IMJ Capsule Reviews™ – All New Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 10.31.12!

Avenging Spider-Man Annual #1
Writer: Rob Williams
Artists: Brad Walker, John Livesay

Since I put the IMJ Capsule Reviews™ post together, I am also the defacto Editor of the column. (So if you want to snipe about typos, etc, you know who to blame now.) Being Editor puts me in a cool position though. For instance, I get to read what the other reviewers think of the comics they’ve read and critiqued. I also get some idea how the column is going to flow (if it’s mostly negative or mostly positive).

That’s the good part.

You may also remember that I don’t pick my review comics until everybody else does. I don’t buy singles (except to review), so it only seems fair… But it can also leave me in quite a sink hole. Thanks to the other guys for sometimes picking books I figure they have no idea they’ll like. If they didn’t do that, I’d have nothing but the dregs to review– every week.

That’s the (sometimes) bad part.

So to compensate for my (self-imposed) restrictions, I like to pick books with a loosely related theme. That’s how I end up reviewing several issues of Minimum Carnage… And we all know how that ended (not well… or at least the parts I read didn’t enthuse me much). So this week’s theme is (drumroll please)$4.99 Comics! That’s right kids, Ian decided he wanted to see what the industry would produce for $5 a pop. It’ll be great, right? Stunning even… Cause $5.00 could buy a full ream of paper for some scripts… 1.3 gallons of gas… Or even better, 2 to 3 bags of leftover Halloween Candy!

Instead, I got Avenging Spider-Man Annual #1. And I gotta tell ya, I would’ve rather eaten an ENTIRE SACK of stale, chalky “Bite-Size” Milky Way bars.

What I got for my money: A poorly written, poorly drawn issue reminiscent of The Thing’s old Team-Up book, Marvel Two-in-One. (And that series was the bastard stepchild of Marvel’s flagship team-up book, appropriately titled Marvel Team-Up.) Marvel Two-in-One was a knock-off– and it showed. Ben Grimm, by virtue of being covered in craggy orange rocks, has usually been a fairly one-dimensional character. It’s worse in this Annual. I don’t even know if he has any dimension in this Five Dollar Tree-Killer.

Spider-Man just swings around aimlessly and innocuously, spouting lame jokes instead of any substantive dialogue. This seems to be the default way to write Spidey now. No gravity and very little meaning to anything he says. He’s just Jimmy Fallon inanely rocking a Spider-Suit.

I can’t remember when Marvel started treating their Annuals as cash grabs and instant birdcage liners… But it has been a looooong time since they published an Annual that meant anything or wasn’t utterly forgettable. I got 26 pages (that’s it) of stupid story, inane dialog and pedestrian art.

It can only get better from here, right? We’ll see (later in the column).
– Ian MacMillan

A Plus X #1
Writers: Dan Slott, Jeph Loeb
Artists: Ron Garney, Dale Keown

I’m guessing that enough dummies bought the terribly awful AVX Versus mini-series to make Marvel think releasing a similar ongoing series in the same vein would be a good idea. This is EXACTLY what I mean when I say voting with your money matters. If people buy the shit Marvel (or any company, for that matter) produces– you can bet your ass they’ll continue to churn out more. Thanks a lot, aforementioned dummies.

So here’s your AVX Vs. replacement– the vomitous pool known as A Plus X. Lick it up, Marvel Zombies. Lick… It… Up. The premise of this title is that readers get TWO short stories starring ONE Avenger and ONE X-Man. But wait, that’s not all. These stories are also phoned in written and drawn by Marvel’s “Top” Talent.

Now, before you start getting all excited about a new Marvel Team-Up book– remember I said TWO short stories, making them about 10 pages each. Sure, short stories in comics can be done well– if they are created by such notable talent as Adriane Tomine, Chris Ware, Ivan Brunetti, Evan Dorkin, John Layman, Greg Rucka, Mike Mignola and about 100 other great indie writers out there. Sorry to say, the writers in A Plus X aren’t anywhere near that creative caliber. Instead we get stuck with Dan Slott and Jeph Loeb.

Captain America + Cable
Fight For The Future
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Ron Garney

I know this may come as a shock to you, but my description of A+X as a “vomitous pool” may have been a bit hyperbolic. It’s not totally 100% a vomitous pool and that’s because the Captain America and Cable story wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t great but it had its moments. There were actually some jokes that Slott wrote which didn’t completely fail. You know, like all the ones he writes in Amazing Spider-Man. I can say this is probably the best thing Dan Slott has written since Mighty Avengers– but that’s not really saying much, is it?

I think my enjoyment of the story most likely came from Ron Garney’s art. The man is a good visual storyteller. His run with Mark Waid on Captain America many years ago comprised some of the only Cap comics I’ve ever enjoyed. It was good seeing him draw the Captain again.

Things I didn’t like? Having 3 inkers on an 11-page story. That’s just ridiculous. The other thing that bothered me: Seeing a double splash page after only a couple of pages. EVERY page is vital real estate in a short story. Wasting valuable space on an early establishing shot automatically made me think not very much work (or thought) went into the “writing” side of this story. It turned out I was kinda correct in that assumption.

The Incredible Hulk + Wolverine
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Dale Keown

Sigh… I want to make it known that when I picked this title to review, I didn’t know who was writing and drawing the stories. I have no idea what fucking heinous crime I committed in a previous life that causes the fates to continually mock me, but this is now the FOURTH Jeph Loeb story I’ve read in the last month and a half. The first one was on purpose but the last 3 have been in these damn short story titles. Fucking Hell…

This story was only 10 pages long and had a double splash page AND a single splash page. The story was also moronic as hell, the dialog was utter shit and the last page “surprise” made me want to kill myself. The Dale Keown art was nice though– if you dig his style.

Doesn’t Jeph Loeb have to run Marvel’s Television Production? Can’t they just keep him there, away from their already shit comics? I do not know of anyone who doesn’t think this guy is a complete joke of a writer now. Seriously.
– Jose Melendez

Bedlam #1
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Riley Rossmo

It’s funny this comic would come out just as my online class about psycho killers in horror fiction is wrapping up. When you are reading about a new psycho every week, you really start to see how they are all the same– and you enjoy any glaring character differences because they feel new and fresh.

While reading Bedlam, I instantly understood that Madder Red was really just Nick Spencer’s take on The Joker. And for a 51-page comic, the idea got kinda stale– primarily because a lot of the story concerns a doctor staging Madder Red’s “death”… So the Doc can then reform Red and turn him into a good guy.

There are a lot of comics focusing on villains trying to go straight– but failing. It really should be a cliché at this point. But Spencer takes the idea and does something new with it. As part of his reformation, Red helps stop other psycho killers. Instead of becoming the villain you expect, Red uses his insanity for good. This also creates an interesting inner struggle– as the part of Red driven to create mayhem attempts to gain control of the psychopath’s psyche.

I was not a fan of the art when I started reading, but when the story hit the present time– something about it clicked. It could just be the addition of color that added more depth to Riley Rossmo’s art, but I enjoyed the art in present day scenes much more than those set in the past.

This comic never needed to be 51 pages long. There is a lot of decompression in the “event scenes” taking place in the past. But once I reached the book’s half-way point– and the comic focused more on Red trying to fight his present day insanity– Bedlam became a lot more interesting. I would pick this comic up for that half. – W.D. Prescott

New Mutants #50
House Party!
Writers: Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning
Artists: Felix Ruiz, Klebs

This is the final issue of this particular New Mutants run. I really can’t believe it’s been 50 issues. Not because the series was so good or I’m sad it’s gone… More like, “I can’t believe I bought 50 issues of this mediocre comic!” and “Why the hell did I keep with it?”

The answer to that last question is actually pretty easy– Cypher is my favorite X-Men character and he’s a part of the New Mutants. Still, that shouldn’t have been enough for me to keep buying this book. I preach all the time on A Comic Book Look that we can’t continue to buy books that are shit just because we have a “crush” on a fictional character. As a comic fan, you have to put your emotions aside and only buy the best books… Primarily because buying only the best forces the American Comic Book Industry to move forward. Patronizing a shit comic for some character you liked when you were a kid is the main reason the industry continues on a downward spiral.

I want to say upfront I’m really truly sorry I didn’t take my own advice. This entire New Mutants run could be described as “Nothing Special”… And this last issue was one of the worst in the series.

This comic attempts to tie everything together that writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning built in the second half of their run… By bringing back all the guest characters for a BBQ at the New Mutants’ house. Everyone is having a good time until the festivities are spoiled by Tyro— a Warlock like Techno-Alien– who wants to destroy Warlock. The New Mutants stop him and Cypher re-programs Tyro to make him play nice… How dumb. This is the last issue– why not go out with a bang? Don’t blow your final issue on some generic plot that can be found in countless other comics. Even when they finally let Bobby get the girl he’s been chasing (Amara)– it feels forced and out-of-place. Nothing seemed to work right in this book… And that’s a shame.

The mission of the New Mutants comic seemed to center around tying up the loose ends in X-Men continuity. It’s all been pretty boring– with getting Nate Grey back as the only relevant thing that happened. It feels like Abnett & Lanning just couldn’t be worried with this series– like they didn’t give it much thought or time… Like they were just told to write this comic after the Age of X mini-event was over. They never attempted to own this part of the Marvel U– not like the indelible stamp they put on Marvel’s Cosmic comics.

Unmemorable is the word that keeps springing to mind.

The art on Issue #50 is also piss-poor. I mentioned this to someone at my LCS, and he said he liked the art because he thought it channeled Bill Sienkiewicz’ style from the first New Mutants run. I have to disagree. The art in this comic is laughable compared to Sienkiewicz. It’s sloppy, odd-looking and completely out of proportion.

New Mutants #50 is terrible. I strongly suggest you not pick it up… And if you are a Cypher-obsessed fan like me, just be happy we don’t have to buy any more books because of him for a while. – Tom Devine

Batgirl Annual #1
The Blood That Moves Us
Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Admira Wijaya, Daniel Sampere

OK… $4.99 Comic #2Batgirl Annual #1.

DC Comics has a history of treating their annuals with a little more care than Marvel… As they often attempt to tie-in with current storylines– however tangential. That’s a good idea, especially if a publisher doesn’t want their regular readers to feel like they’re being gouged and “forced” into paying $5 for a comic they didn’t ask for. At least there’s some continuity in here to give the story a little weight.

Following that train of thought, Gail Simone uses the Talon that recently fought Barbara Gordon (nearly to death, I’m guessing) as the centerpiece of this story. We also get Catwoman (and a healthy dose of Commissioner Gordon too)… Plus the book is a whopping 38 pages. Take that, Marvel Bean Counters! DC Comics charges 8 cents less a page than you do!

So all these extra pages does the reader good, right? Uh, no. All I got was a lot of extra panels, but so little actual story.

I’m not going to bore you with the plot. (I could, believe me.) What I am going to tell you: The first 25 pages are drawn in a painterly style by one artist (Admira Wijaya) and pages 26-38 are penciled by somebody else (Daniel Sampere). This is only conjecture, but I’m guessing Wijaya couldn’t spit the pages out fast enough for DC’s deadline and Sampere was brought in to finish the tale. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Whichever (uncredited) colorist worked on this book did a yeoman job attempting to match the art styles as much as possible. It was an impossible battle– but at least it looks like they definitely tried.

Here’s the problem digital wizardry has brought to modern-day comics– too many artists now consider themselves artistes. No longer happy to just draw with a lead pencil– they must now be allowed to “paint” on their computers. And that’s all well and good if it’s a cover or a one-off piece. But if an artist can’t keep up the pace required to produce a grueling 38-page comic (again, I am just assuming that’s what happened here) and deliver their best work– then I would rather see them draw the damn thing instead of paint it.

Since I know Wijaya can pencil like nobody’s business, I doubt very seriously I’d be staring at a Commissioner Gordon that looks like Barbara Gordon in drag– complete with fake, bushy moustache.

The story is also amazingly lightweight and massively decompressed– so much so, I found myself wondering (at times) whether this was first intended to be a Catwoman Annual (she takes up that much of the narrative). Simone also raises one of my biggest problems with Batman’s humongous Rogues Gallery. They seem to rotate in and out of Arkham Asylum and Gotham Prison with the same regularity as the kitchen staff. Locking them up means nothing– since you know they’ll be out in a couple of months or weeks… Mainly because most writers don’t seem willing to write a Batman story arc without having one of these famous villains involved.

This is as good a time as any to admit I haven’t read any of the “Night of Owls” storyline yet, but I know it was a big thing that took a long time to come to fruition. And even though this is the only Batman-related Owl story I have read– it seems far too soon to have Catwoman (or anybody else) breaking this Talon/woman out prison. Adding insult, Batgirl shows little shock when faced with her recent foe… Seemingly more concerned whether she can beat her again.

The story ends (Yes, I’m going there) with Catwoman making a “pinky swear” with Batgirl (I’m not kidding)– where Gordon promises she’ll spirit Mary (a stone-cold killer) away from the cops waiting outside… Even though Mary has shown little to her personality or behavior other than she’s willing to fuck people up with extreme savagery. What an idiotic plot idea. I wouldn’t want this woman roaming around Gotham freely.

With heroes making bone-headed decisions like these, who needs enemies?
– Ian MacMillan

Aquaman #13
The Others: Conclusion
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis

When we started publishing IMJ Capsule Reviews™, I went out of my way to review the comics I actually bought and collected. I loved almost everything I was reading and thought it would be good to highlight some of the great comics out there… Especially since everyone thinks of me as a Negative Nellie. What I didn’t think of– at some point I would have to randomly review comics I didn’t buy or read. It quickly became clear to me WHY it is I buy the books I buy and why I stay far away from everything else.

The American Comic Book Industry is filled with so much crap, it’s almost sad. And reviewing bad comics is not as fun as it once was for me. It’s actually quite depressing. When I come across a comic I have absolutely no feeling for– positive or negative– it is very difficult to write a review of any real substance.

Go look around on other sites that review comics. If the comic is bland and mediocre, the reviews are mostly filled with recaps of what happened in that issue. It’s just someone regurgitating the story to you without really getting into what was good or bad about the comic. That’s the problem with reviewing stale shit. It just sits there. It’s difficult to question a boring comic’s existence because it elicits such an apathetic reaction. These books should be damned for making you feel that. But the problem is– you feel nothing.

Aquaman #13 is that kind of comic for me. I could go on ad nauseam about the needless anger, self-loathing and unnecessary violence that fills the book– but you’ve heard all that from me before. Aquaman is a perfect example of the majority of comics you find filling your retailer’s racks every week.

This issue was not enjoyable in any way, but I can’t really think of a good enough reason to completely damn it. I suppose this is the type of comic most people like to read, since it’s usually among the Top 50 best sellers every month.

So, whatever.

There are certainly worse books you could waste $2.99 on. There are also many books priced at $2.99 that are more than worth the price because of the quality found within. But if you are the type of person who enjoys buying Aquaman, chances are good that you probably have no interest in the higher quality books. If you did, you wouldn’t be spending $2.99 on Aquaman. – Jose Melendez

Lot 13 #1
Chapter One
Writer: Steve Niles
Artist: Glenn Fabry

A new Horror Comic by Steve Niles… Published by DC?! I say, “Sure, why the hell not… I’ve spent $2.99 on worse.” Then I look again, and it says Glenn Fabry— on INTERIOR ART? Weird, I haven’t seen Fabry draw anything in almost 10 years, and now he’s back doing interiors on a regular DC book? Well, that’s cool. I was never the biggest Fabry fan, but I’m able to recognize the talent he has.

So I sit down, crack the book open– and immediately, I’m pleasantly surprised. The story starts in 1670. A man is on trial for killing his family and then committing suicide. Even though he’s dead and half his head is missing– the trial must still proceed… Because the laws at the time proclaim even if a man takes his own life, he must be judged before the Law and God. We see the townspeople give the guilty verdict to the entire family for trying to play god. They then throw the family bodies into a pit, burying them all in the same hole.

That’s damn gruesome for the first 6 pages of a new DC series. But I’m glad to see Niles isn’t holding back.

We then jump to the present and are introduced to the different players in the story. The tone is clearly very dark. Even though the beginning of the comic was much more interesting than the current timeline, the book’s last page shocker shows Niles has a lot more to say. And it should be interesting to see how the events in 1670 interact and affect the current storyline.

It’s also cool to see DC trying different genres. I do appreciate that. I always give Image props for bringing the diversity, so it’s only fair I give DC praise for this effort as well. I also appreciate DC giving good creators a chance to do something that’s right up their alley– and still keeping the comic within the “normal” DC Comics imprint. Niles is a great horror writer. Between Criminal Macabre and 30 Days of Night, he’s had his hands in some of the most successful comics in the genre. I hope Lot 13 turns out as good as some of his other books.

This issue didn’t quite knock it out of the park, but it was a very solid… Definitely enough here to keep my interest and keep me reading. – Tom Devine

X-Men Legacy #275
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: David Baldeon

For me, X-Men Legacy #275 is an end of an era.

One of my first comics was Claremont & Lee’s X-Men #1, the one with the full pull-out cover. It came in those comic packs Toys ‘R Us used to sell in the early 90s– packaged with Ghost Rider #25, Guardians of the Galaxy #25 and Punisher War Zone #1. It also solidified the X-Men as “my” heroes. I tried out all the other Marvel guys… But as the fat, shy yet smart, bullied kid in elementary school– I connected to the X-Men more than any of the other heroes… Mainly because I felt like an outcast too. And while I never really got into comics like I did when I became older– as a kid, I always tried to keep up with the X-titles.

X-Men was special because a lot of important things happened in the comic. Magneto ripped the adamantium out of Wolverine in issue #25. Legion killed Charles Xavier in X-Men #41— creating the greatest summer event in my lifetime, The Age of Apocalypse. X-Men was simply everything I ever needed in a comic.

I’ve had my beefs with Marvel– especially over the poor way they’ve treated the “X-side” of their Universe in recent years. Onslaught was hugely pointless. The X-Men didn’t have to run around in all-leather outfits during the Grant Morrison years– almost at exactly the same time the publisher launched their Ultimate Universe (also inexplicably and confusingly featuring leather-clad X-Men). Marvel didn’t need to change the name of this comic to X-Men Legacy either. (The title still makes no sense.) Despite all these missteps, my fandom endured– until I finally ended my X-Men connection with the Messiah Complex storyline.

So how did Marvel choose to close such a great series– a comic that’s been filled with amazing highs and lows?

They ended it with strength of a fart in the wind.

We just had Xavier’s funeral a few weeks ago. This issue could’ve been a poignant retrospective… Or filled with lots of “that was then, this is now” set-up– foreshadowing what’s to come when the new X-Men Legacy series begins. (You know, like the stories they used to create for comics.) But none of that makes it into this book… Which is very sad.

To understand why I find this so disappointing, you must put everything surrounding this last issue into perspective. X-Men Legacy #275 marks the end of an era for many readers and collectors… This comic is the where the original Claremont & Lee X-Men is no more. It cries out for an outstanding conclusion.

So if we don’t get earth-shattering action or some rich backstory setting up the new book… What do we get? Mimic and Rogue talking about how hard it is to absorb other mutants’ powers. Really? We go from Magneto attacking Earth in X-Men #1 to… This? An issue where Rogue gives speech after speech– attempting to get villains to volunteer their powers during a riot?

Oh yeah, I can’t believe I almost forgot this plot point: All the X-Men (except Mimic and Rogue) are away on a field trip– so the last issue of the X-Men features… Hardly any X-Men!

I could go on about how Rogue now being able to absorb multiple powers is sorta cool (since only being able to absorb one mutant ability at a time was really the only weakness in her previous mutant power set). Or the fact that Christos Gage makes her Southern accent sound incredibly stupid… Like he was channeling his ten-year-old self while writing– after his child-self had just read a ton of those atrociously written X-Men comics Marvel published in the 90s.

I could also mention this entire comic– including the pathetic ending– is a hot mess. But why? The X-Men comic has been pathetic for years… That’s why I stopped reading the book. These simply aren’t the X-Men I remember anymore.
– W.D. Prescott

Joe Kubert Presents #1 (of 6)
Writers: Joe Kubert, Brian Buniak,
Sam Glanzman
Artists: Kubert, Buniak, Glanzman

I was really looking forward to this comic– saving it for last in my $4.99 Comic Book Reading Marathon. My anticipation came from several angles, not the least of which was getting to experience new work from artist Joe Kubert. Joe recently passed– making this comic some of the last new art we will experience from the master draftsman. (I’m hoping there’s a treasure trove of unpublished work sitting in Joe’s studio somewhere.)

There’s a 3-page spread in the middle of this 48-page anthology book (you read that number right– somehow DC was able to publish a book with 48 interior pages for $4.99), where Kubert explains why the comic exists. It’s all good thoughts but basically boils down to the creator wanting to make the comic because he was tired of looking at and reading books that no longer interested or entertained him. (You and me both, Joe.) In short, Kubert wanted to bring back the good stuff from the good ol’ days.

Unfortunately, this first issue doesn’t reach those lofty heights.

The first 22-page Hawkman story was fun and all– in a very retro sort of way. What confused me: Kubert claimed he wanted to draw the winged Thanagarian again– so he wrote another origin story? Why? At best, the tale was a quaint throwback… Not breaking any new ground or knocking my socks off. It was worth it to see Kubert on the character again, but the narrative lacked substance… Surprising since Joe was obviously going for a cautionary environmental tale.

Brian Buniak’s Angel and the Ape effort was cute. Since I’ve never really enjoyed the characters, that’s about all I can say. Again, a story with a definitive throwback feel. (I’m starting to notice a pattern here.) This is followed by Kubert’s 5-page short called Spit— about an orphan boy trying to scrape by in an old sea town. It reminded of something Spirit creator Will Eisner might have done. Then came Sam Glanzman’s story of the U.S.S. Stevens-– a WWII naval warship. Since the story is titled, “I Remember”, I’m guessing it has personal meaning to Glanzman. Weird, since it’s filled with very rote and linear storytelling. Having never been a fan of Glanzman’s blocky art style, I can safely say I know he’s at least attempting to deliver some fairly dynamic work here.

But the one thing I really don’t understand about this comic: The color palette Kubert chose to use throughout. Like some of his latter day Sgt. Rock work– the colors here are washed out, very much resembling light watercolor work. I’m not sure this technique served Kubert’s Hawkman or Glanzman’s war story well at all.

I really think I get what the master was trying to accomplish here… But I doubt his efforts will convince any kids this comic is worth five bucks– even with the bulging page count. After all, other than ogling Kubert’s line work, the comic did little to convince me it was worth the price either. – Ian MacMillan

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4 Responses to IMJ Capsule Reviews™ – All New Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 10.31.12!

  1. Tiger Topher says:

    Marvel hasn’t published a meaningful annual since Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 (the marriage issue) in 1987, and Avenging Spider-Man Annual #1 certainly does nothing to change that. I made the mistake of flipping through it and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the writing. I actually had to put the book down when I got to the part that had Spider-Man and Thing making out. When I found the strength to pick it back up, I found myself reading some of the worst dialog I’ve ever encountered. For example the villain in the story actually says “You made me be nice. I hate that.” Is this what passes for pro work these days?

  2. J. says:

    A 26 page Marvel Annual for $5!?! Wow…that’s some real shady shit right there.

  3. IronMuskrat says:

    I will give Slott a little credit for his story in the first issue of A+X, at least he tried. Like Jose said, you get a few good moments and there is a complete story there. Lobe on the other hand totally mails it in, no good dialog, nothing resembling a coherent story, and at the end of his 10 pages he throws in a lame cliffhanger that is bound to leave most readers confused and fustrated rather then intrigued. If this is the format that Marvel is going to stick with on this comic I think it will fustrate a lot of Marvel writers out there, the short story is one of the toughest things a writer can tackle.

    Bedlam fustrated me in a lot of ways, there is a lot of good stuff there, but man, did that Interrogation room scene bring everything to a grinding halt for me. After everything Madder Red has done, and that you know he’s about… what the cops do with him after he is captured is beyond silly to me. I get what Nick Spencer is trying to do in this comic and I think it’s mostly working, I’ll give him at least another issue to bring all the different things he was doing in the first book together.

    Once again great reviews everyone.

  4. ed2962 says:

    That Annual is HOW many pages? Ouch! I bought Multiple Warheads this weekend. It’s over 40 pages for $3.99.

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