiness of the artist, and that’s why while I admire the work of the latest group of “wide-screen” artists like Hitch and Reis (whose art resembles Hitch’s quite often in this book), I’m not in love with it. And it’s partly why this book leaves me a bit cold.
Marvel Comics Presents #4 with stories by Marc Guggenheim and Francis Tsai; Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Immonen, and Wade von Grawbadger; Josh Fialkov and Christopher Moeller; and Rich Koslowski and Andrea di Vito. $3.99, Marvel.
Speaking of quirky artist, Stuart Immonen’s ode to Hellcat (written by Kathryn Immonen) comes to a close in this issue, and it’s an inconsequential as I expected it to be, but it looks great. The main story, “Vanguard,” takes yet another unexpected twist, and although I don’t like Tsai’s art as much as Wilkins’, it still works with the tone of the tale. Koslowski’s Weapon Omega story continues to plod along, and although I’m not all that interested in it, at least it’s moving along. Then we get an Outlaw Kid story by Fialkov and Moeller. Fialkov wrote the phenomenal Elk’s Run, and he seems like the kind of writer who could do some interesting things with a Western setting. But I’m a bit puzzled by the story, and this may be because I know nothing about the Outlaw Kid. Fialkov implies that Lance Temple is himself the Outlaw Kid, which would make him kind of schizophrenic (or perhaps suffering from multiple personality disorder, but I’m not sure). Am I reading that right? Also, the story ends with “the end” when it seems to imply further adventures. Or perhaps the point is that we realize that Lance is the Outlaw Kid, and further adventures would be fruitless. Does that sound right? Did anyone read this?
Anyway, it’s nice to see Fialkov joining Koslowski in the anthology. I really do want to see this book succeed, but with its price, I doubt if it will. I know Marvel feels that it must charge 4 bucks for this (someone has to pay Joey Q’s seven-digit salary, after all!), but I wish they could figure out a way to charge less than their regular books. Oh well.
This is a strange comic, as it shifts rapidly from one story to another with little transitional material, plus shows us Nexus in action against what appears to be a completely unrelated target. It’s a big thick comic and might be worth the money for the Dude’s art alone, but it’s not perfect. For Nexus neophytes, it certainly works as an introduction to the character, but it feels oddly disjointed. Baron goes from the story of Nexus’s parents, who meet on a war-torn world and find love even though he’s the general in charge of the evil government forces occupying the planet and she’s the sister of the resistance leader. They escape the world and get sucked into a black hole, which doesn’t seem to have any adverse effects on them nor prohibit them from interacting with the rest of the universe. Little Horatio, who is born when they arrive at a strange destination, has “imaginary” friends only he can see and a power within him that explodes out at inopportune moments. He decides to use this power to execute war criminals. The story shifts to one such execution, and then abruptly moves to Nexus’s base, where his confidante tells his life story to a visiting reporter. There’s a lot going on, but it doesn’t flow very well together. Granted, this book came out in 1992 after the series had been going on for some time, and presumably a lot of the details had been filled in throughout the series. But it’s still odd.
Baron’s heavy-handed political commentary doesn’t help. In 1992, the Cold War paradigm didn’t really work anymore, yet this is steeped in it (Baron could have written it years earlier, I guess, because it does feel like a product of the 1980s). Later we get “Nazis” disrupting a utopian factory, where all the “workers had a piece of the action.” Of course, the damned unions come in, then the “Racial Purity Party,” which is upset because the confounded immigrants will work for less money than the natives. I don’t have any problem with Baron’s positions, although they are hopelessly simplistic, but the way he presents them are so over-the-top that they lose any power they might have. Maybe that’s the point.
The Dude’s art is, of course, the highlight of the issue. Rude has a wonderful clean style, plus he does imaginative things with camera angles to give his work a unique work. If Reis and van Sciver are a three-camera sitcom filmed before a live audience, Rude is cinema verite, jerking the camera around to show us views from high above the action and from the ground to make looming figures even more daunting, and giving us collages of pictures to evoke a symbolic mood, as when a giant boot crushes the factory workers. The Dude also has a great sense of fun – the utopian factory resembles something out of Dr. Seuss. It’s a fantastic book to look at, because you’re always discovering something new and interesting that Rude does.
Baron can do better, but this isn’t it. I would suggest it for the plot, because despite the weird transitions, it reads pretty well, and it gives us a nice overview of Nexus and what he’s all about. And Rude’s art is stellar. If you can get past the boring political commentary, it’s a decent comic. Maybe I should go get the latest Nexus story!
This is a solid ending to a solid thriller that plays out pretty much the way we expect. Nothing really surprises us, which is a shame, because the premise – a man finding out who people are and carving their names into their anonymous headstones – doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with the actual story. It’s a generic crime thriller that uses the fact that John Doe is mysterious tangentially, but doesn’t really concern itself too much with that conceit. Yes, the girl used that to lure him to the graveyard, but she could have done it differently and it still would have worked. Waid is better than this, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him take another crack at this character now that he’s established him. But the story doesn’t really run with a pretty good idea, and that’s too bad. Azaceta’s art is certainly good and gritty, which makes it a nice fit for the subject matter, but there’s one page where it’s a bit confusing – in the factory when the fire starts, someone gets shot – I think – and it’s not clear exactly what happens. We can figure out what happens from the end of the book, but in the moment the art is dark and murky and unclear. Other than that, the art is fine. It’s a bit of a shame that the story doesn’t quite measure up.
Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag #4 (of eight) by John Ostrander, Javier Pina, and Robin Riggs. $2.99, DC.
Waller assembles her new Squad, including that charming-looking gentleman on the cover, and drops a bombshell on Rick Flag. That’s about it, but it’s still an interesting issue, because Ostrander is so good at giving these semi-quiet moments the attention they deserve, and so we get plenty of insight into the characters, especially Waller. But we also get a nice moment where Flag looks at his kid and decides not to tell him who he is because being a Flag brings nothing but pain, Deadshot “bonds” with Captain Boomerang’s kid, and King Faraday attempts to be Waller’s conscience and discovers she tends to ignore her conscience. For a fourth issue of an eight-issue series, it’s not surprising that we get some down time, but there’s still plenty going on that will have an impact on the rest of the series, so it’s a nice read.
Wonder Woman #15 by Gail Simone, Terry Dodson, and Rachel Dodson. $2.99, DC.
This issue is far better than Simone’s first issue, and it gives me hope that she will do some good things with the book. There are still some things that annoy me, but there’s a lot of good stuff here. The four imprisoned bodyguards of Hippolyta are intriguing, and Hippolyta’s response to the invading Nazis is very nice and reminds us that she is, after all, a warrior. Meanwhile, Diana’s fight with Captain Nazi takes a very neat turn when she manages to get the lasso around him. The way Simone shows us Diana getting the truth out of him is nicely done and makes me hopeful that she will continue to examine the pacifist part of Diana’s personality. And the Dodsons, of course, draw it all beautifully.
A couple of things bugged me about the issue, and I’m hoping that Simone addresses them in future issues. Why are the bodyguards so against the Amazons having children? When Alkyone hears that Hippolyta is praying for a kid, she says, “It would destroy us!” But why? She narrates for another two pages but never explains why it would be so wrong. And then, her extreme measures with the woman who makes a doll and treats it like a child are very odd. Why is she so angry? Did I miss something, or is this a new character trait in some of the Amazons? Then, later, Diana beseeches the various pantheons for help against the Nazis who are invading Themyscira. They all reject her because they’re a bunch of wusses, until finally some dreamy Hawaiian god agrees to help her. I don’t mind that, but in order to get his aid, she pledges allegiance to him. I know Diana has had her problems with the Greek Pantheon, but ditching them for some dreamy Hawaiian god seems kind of crass on her part, doesn’t it? I hope this pledge doesn’t come back to bite her in the ass. I know it’s not a big deal, because of the way the gods have treated her, but previous writers since the post-Crisis reboot have stressed her devotion, and it’s strange that Simone would have her switch gods so easily. I’m curious to see what she does with it, though.
After an uneven debut by Simone, this is a pretty darned good comic. It’s always nice to see improvement from one issue to another!
Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse One-Shot by Ben Templesmith. $3.99, IDW.
Templesmith brings back Wormwood for a fun little comic that (I hope) will have something to do with the new mini-series coming out soon, because it’s kind of a strange book on its own. It has the dark humor that the first Wormwood mini-series had, and Templesmith puts himself in the book as a struggling writer penning Wormwood’s biography, which is a very funny bit (especially when “Templesmith” rants about the Eisners), but it feels incomplete. Wormwood sits around in the strip club for the entire issue, discussing royalty checks (from the comic “Templesmith” writes about him, which he thinks is called Wormwood: Dapper Chap), Genghis Khan’s sex life, how much he pays Phoebe, the grotesque new stripper, and other such things. Meanwhile, the pope is worried that it’s the End Times, so he calls the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who are hanging around in a hotel room snorting blow off hookers’ asses (and casually killing them) like Led Zeppelin circa 1973 (okay, maybe not the killing part, but the rest is similar). They don’t want the Apocalypse because they enjoy this world so much. Templesmith mocks emo types as well, but again, not much is going on. It’s a funny read and features Templesmith’s typically stellar art (even though Wormwood doesn’t like it, calling it too “sketchy”), but I’m wondering if there’s something more to it. Oh well. Enjoy for what it is. You could do a lot worse with your money.
X-Factor #26 by Peter David, Scot Eaton, and John Dell with Andrew Hennessy. $2.99, Marvel.
It feels like there’s a lot more going on in this installment of “Messiah Complex” than the previous two, doesn’t it? I mean, X-Force goes back to Alaska to investigate … something. Seriously, why are they there? They don’t really accomplish anything. Do they go back just so Logan and Caliban can get a bead on Cable? That seems to be it. Meanwhile, Predator X kills somebody. I know, shocking. Scott lays a verbal beatdown on Xavier, although that too is confusing. What’s going on? Xavier says he’ll back off, and Scott says that’s not going to happen because of his nature, and he tells Xavier he can’t have the distraction, and Xavier says, “You don’t mean … You can’t be serious” and Scott tells him to back off and let him do his job. What just happened? It seems far more portentous than Xavier just realizing that Scott doesn’t want his help. I mean, Scott has basically told him that for a few issues now. We only see Xavier for one more page and he doesn’t say anything, so I’m not sure what was going on. And Cable fights Deathstrike and she appears to get the best of him.
Of course, since this is X-Factor, the main story concerns Jamie and Layla in the future. They’re trying to figure out what the deal is with the Mutant Relocation Camps, and it’s kind of interesting that David implies that a mutant set them up. That will be a nice mystery to discover. Also, it’s neat that Layla can scan as a normal human or mutant, but we’re not sure if she can do it deliberately. Another nice mystery that David manages to sneak in there, one that can carry over to the book once the crossover is done.
After some exhausting fight issues, it’s nice to slow down a bit and learn some more about what’s going on. That’s always appreciated!
Another decent week in comics. It’s always a good day when a character plays a big pipe organ!
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