(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: BATGIRL #14
HELL PASO: THE STORY OF DALLAS STOUDENMIR Vol.1
IRON MAN #1
GREEN LANTERN #14
Advance Review: EVIL ERNIE: ORIGIN OF EVIL #2
NEW CRUSADERS #3
Advance Review: STEREOTYPICAL FREAKS #1
Opinions Are Like @$$Holes presents DC Universe: Then & Now!
Advance Review: In stores today!
BATGIRL #14Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Ed Benes
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I’ll admit now, my dalliances with Barbara Gordon once she became the wheelie cool Oracle pre-52 was a “just the tip experience.” If Babs helped Bats, I was all over her L33T hacking skills, but as for her soo adventures and time with the other gals of Gotham - not so much. I have no regrets from a canon perspective, but I am woefully heartbroken and mildly embarrassed to have missed so much of the scrumptious Ms. Simone’s musings until this late in my comic collecting career.
I read BATGIRL #1 last year, but I’ll admit my analysis was rushed at best. There were a lot of titles churning out that month and my diligent commitment to broad coverage made me rush through the adventures of the now mobile Barbara. Also, I was carrying the butthurt of change into the reading experience, so no matter how wonderful Babs new life was I was damned and determined to scoff at her miracle of newfound mobility. Yes, even though she was no more than a necessary Google search to me before.
I realized the first error in my choice to shun Babs, inside the pages of BATGIRL 0 2 months ago. Then I had even more egg on my reviewing face with BATGIRL ANNUAL #1. Sweet Jesus what a beautiful tale about a lady Talon and the Frenemy relationship between BATGIRL and CATWOMAN. Finally, I was drawn into the die-cut cover that sat atop BATGIRL 13 heralding the beginning of “Death of the Family.” And even though the story was a wrap-up from the prior arc and had less Joker in it than the premiere of The Dark Knight Red Carpet, I was still moved by the relationships Barbara had formed in her life and fearful at the prospect of Joker once again darkening her doorstep.
When I received this week’s offering of Bat Fam Death, I immediately bragged about my new treasures on Facebook. About an hour later Dan Didio wrote me with the sage advice, “Read BATGIRL 14, you won’t be disappointed.” Despite my new infatuation with Simone and Batgirl, and the ringing endorsement from the EIC, I still went to my safe place inside BATMAN 14. It was great, stupendous even. Alfred is still being held by the Joker, and being subjected to some wonderful torture involving eyeballs and shock treatments. While Bruce and Dick are so fearful of being watched they speak in code even when alone and Harley Quinn becomes more unraveled as each of the Joker’s plans come to fruition.
It was BATGIRL 14 though that delivered the true terror as well as the spark of insight I needed to see what the Joker has in store for this bat-bonanza. Despite this being a new 52, we’re all rolling with the fact that at some point in the last 5-12 years Barbara Gordon was shot by the Joker and spent time paralyzed. The whys and hows have changed (I think), but the terror of the event still haunts Barbara and the rest of the bat-family.
Speaking of family, it seems the Joker has finally found the Bats’ Achilles heel after all these years and it has nothing to do with Bats himself. While putting the lives of those close to superheroes in danger is a staple as old as comics itself (honestly how many silver age swords of Damocles swung over Robin and Lois Lane over the years), “Death of a Family” is making it personal by not only going after friends of the Bat, but their civilian loved ones as well. This twist of strategy for the most twisted villain in comics is what sets Barbara out into the streets of Gotham this issue in search of her dear old ma. There’s another player here in cahoots with the Joker, a man close to the Gordon clan who played a pivotal role in Snyder’s Pre-52 DETECTIVE story. This issue was gruesome and emotionally brutal thanks to Barbara’s internal dialog, but the little twist of Joker’s new little friend took the expected and made it extraordinary.
Ed Benes tore things up this issue, keeping the emotion high and the action even higher. I also think he found a way to make Joker’s strap-on visage even creepier than Capullo’s rendition.
It’s hard to quantify what makes Simone such a breath of fresh air for me, and I fear my reasoning might sound misogynistic, but alas here it goes. She has the ability to write strong female characters with the true voice of womanhood. It’s a voice where relationship is just as important as plot, where each action scene is carefully balanced with nods to how these events make the character feel. In short, women are far more concerned with the why of life over the simple what. And there is simply no better showcase of this talent than when a character is faced with their greatest fear as Barbara was this issue.
By my count I’ve crafted well over 300 comic reviews over the years, now I would like your help. Tell me the essential Simone’s in your opinion and why. I want more and I want the best to help keep my comic budget somewhat constrained. Help me TalkBackers and commenters, you’re my only hope.
It’s hard to quantify what makes Simone such a breath of fresh air for me, and I fear my reasoning might sound misogynistic, but alas here it goes. She has the ability to write strong female characters with the true voice of womanhood. It’s a voice where relationship is just as important as plot, where each action scene is carefully balanced with nods to how these events make the character feel. In short, women are far more concerned with the why of life than the simple what. And there is simply no better showcase of this talent than when a character is faced with their greatest fear.
Optimous has successfully blackmailed fellow @$$Hole BottleImp into being his artist on Average Joe. Look for Imp's forced labor on Optimous brain child in mid-2012 from COM.X. Friend Optimous on FaceBook to get Average Joe updates and because ceiling cat says it's the right thing to do.
HELL PASO: THE STORY OF DALLAS STOUDENMIRE Vol.1Writer: Jamie Portillo
Illustrator: Arturo Delgado Molina, Ricky Martinez, Chris Shehan
Publisher: Jimmy Daze Comics
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty
HELL PASO is described as “historical fiction,” sort of like a modern-day “found footage” type of story, focusing on the town of El Paso, Texas, way back in 1881. That’s long before a salsa company would infect my memories with an advertising jingle that still haunts my subconscious to this day. Speaking of unwanted interlopers, “Crime runs rampant, violence is high, and El Pasoans are scared,” according to the book’s tagline, which leads me to believe they, like I, were subjected to the horrors of Dynamite’s insipid western “homage” to Sergio Leone back in 2009. God, those books were awful. They also soured me on subsequent graphic novels that pillaged the wild west for content, so THE STORY OF DALLAS STOUDENMIRE had its work cut out for it when I decided to give it a looksie.
I’m happy to report I was pleasantly surprised.
Writer Jamie Portillo succeeds (where others have failed) in his storytelling, because he doesn’t put style ahead of substance. The wild west makes a great jumping off point, but if you have nowhere to land, then who cares? I don’t need (or want) a dozen panels of ugly faces or jagged landscapes, or whatever other spaghetti western rip offs find their way into lesser works. Portillo establishes familiar settings but then populates them with characters we care about, simply because he takes the time to flesh them out. I also appreciate his restraint with the body count, because I’m sure in writing a western, the urge to have a gun fight every three pages had to be there. In fact, I don’t believe there was a fatality until the end of issue two, somewhere around the 50 page mark of his series.
I didn’t miss it.
Probably because I was too busy soaking up the scenery, beautifully illustrated by Arturo Delgado Molina, the same guy who hit one out of the park with THE RAILROAD KILLER. He’s in similar form for HELL PASO, as is Ricky Martinez, and I always mark out for the latter’s facial expressions, which sometimes border on ridiculous, but dammit he makes them work. That pretty much sums up this entire collection. You won’t find anything you haven’t seen before, but the formula works because it’s well-executed and handled with care. You don’t need to be a western buff to enjoy this (it also doesn’t hurt), you just need to be a fan of good storytelling. DALLAS STOUDENMIRE may have cleaned up the Texas border, but Portillo and Co. cleaned up an entire genre. It’s about freakin’ time.
Web heads who can’t get enough of Mr. Pasty’s word vomit are encouraged to watch him operate as Nostradumbass over at MMaMania.com here. Love, hate and Mafia Wars requests should be directed here.
IRON MAN #1Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Greg Land
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Mighty Mouth
Marvel Now! Has officially commenced and another comic book takes its place in the line of newly re-launched titles. The armored avenger IRON MAN has transitioned to this movement with the simply but aptly titled IRON MAN.
Before I go any further let me just say that I am not a huge fan of the whole re-launch stratagem. DC comics recently pulled this stunt with the New 52 and at the onset it had a positive impact. However, a year later with the glitz and glamor of the moment slowly fading away, it becomes evident that many of these titles are not faring as well as DC had hoped for. Marvel may be able to dodge this bullet by not actually re-booting these characters, still the idea of re-numbering issues back to #1 feels more like a marketing ploy than a necessity.
I guess that’s my problem with issue #1 of IRON MAN. It’s not that it’s a bad read, it’s not. It just fails to provide any real validation for re-starting the title. Much of the feel of the book is very similar to recent issues and that in itself is okay I guess. Tony Stark is still a Womanizing-billionaire-playboy (I’m cool with that). He suits up as IRON MAN to stop bad guys from doing unscrupulous things (yep that’s what IRON MAN does). Wait, he does debut a new Iron Man armor; maybe that’s what’s different.
Gillen handles the writing well enough for this first issue. He seems to have no problem distinguishing Tony Stark’s public persona from the Tony Stark who wears the armor suit, and I enjoy the way Gillen works with the dialog in this story, clearly that’s his strength as a writer. The plot is where we get into a little bit of a quandary. Someone has gotten their hands on the Extremis technology and is planning on profiting on newly created super soldiers. Not a terrible plot really, but for a first issue in a new direction, I was hoping form something a little more…I dunno original.
Greg Land’s artwork is always 50/50 for me. We all know Land can draw an incredibly sexy looking female; unfortunately his talents seem to be a little more limited when drawling males. The only real criticism I have of Land’s female interpretations is that he makes it so blatantly obvious that his source material comes from the pages of the Victoria Secret Catalog. I mean women don’t typically stand around striking sensual modeling poses while fulfilling typical everyday task (Although I am all for a move in this direction ladies). As for male characters, Land is hit or miss. In some panels Tony looks very charismatic, and in others he appears straight-up-fugly. Maybe it IS his money that keeps the ladies attentive after all. Still, the book could do a lot worse for sure and I was pleased with the look of the newest IRON MAN armor. Another thing that brought some admiration to these pages is the vibrant coloring delivered by Guru eFX, the colors really made the panels pop with intensity.
As far as first issues go, IRON MAN #1 isn’t a total failure. There are some fun moments and the story could develop into something bigger over the next few issues. It’s just a shame that with all the hype surrounding Marvel Now, there wasn’t more of an effort to take advantage of the renewed success that the character has been enjoying thanks to the recent Marvel movies.
Not bad, but unequivocally not revolutionary.
FREELANCERS #1Writer: Ian Brill
Art: Joshua Covey
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
Meet Actual Hit-Girl(s)
As Marvel continues to reveal information and tidbits about their upcoming titles, one especially stood out, what at least sounds to me as the Marvel equivalent of BIRDS OF PREY; FEARLESS DEFENDERS, centering on Valkyrie assembling a team of female heroes from across the Marvel Universe. It’s a great idea, and I was just thinking how I wish there were more female oriented action titles in comics, when I stumbled across FREELANCERS. An incredibly fun and exciting title, this comic is well worth a read.
Writing: (5/5) First issues are always difficult attempts. They have to appeal to a fickle audience while also introducing their world. Brill does an incredible job with this, following Val and Cassie’s argument over integrity while they drive around and kick scores of ass. Brill juggles the two well, with action beats that are incredibly fun and character moments that draw the reader further in. Brill knows how to write a good first issue, deftly setting up the setting, cast, and action with ease. Beyond just Cassie and Val (who manage to be more than just cool realist partnered with the loose cannon), Brill creates and fleshes out a surprisingly large supporting cast in just a few pages. Beyond our two heroines, there’s the ace rival, the protective boss, and the sympathetic secretary. All of them only have a few pages each, but enough is established that the world of Freelancers is already clear and vivid. Val’s recklessness doesn’t always endear her to the more cautious Cassie, and the two bicker in a way only old best friends can. But the pair play off one another well, and have distinct personalities and motivations. It’s an extremely fun pair, and manage to carry a break neck plot well. The book is funny and action packed, and makes the reader immediately want so see what happens next.The back up story, written by Mack Gagnon fills out some of the background of the pair, and it’s likewise very well done. From Val’s brashness to Cassie’s stubbornness, there’s an honest sense of consistency between the two stories. While each woman has grown and evolved over time from those early days of the dojo/orphanage where they met, they’re still clearly those same people.
Art: (5/5) Both art teams in this book are wonderfully suited for the story they’re telling. Covey has a great sense of style, with each character being just cartoony enough to be deeply expressive while controlled enough to produce a well choreographed action beat. The characters all stand out well, if they can sometimes be a little middle. The colour team compliments it so well, it’s kind of frightening. It’s bold, bright, and very clear, actually feeling reminiscent of Archie comics at times. It all looks good, and very consistent.
The backup story, a much more manga inspired endeavor, is likewise very good. The facial cues are beautiful, to the point where you wouldn’t need a dialogue to tell what’s going on. Their quick action beats are, like the first half, very well done. And the color job is very very very good, shifting from bright to subtle looks when called for.
Best Moment: The fact that Brill only has to spend one page on the pairs origins, and it’s more clear then some six issue origin stories I’ve read.
Worst Moment: Some of the main art can become muddled, but it’s more than made up for.
Overall: (5/5) A wonderful first issue for a new series. I’m excited as all hell for the next part.
Advance Review: In stores today!
EVIL ERNIE: ORIGIN OF EVIL #2Writer: Jesse Blaze Snider
Art: Jason Craig
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Issue two of the reboot of the EVIL ERNIE property goes deeper into the dark with more info on what exactly Ernie's power is, some limitations on that power, and more from my favorite part of the book, Smiley, Ernie's talking smiley face pin.
Having read Evil Ernie from the beginning waaaaay back when, it's interesting to see this one deviate from the old mythos, while retaining everything that made the character cool in the first place. Writer Jesse Blaze Snider has to retell the origin here since Ernie has been out of the spotlight for so long and that could be a tedious job, but he is adding things here and there like Ernie's ability to see the sins of people literally branded on their foreheads and more importantly a limit to his power, which make the read interesting for those in the know about the character already.
Without the presence of Lady Death in this series, the motivation behind Ernie's bloodlust has to be rejiggered. Here Snider makes this story more about redemption and the lust for power than anything else, with Ernie's power feeling damn good to let loose, but that comes with a price, as the power is limted. The redemption comes in the form of Ernie's abusive father as he is the final victim in Ernie's goal of 666 souls to be perished. Is this goal something his twisted psyche brought up? Or is there some kind of higher (or lower) power at work here? That's not revealed here, but the ride is fun nevertheless.
Jason Craig had a strong first issue, but some of the perspectives in that issue were somewhat warped and twisted, as if his panels had to be manipulated in photophop in order to fit into the page. In this issue, I didn't see as many of those manipulations and Craig's art is stronger for it. The leap in artistry from issue one to this one has me looking forward to what the artist has in store for us in issue #3.
Fans of the original EVIL ERNIE should definitely check this series out. In that series, Ernie was a sympathetic baddie you couldn't help but root for, and even without Lady Death to titilate, he is the same here. Craig's visuals and some new twists to the mythos, makes this reboot of an old character seem fresh despite the fact that the main character is a decaying corpse.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over eleven years & AICN HORROR for two. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be available on iTunes and soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK last year from Zenescope Entertainment & look for his exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81 released August-December 2012. Mark will be writing GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES to be released in February-June 2013. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
GREEN LANTERN #14Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Doug Mahnke
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: The Writing Rambler
I took two things from my reading of GREEN LANTERN 14. The first is that the new earth lantern, Simon Baz is being cemented as a solid addition to the GREEN LANTERN universe and second, Superman was kind of a being a dick. I'll get to that second thought in a few moments. Overall, this issue further makes Baz a character you want to root for and it's only drawback is that it continues to advance his story while leaving the "rise of the third army" event on the back burner for the majority of the issue.
I will still give credit to Johns and company though, as It would be pretty easy for this story to go off the rails with so much currently happening (Baz's character development and his run in with the Justice League, Hal and Sinestro's adventures in the afterlife and the third army destroying parts of the universe to name a few). You really have to appreciate the way Johns keeps the story interesting even if there hasn't been too much happening for the large event that "rise of the third army" is supposed to be. The main thing this book does right more than anything is make us like Simon Baz. Still on the run as an accused terrorist, Baz is now in possession of Sinestro's old ring and is face to face with the big guns of the Justice League who want to know both who he is and where Hal Jordan has gone. This is where the issue shines as his back and forth with the League is not only funny but also shows us how genuine of a person Baz really is at his core.
This run in with the League also brought me to my second observation, that Superman was being a dick. It's really only one moment so beautifully captured by Mahnke's artwork but the smirk that Superman gives to Wonder Woman when Baz is generally intimidated by the man of steel is one of the douchiest faces I have seen in recent memory. He comes of like a cocky captain of a high school football team. It actually makes me think that between this moment and Superman actively pursing Wonder Woman in the pages of Justice League that Geoff Johns (writer of both books) is trying to break down the all American Boy Scout image of Superman, possibly vaulting other characters into DCs "poster boy status" such as Batman or Green Lantern (but that's probably just my love of crazy conspiracy theories talking).
Conspiracy theories aside, there is a lot to love with GREEN LANTERN 14 and GREEN LANTERN in general nowadays. Since the relaunch of the DCU over a year ago it has been arguably the most consistent and enjoyable title DC has produced and I can't see that track record ending any time soon.
You can follow The Writing Rambler on his blog here and follow on Twitter @Writing_Rambler !
NEW CRUSADERS #3Writer: Ian Flynn
Penciler: Ben Bates
Published by: Red Circle/ Archie Comics
Reviewed by: BottleImp
The first two issues hooked me, and now the third issue is reeling me in. NEW CRUSADERS is quickly becoming one of my favorite comic books to grace the stands. This latest reboot of the classic Archie line of superheroes (the Shield, the Fly, etc.) is pushing all the right buttons—the buttons that were missed by the previous attempts at modernizing these characters—and crafting a genuinely entertaining story that honors the legacy of the source material while still feeling exciting and new. What’s remarkable is that as of this issue, these titular New Crusaders have yet to don costumes, fight supervillains, or even demonstrate their powers and abilities. Ian Flynn, instead of dropping the reader right into an obligatory fight scene, is carefully crafting the development of this young generation of heroes. Instead of simply popping on a spandex suit, there is an actual sense that these superhero mantles need to be attained, and in a way that is not without difficulty. Heck, in this issue only one teenager seems ready to fight the good fight; another chooses to leave the group, a second is traumatized by the path she must take to earn the Jaguar’s power, and two more are rendered comatose by the experimental concoctions that are supposed to grant them their powers. The end result of Flynn’s style of storytelling is an amazing mixture of classic four-color adventure and a touch of that teenage angst—the same combination that made Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man the cultural zeitgeist that it was.
A great deal of the dynamic energy that NEW CRUSADERS displays comes from its visuals. Ben Bates provides the perfect complement to the writing with his drawing style, giving the pages an easy readability and vibrancy that makes the panels seem almost like an animated cartoon rather than static images. One of my favorite moments in this issue is when Ivette Velez, the heiress to the Jaguar name, is thrust into another dimension to face the jaguar god Ai Apaec. The shot of a fifty-foot cat-man towering over the cowering girl is an excellent summation of the sort of over-the-top, classic comic storytelling to be found in this series.
Classic comic storytelling—that’s really what NEW CRUSADERS is all about. We live in a time when the majority of superhero comics are written for an aging fan base. The storylines are darker, the continuities are more convoluted, and writers are rehashing old plotlines and characters from the 1980s—i.e., from when they themselves and the majority of today’s thirty-something readers first discovered the comic book rack at the local newsstand. I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate comics meant for a mature audience; there are certainly fine examples of intelligently-written, beautifully-drawn books for adult readers that are a credit to the medium. But in favoring an older demographic for their publications, comic companies have lost the younger generation of what may have been comic book fans. Most comics that are geared towards younger readers tend to be more “kiddie” in nature—a matter of going too saccharine and losing any sense of excitement. Where are the comics that recapture that sense of wonder and drama that made SPIDER-MAN and all those other Marvel comics of the 1960s, ‘70s and even ‘80s such a treat for readers of all ages?
NEW CRUSADERS is one of those comics. Get on board now—or better yet, get your kids on board—and enjoy the sense of wonder and fun that makes comic books worth reading.
When released from his bottle, the Imp transforms into Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from New England. He's currently hard at work interpreting fellow @$$Hole Optimous Douche's brainwaves and transforming them into pretty pictures on AVERAGE JOE, an original graphic novel to be published by Com.x. You can see some of his artwork here.
POPEYE #7Writer/Artist: Roger Langridge
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: The Dean
I really don’t know how it’d be possible to give POPEYE #7 a bad review, unless maybe you picked it up expecting a deconstruction of Popeye, or perhaps a Pre-Raphaelite interpretation of the sailor. I know next to nothing about Popeye outside a handful of cartoons I’ve seen, or the Robin Williams movie that terrified me as a kid, but I decided to give this a shot for one pretty simple reason: Roger Langridge. The man is money in the bank as far as I’m concerned, and I’m sure fans of Langridge, Popeye, or really fun comics will be thoroughly pleased with the charming as heck stories in POPEYE #7.
What might be most impressive about his work on this new POPEYE series is Langrdge’s ability to mimic creator EC Segar’s style in a way that’s easily recognizable, but still fresh, and uniquely his own. Where this becomes a clear showcase of his talents as an artist are less in the design, and more in the page and panel composition. Timing is everything in comedy, and Langridge proves time and time again that he’s a master when it comes to comic comedy…comedy comicry…comic…whatever. One of the greatest contributions to the POPEYE #7 experience though is the colors from Luke McDonnell. Colorist is a pretty thankless job most of the time, but the vibrancy of these pages is invigorating, and McDonnell deserves acclaim for the stimulating effect this artwork has. I wound up reading this one digitally, and I don’t know that I’ve ever really recommended digital over print before, but it’s pretty easy for me to tell you that if you have access to a tablet or e-reader, McDonnell’s colors on a high resolution screen is definitely the best way to take this in.
There are two stories in POPEYE #7, and it’s pretty hard to pick a favorite between the main, Popeye-centric feature, and the Sappo backup story, but if I have to choose, I’d pick the main story simply because it has a character in it named Ham Gravy! This guy may be old news to longtime Popeye fans, but he’s new to me, and I laughed every time I saw the name. He’s trying to win back his ex-girlfriend Olive Oyl here, and is doing everything he can to show up Popeye, until forced to work with him to take down the Desert Yeti. There isn’t a gag here that didn’t work for me, and the ending is a pretty clever twist that manages to squeeze in one last laugh, and I quickly went back to download issue one for more.
I suppose if there’s one complain I’d have about POPEYE, it’s that the titular hero can be a bit tough to understand sometimes. It manages to be pretty funny most of the time (it took a while to figure out he was trying to say “magnanimous” at one point, but the comedic payoff was worth it), but you could easily argue that lines like “I yam actin’ nonch’lunt on account of I don’t wan’er kill ya wit’ me fisks” take a couple of reads to get right in the proper Popeye dialect, and it can slowdown the flow of the story at times. I can’t think of a better way to write his unique speech though, and this is easily nitpicking in what is a complete blast to read.
This is, of course, a family friendly series, but Langridge is a clever enough writer that adults should have at least as much fun with this if not more. You might pretend this is for your niece or nephew on your first buy, but it shouldn’t take long to shed that “guilty pleasure” stigma, as there’s no shame in enjoying a great comic, and simply put, that’s what POPEYE is.
DEADPOOL #1Writer(s): Gerry Duggan & Brian Posehn
Artist: Tony Moore
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee
Deadpool, as a character and a comic, has always been a hit or miss proposition for me. Obviously, like almost everything in this world, it comes down to writing. There is a certain tone and use to my Deadpool that gets me to the point where I buy a book he is in. It’s all in the balancing act; I like my Deadpool as shticky and motor-mouthy as anyone, but if he’s in a team book I like these to come a little less frequently; more as the ice-breaker given the situations on-going, though to be fair I don’t think I really like Deadpool in team books anyway. And in solo books, let’s just be real here, it’s pretty much impossible to top what Joe Kelly, Christopher Priest, and Gail Simone approaches to the book and character, to the point where I have not been buying much DEADPOOL since those runs (not to mention the absolute DELUGE of titles in the interim since then has left me pretty overwhelmed and cold). All that is in the past though! New title time! Things are getting streamlined! Funny geek-and-metal-centric comedian guy, Dude who wrote THE INFINITE HORIZON! What do you have for us!?
We definitely have shtick, that’s for certain. Lots of punnery too and let’s throw a zany in while we’re at it. If anything, I applaud this opening, as it spared no expense a basically throwing plot at the wall and seeing what stuck. What we (mostly) ended up with are the Walking (and Floating and Wheel chairing) Dead Presidents raising hell and otherwise being the highlight of the best gags this opening issue held in its pages. I really enjoyed the B-grade menacing the Undead Presidents commanded; I could practically hear cheesy EVIL DEAD like notes playing every time any one of them struck a defiant pose and shot some lightning out or went ramming speed with their wheelchair. Most of the best material runs through them from one-off jokes and sight gags and so on to the Merc With a Mouths’ interaction with them. Abe Lincoln getting to put two in Deadpool’s head and give an “Always wanted to do that” is just about the perfect example of how this book played out when it was working at its normal steam.
Unfortunately, there were also a lot of run-off jokes that come with this and they happened enough that the bad puns and failed one-offs just piled up and I feel the book lost its luster when I went through it again to solidify how much I really enjoyed it. Given one read through you don’t really notice them, there’s just so much material getting thrown around. Go again though and some of the “eh” level puns become more “ugh” level puns and I wonder if that might get tiresome with a few more issues. I’d say for every joke-and-a-half that really worked there was an “I’m your Dingleberry” that just kind of stopped me cold. Obviously they’re not all going to be winners but I think most my enjoyment came from the ongoing events not the spoken words and that could be a problem going forward since that’s kind of what Wade Wilson does. The good outweighs the bad for now but I think a little reservation may be in order.
While waiting for the writing to (hopefully) hit its stride, there’s no need to wait on Tony Moore’s art; it’s as fantastic as ever. Visual nuance is just as important as the tone of the jokes and he kills it here. It’s the little things, like how during a part where DP slices his way out of a lizard monster that has almost a stuffed animal like cuteness to it to contrast with the insane gore of the moment. It’s just one page but that flourish helps make a joke where there isn’t exactly one. Hopefully this will make things a lot smoother as the jokes get a bit heartier and more consistent like I have firm belief they will. Given my experience with Posehn and Duggan I don’t think it is a matter of talent but experience since, looking around, there does not seem to be a lot of comic book script work between the two. Basically, a couple kinks to be worked out here, a couple more off-the-wall plot concepts there, and some more spectacular Tony Moore art and I think this will be the DEADPOOL book I’ve been wanting for a good half decade now. Oh, and yellow word boxes! Don’t be afraid to bust out the yellow word boxes gents! That’d be aces. Cheers.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
Advance Review: In stores today!
THE STEREOTYPICAL FREAKS #1Writer: Howard Shapiro
Artist: Joe Pekar
Publisher: Animal Media Group
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
THE STEREOTYPICAL FREAKS is ironically anything but a stereotypical comic and the four protagonists are anything but freaks. However, as we mature within the meat grinder that is the public High School education system, at one time even the most glorious and grand of us are made to feel like a freak. Being ostracized is part of the American maturation process, but so is the inevitable finding of self and then eventually kindred souls. Howard Shapiro has deftly put this maturation process on paper in the STEREOTYPICAL FREAKS without it ever feeling forced or rushing the point.
Music is at the theme for this tale of four High School students coming together to WOW the world in a Battle of the Bands contest, but the soul of the book lies firmly embedded in the seemingly unnatural rapid maturation that we’re all forced into during our Senior year of High School. Tom, Dan, Jacobey and Mark are all about to make their way into the world and what struck me most about the introduction to these four students, was that despite their differences, Shapiro didn’t need to go blue with any of their personalities. Yes one is a brain, one is a jock, one a bit lazy, and the other a bit weird, but not one of them is a bad kid. Nowhere are we faced with the trite attributes found in most youth culture fiction. No teen pregnancy, no drug abuse, none of the sensationalism that permeates media headlines. Were we to rely on the media, we would think all youth is damned and so is society. That’s simply not the case. As college admissions continue to skyrocket each year I think the STEREOTYPICAL FREAKS are more common than the little shits CNN uses to grab headlines.
And don’t think being good equates to vanilla. It’s that kind of thinking that perpetuates reality TV and makes little fuck bags like Honey Boo Boo and her “clan of the damned” TV sensations. Tom our lead protagonist pines for the girl of his dreams while trying to keep his 4.0 grade point average up. His doughy friend Dan simply wants to establish a relationship with is distant father. Mark, a former friend of Tom’s until Junior High stratified the jocks from the brains is doing his damndest to get a Football scholarship to college. And finally Jacobey is a new foreign exchange student who is simply trying to find a friend.
While music brings the boys together, the book is much more than the harmony they find to win the battle of the bands. Like music, the song of life has many different parts. It requires those with a steady tempo, those who with a chaotic melody to share and finally those who sadly deliver the sweet, trialing, away finale to the song. Shapiro misses none of these essential beats.
The art is indie fair. That’s not a bad thing, but don’t come into FREAKS looking for big splash pages or hyper-detailed work. WALKING DEAD has proved B&W is alive and well, but the lack of inking in FREAKS did leave the art feeling flatter than the shuffling undead. Again, I get it. In the indie game, especially with a book as long as FREAKS, sacrifices must be made so the book can be done in a somewhat timely manner. Artist Pekar does a serviceable job with the straight pencil work, but even here I saw some definite areas were fine tuning could help him grow, interactions with environments and between characters is harsh. The world doesn’t mesh together - it’s a meeting of lines instead of a melding. The panel flow is spot on and tells a cohesive narrative, but sadly it’s uninteresting. I saw some definite areas where a slight shift of point of view in a scene would have helped the talking head scenes move much faster.
I enjoyed this tale of ordinary kids faced with the beginning, and in one instance the end of life, mainly because it wasn’t afraid to be real. This is a deeply personal work, from the Arena and Prog rock suggestions to accompany each chapter, to the voluminous dedication roster at the beginning of the book Shapiro gave his all to this tale. At the end of the day, even if a book has flaws, true dedication and heart will prevail.
Ok, here is my final Post-Crisis / New 52 piece- I swear! As you all probably know, DC re-invented their universe in one month back in 2011: the New 52! In 1986, after the CRISIS ON THE INFINITE EARTHS, DC re-invented their universe as well, but it took them close to four years to complete it all- and it also didn’t have the ‘sexy’ marketing term ‘New 52’. The term ‘Post-Crisis’ pretty much came from the readers, as a way to define the before and after of the reboot. In the past weeks I’ve talked about the Justice League, Superman, and Wonder Woman, now let’s look and the rest of them. I’m sure I won’t get all of them, so if I skipped your favorite characters I apologize in advance. And make sure to call me out in the talkback!
So as characters like Superman and Wonder Woman underwent huge changes in the two reboots, not so much for the Dark Knight of the DC Trinity, Batman. To a small degree, Batman was also the first character to get rebooted in 1986, with BATMAN: THE DARKKNIGHT RETURNS. Mind you, it was just a possible future story by comic star Frank Miller- who was about to become a superstar. So while nothing was really rebooted, it did change the tone of how Batman would be handled from now on. Actually rewrites would happen in BATMAN: YEAR ONE, where Miller rewrote Batman’s origin in this new grittier style with artist Dave Mazzucchelli. Unlike the New 52, Bats’86 never got a new #1 issue as both BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS continued with their usual numbering and Year One wasn’t even a mini-series, just a story arc in BATMAN comics (#404-407). Probably the biggest change was that Alfred was now employed by Bruce Wayne’s parents and raised him after they died. Pre-Crisis, Alfred was hired by Bruce after he and Dick had already become Batman and Robin. And in an odd repeat, it’s Alfred’s history which is changed again in the New 52. Writer Scott Snyder has Alfred’s father, Jarvis, being employed by the Wayne’s when Bruce was born and Alfred takes over after his father’s death. Just before the Wayne’s themselves are killed. It’s assumed that since Batman sold so well before both reboots, DC wasn’t looking to make too many changes.
Connected to Batman is Robin, of course. Before the Post-Crisis, Dick Grayson had become Nightwing and his virtual clone, Robin II (another circus acrobat, whose parents were murdered by Killer Croc) was Jason Todd. Since Frank Miller wasn’t coming on to the regular Batman books, DC hired Max Collins to continue Batman’s soft reboot. Nightwing was in the Teen Titans, so Collins rebooted Jason Todd- into a streetwise punk whose father was killed by Two-Face. This didn’t go to well as Collins quit in less than a year and Jason was killed by the fans in two; in that infamous 1-900 phone vote. In the New 52, again DC wanted a soft reboot as well. But by now there were four Robins: Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and Damien Wayne. And it seems DC is still trying to figure out how Batman managed four Robins in five years (!) including one that is his son. Jason’s origin gets played with again, as his father was now killed in prison. Tim Drake’s parents are both alive now and in witness protection. Tim also got a weird reboot in that he was never Robin now, just Red Robin. Dick and Damien were barely touched in the reboot, again sales were good.
Another character barely touched by both the Post-Crisis and New 52 is Green Lantern. Hal Jordan didn’t even get his Post-Crisis reboot until 1989! Initially they just renamed his comic book to THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS. You see the Guardians (and some honeys) decided to leave our universe and left the Corps behind. Several members then decided to relocate on Earth, hence the new title, but no #1 issue. This lasted for a few years before the real reboot, in GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD DAWN by Keith Giffen and artist Mark Bright (Note that James Owsley wrote the first issue and Gerard Jones assisted Keith). Gerard Jones would go on to write the regular book. Probably the biggest change in Green Lantern’89 was Sinestro. Originally introduced as a villain, Sinestro was now seen before he went rogue and even helped train Hal Jordan. They also added the twist that Hal Jordan’s father was a test pilot as well and died in a crash in front of Hal. When the regular book started with a new #1, just like the New 52, we jumped forward in time to keep the other successful Earth Green Lanterns around: John Stewart and Guy Gardner, late Kyle Rayner. Actually they jumped so far ahead they grayed Hal Jordan temples. Before the New 52, writer Geoff Johns and artist Ivan Reis and Doug Mahnke had already been retooling Green Lantern. Most of the changes happened before the New 52: redefining the color yellow weakness and the whole emotion color corps. One possible reboot of GL’11 is whether or not Hal Jordon still died and became the Spectre after his Parallax incident. So Post-Crisis was a soft reboot and New 52 was business as usual for Green Lantern.
Aquaman had a bigger Post-Crisis reboot, but then business as usual in the New 52. Writer Geoff Johns and artist Ivan Reis had already rebooted Aquaman in the BRIGHTEST DAY. They pretty much returned him to his Pre-Crisis self. In those days Aquaman was the son of a light house keeper and a Princess of Atlantis, but no more after Keith Giffen and Curt Swan’s THE LEGEND OF AQUAMAN in 1989. Now Aquaman was raised by dolphins and eventually adopted by lighthouse keeper Tom Curry. He was more of an outsider and loner than before. Aquaman’s new series though was short lived and it wasn’t until 1993 when writer Peter David and artist Kirk Jarvinen created AQUAMAN: TIME AND TIDE, did the Post-Crisis Aquaman become successful. Building of Giffen’s work, Aquaman was now the son of an Atlantian Princess and Atlan, a sorcerer, and we learned his birth name, Orin. His ability to command sea life changed to an ability to communicate with them and often get them to do what he wanted. This would all lead to his hand being chew of by piranhas and getting his infamous hooked hand. His villain Ocean Master, who was originally his half-brother from his lighthouse keeper dad, now had to be the son of the sorcerer as well- so they could stay half-brothers. While we have yet to see Ocean Master in the New 52, we do know that Aquaman is again the son of a light house keeper and an Atlantian Princess, with full command over sea life and two hands. Since this all took place before the New 52, the new series is just continuing with that set-up. In the Post-Crisis, they moved ahead in time from THE LEGEND OF AQUAMAN to the news series, giving space for things like Aqualad, his wife Mera and their ill-fated son to happen. And although the New 52 is supposed to have five years of history before it, we have yet to see Aqualad or his son. As mentioned earlier, Aqua’89 was cancelled after five issues, in contrasted to Aqua’11 being a hit from the get-go.
The Flash on the other hand has had the most interesting reboots. In 1987 DC didn’t reboot the Flash they simply replaced him. The Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen had died (like Wonder Woman) in the CRISIS ON THE INFINITE EARTHS. But instead of creating a new Barry Allen for the new series, Writer Mike Baron and artist Jackson Guice upgraded Kid Flash, Wally West, to become the Flash. As a result not much of anything changed about Wally. They did weaken him for a while, saying he couldn’t run much faster than the speed of sound, but after a few years he was back to breaking the time barrier. In 2011 Barry Allen was back to being the Flash. Although this happened before the New 52, in Geoff Johns’ FLASH: REBIRTH. Another change was Barry Allen’s mother was now dead, supposedly killed by his dad. So, in the New 52, itself, not much has change for Barry. Writer/artist Francis Manapul has been mostly rebooting his villains. There is one slight change to Barry that has huge ramification to Wally though. Like many other characters in the New 52, Barry has become much younger and has never had a sidekick. Strange considering Batman kept all four of his. So this means Wally West was never Kid Flash, and not only that, he was yet to appear at all in the New 52! So while the Post-Crisis started with a dead Barry Allen, the New 52 started with a non-existent Wally, each taking the other guys place as the Flash.
So what about the rest of Wally’s buddies in the Teen Titans? Before the Crisis, the Teen Titans had a relaunch as Marv Wolfman and George Perez revamped the team in 1980 with THE NEW TEEN TITANS. New characters like Raven, Changeling, Starfire, and Cyborg, joined the team of Robin, Wondergirl, Aqualad, Kid-Flash and Speedy. It was easily DC’s most successful comic at the time. So what did they change after the Crisis was over? Not a damn thing! The Titans didn’t see a reboot or relaunch of their book until a decade after the Crisis in 1996. On the other hand, before the New 52, the Teen Titans had gone through several relaunches. So while the Post-Crisis team barely got touched, the New 52 team got a major over haul. Writer Scott Lobdell and artist Brett Booth rebuild Titans from the ground up, with none of the original characters. There is a Wondergirl and Kid-Flash on the team, but it’s not Donna Troy or Wally West. Now it’s Cassie Sandsmark, a super powered thief, and Bart Allen, still believed to be a future relative of Barry Allen. Also on the Team are Red Robin, Superboy, Solstice, and new characters Bugg and Bunker. I should make it clear that Superboy is still the clone character and not the return of the original Superboy (Superman as a boy). The reason for becoming the Teen Titans changed in the New 52 as well. Originally they were mostly sidekicks not allowed to join the Justice League, so they created their own super-hero team. Now only Tim (Red Robin) Drake was ever a sidekick and he is pulling the team together as they are being individually attacked by a group called N.O.W.H.E.R.E. Now there may have been some previous versions of the Teen Titans crammed into those five years before the New 52 started. In RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS, Roy Harper is said to be a former member, but other original characters such as Donna Troy, Garth (Aqualad), and Wally West don’t seem to exist anymore. I would imagine DC themselves haven’t gotten it all figured out either.
DC’s other big team book is, the Legion of Super-Heroes. Back in the Post-Crisis days, as with the Teen Titans, the book was pretty successful, so there wasn’t really a reboot. Except, as mentioned in the Superman article, Superman was never Superboy, so he couldn’t have inspired the Legion- let alone join them for adventures. But Superman writer/artist John Byrne solved this by creating an alter-Earth, something that really wasn’t supposed to happen anymore. The Time Trapper created the alter-Earth to mess with the Legion. Every time they traveled back through time, they actually went to the alter-Earth and met the classic Superboy in Smallville. The alter-Earth was destroyed, along with Superboy before he could become Superman. In the New 52, Superman writer Grant Morrison tried to take a wack at this problem. Now the Legion was inspired by Superman himself, and hung out his younger self, loaning him a flight ring to help with his budding superpowers. In the Post-Crisis, the Legion of Superheroes did get a relaunch (instead of a reboot) in 1989 by Keith Giffen. The new series moved everything (more) into the future- oddly enough five years into the future. There the Legionnaires were now adults and dealing with the aftermath of devastating Magic Wars. Eventually the Legion would be replaced by teenage clones and a real reboot in 1994 would make the clones the real Legion and the others never exist. After a few more relaunches, old Legion scribe Paul Levitz got the Legion back on a successful road again. So much so that he continues with the Legion in the New 52, with artist Francis Portela. One strange parallel between the Post-Crisis and New 52 Legion stories is that a group of Legionnaires time traveled to the present day. In Post-Crisis, Cosmic Boy and his girlfriend Night Girl traveled to our time for some R & R in the COSMIC BOY mini-series. And in the New 52 Wildfire, Dawnstar, Timber Wolf, Tyroc, Tellus, Gates and Chameleon Girl all get stranded in our time after a mission, in LOST LEGION.
Another outer space character who’s seen his fair share of reboots is Hawkman. Originally there wasn’t a reboot for Hawkman Post-Crisis. His series had recently been relaunched with the “Shadow War” storyline. But eventually, like nearly all the DC heroes he would get a proper reboot, in the form of the 1989 mini-series HAWKWORLD by writer/artist Timothy Truman. The biggest change here was Hawkman’s look. Gone were the green pants and feather (Nth metal) wings strapped to his shirtless back; the outfit he wore since 1940. Now he was dressed in a gray commando outfit with large flat gold wings. Almost like Batman, everything took on a grittier modern sci-fi look. The planet Thanagar was always a bit war like, but now it really was a ruthless place, with a cruel class society. Writer John Ostrander joined Truman as they eventually killed Hawkman! This set in motion an unending stream of relaunches and reboots for Hawkman until the New 52, with THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN. Writer Tony Daniel and artist Philip Tan, and later Rob Liefeld, would return Hawkman to his green pants and feather wing look, but this time they would add lots of sharp pointy yellow armor. But the even bigger change is that the wings were now attached to his body! Also Katar Hol became royalty again. In the Silver Age he was prince and now thanks to his lover, Princess Shayera, the future Hawkgirl his is a de facto Prince again. The reasons for coming to Earth changed as well. Originally Hawkman and Hawkgirl chased the super villain Byth to Earth. Now Hawkgirl chases Hawkman to Earth, as he ran away after accidently killing the Thanagarian King, her brother.
Green Arrow meanwhile got more of a relaunch in Post-Crisis. GA had always been a perennial back-up feature, never getting his own series until a mini in 1983. Writer/artist Mike Grell relaunched Green Arrow in GREEN ARROW: THE LONGBOW HUNTERS in 1987, making him more realistic and gritty, like Batman and Hawkman were becoming. Gone were all the trick arrows: nets, glues, and boxing gloves- as they were replaced with the tradition sharp pointy ones. He had no trouble actually shooting crooks with ‘em either. He also started wearing a hoodie, long before it was fashionable. Grell also work over Black Canary (boy, that’s a bad pun!), having her lose her sonic cry, again trying to remove the super, from the super-heroes. In the New 52, aside from being younger and losing his trademark beard, Oliver Queen became a millionaire again. Pre-Crisis, Denny O’Neil had taken away Green Arrow’s original wealth (as he was almost a Batman clone) and added the beard. The New 52’s three writers and three artists on Green Arrow still left out the trick arrows though. As for Black Canary, her sonic cry is back, but it was before the New 52. They also returned the character to her original name from the 1940’s, Dinah Drake. Her name changed to Lance after getting married and in modern times it’s her daughter, another Dinah Lance, is the Black Canary most people know. So far in the New 52 Green Arrow and Black Canary have yet to meet. Black Canary has only been seen in BIRDS OF PREY and the new series TEAM 7 (a reboot of a Wildstorm comic).
In 1987 DC tried to reboot Captain Marvel, with SHAZAM: THE NEW BEGINNING. Roy and Dann Thomas with artist Tom Mandrake now had Billy Batons actually related to his arch-nemesis Dr. Sivana. But the biggest change was that Captain Marvel was no longer an adult, he was now just young Billy Bastons in an adult body. This led to him being nick-named Captain White Bread in the JUSTICE LEAGUE by Guy Gardner. This new Captain Marvel had first appeared though in the mini-series LEGENDS. This reboot proved to be unpopular and Cap never got a series after the mini- until another reboot in 1994 by Jerry Ordway. Then after a bizarre cycle of losing his powers, and turning evil after THE TRIALS OF SHAZAM by Judd Winick and Howard Porter, Captain Marvel was ready for another reboot in the New 52. DC’s top dog, Geoff Johns was at it again with artist Gary Frank. One of the biggest changes now is his name- hoping to avoid confusion in marketing the character, his name was changed to Shazam- no more Captain Marvel. As in the Post-Crisis, Shazam also retains Billy’s maturity level too. But Billy is no longer a goody good, becoming more of a little S.O.B. In both Shazam’87 and Shazam’11 the rest of the Marvel- er Shazam family has yet to appear, although both Sivana and Black Atom are on hand. And just like in 1987, Shazam has yet to get his own series in the New 52, as he is now just a backup feature in the JUSTICE LEAGUE.
Other characters who faced reboot or relaunch during these two tumultuous times would be Hawk and Dove, both times they replaced the deceased Don Hall with Dawn Granger as the new Dove. The Atom only got a relaunch in Post-Crisis and in the New 52, he doesn’t even seem to exist yet. Post-Crisis Blue Beetle and Captain Atom got their first comic books at DC, after moving over from Charlton Comics. The New 52 continues use Captain Atom’s Post-Crisis name Nathaniel Adams, instead of using the Charlton name Allen Adam. Post-Crisis and Charlton’s Blue Beetle were both Ted Kord. But even before the New 52 he was killed and replaced by teenager Jaime Reyes. Fans seem split over seeing Jaime’s return in the New 52 and not Ted’s. The only supervillain to get series out of both reboots is Catwoman. In the Batman “Year One” story arc, Frank Miller changed her origin from an abused house wife to a prostitute. She would then have a mini-series in 1989. Judd Winick and Guillem March would change her origin again in the New 52, having her be a thief ever since childhood. But even bigger than that would be the confirmation that she and Batman actually preformed the latex romp. Pretty much a first, since Pre-Crisis Earth 2, when they were a married.
Lastly it’s interesting to point out that it took seven months for DC put out its first real reboot, MAN OF STEEL, after the CRISIS ON THE INFINITE EARTHS. And the reboots kept coming until 1990. DC helped clarify their new Universe with a Who’s Who, History book, and Secret Origin series within its first year. While in the New 52, they knocked out nearly all the reboots in one month (though waves are still coming) and so far there have been no support series to help clarify this new universe.
Looking back, it was about 50 years ago when the Silver Age hit the DC with relaunches of the Flash, Green Lantern, and the Justice League- then about 25 years ago when DC did their Post-Crisis reboots. I’m curious to see if DC will do it yet again in another 25 years or so. Like today, it will be fun to see what is changed, what is brought back and what remains to be the same. I suppose if Marvel is the House of Ideas, DC is House of Change.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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