IMJ Capsule Reviews™ – All New Comic Book Reviews!

LM NICK FURI & IAN MACMILLAN CAPSULE REVIEWS NAME BANNER

Indestructible Hulk #6Indestructible Hulk #6
Out of the Wasteland
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Walt Simonson
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Andres Mossa
31 pages, $3.99

When I was looking through this week’s slate of comics for something to review, I figured– after all the awful Marvel comics I’ve had to slog through recently– I deserved to read something enjoyable for once. That’s why I plumped for Indestructible Hulk #6. (What’s with Marvel and their compunction for changing the adjectives in their titles?)

When I saw last weeks IMJ Capsule Reviews™ column, I was slightly horrified to see 3 reviews of a Mark Waid comic, since I knew I was going to be reviewing another of his books this week– and inevitably heap more praise on him. No doubt, some internet wags will start calling us a bunch of “Mark Waid suck-ups” at this stage. Well, so be it… If that’s the price we must pay for reading quality books, then it’s worth it. This is a guy who has the skill to write engaging stories without letting his ego get in the way. I had no problems at all with jumping right into this title and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything that had come before. The narration and exposition were judged deftly enough that it was easy to pick this up and understand the story.

The plot is not very complex: Bruce Banner uses a sliver of metal from Thor’s hammer to open a portal to Jotunheim– to bring back an exotic element that doesn’t appear on our periodic table. Thor unexpectedly arrives as some Frost Giants appear on the scene and a fight ensues. When Thor is knocked out, the Hulk picks up his hammer and proclaims himself “worthy.”

Sounds pretty simplistic right? It may even sound pretty blah when I describe it like this too… But this is what I mean when I say Waid KNOWS how to write comics. You don’t need some ridiculous 15-issue over-arching plot to tell a good story. Keep it simple, write good dialogue and keep the action rolling… That’s it.

Of course it helps when you’ve got an artist of stellar ability (who is an accomplished writer in his own right) to illustrate your story. I’m glad Walt Simonson escaped the hellhole that is the current DC Comics– and the shoddy treatment they’ve given him over the last few years. Whatever other criticisms I may have of Marvel, at least they seem to be giving high-profile jobs to veteran artists– rather than leaving them twist in the wind like DC is doing to the likes of Jerry Ordway.

Walt Simonson’s pencils and inks are as amazing as they ever were. It’s a joy to get up close to the pages and just really look at his linework… It’s tight where it needs to be tight and sketchy where it needs looseness to breathe. The level of detail in every panel is amazing, but none of it is unnecessary. Simonson isn’t drawing just so he can sell the pages on eBay and he makes it feel like everything is in exactly the place it should be. The artist’s panel compositions are so good, this tale could be completely free of dialogue and you could easily follow the action and recognize immediately what the story was about. How many other artists could you compare this to these days?

The colouring by Andres Mossa is gorgeous. It’s nice and flat, which is perfect… As Simonson doesn’t need to be rescued by the colourist (like so many contemporary comic book artists.) The lettering is by the always excellent Chris Eliopoulos, doing his best John Workman impersonation… So you get all the “FTHOOOOMS!!!” and “KERACCCCCKS!!!” you’d expect to go with Simonson’s Indestructible Hulk #6 art.

I’m not a Hulk fan (by any means) but this creative team hit all the right notes for me. This is easily the most enjoyable Marvel Comic I’ve read in the last couple of years. – Locusmortis  

Capsule Reviews 4.5 Star Rating

Animal Man #19Animal Man #19
The Funeral
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Steve Pugh
Colorist: Lovern Kindzierski
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
20 pages, $2.99

Death is rampant in the comic industry. IMJ’s Reviewers have pointed this out numerous times, since it keeps happening over and over. (Especially at DC.) I don’t have to tell you we all have to deal with death in reality– it’s the sad result of life. I’m just wondering… Would it be too much to ask to escape from this inevitable circumstance in our fantasies? I understand (occasionally) that some deaths need to occur in order to progress a story. But on the heels of Damian Wayne’s death, DC hits us with yet another dead child… And I’m really getting sick of it.

It’s not that Jeff Lemire’s story is bad. I just have a very real problem with the writer killing off Animal Man’s kid… As Cliff Baker, Buddy Baker’s son, dies while saving Maxine’s (his younger sister) life.

The emotional impact of his death is lost on me for two reasons:

1) The death of a child should never be seen as heroic. Cliff may have been very brave during Rot World (I don’t know, I didn’t read it) but there had to be a better way to prevent Maxine from dying. I don’t know whether to place the blame on Lemire or DC Editorial for not coming up with a more ingenious way out of Maxine’s situation– but killing Cliff feels like a cop out.

2) Because it’s a comic book death– I question its length.

Two characters mention they should use Maxine’s powers– including her connection to the Red– to assist in bringing Cliff back to life. On both occasions, others tell them not to try… To let Cliff rest. I hope this is Lemire’s way of telling us the death will stick… And not foreshadowing how Buddy and Maxine Baker are going to try to resurrect Cliff– while other people attempt to get in their way.

Artist Steve Pugh deserves applause for his realistic depiction of the Baker Family’s different emotions. Grief, anger, despair and fear are everywhere in this story– as the characters attempt to cope with Cliff’s death and move on. If it wasn’t for Pugh’s artistic finesse, it would be difficult to understand the emotional impact Lemire is shooting for. As it stands, the writer should thank the artist for carrying most of the weight.

I enjoyed the first Animal Man story arc immensely. It was, arguably, the best thing to come out of the New 52. But as Rot World became the comic’s focus, the story slowed and bored me– until I finally realized I needed to drop the book. Once Rot World ended, I was really hoping I could enjoy Animal Man again. (I guess I should have waited one more issue.) There are actually some plot threads in the story that might be interesting to follow in future issues, but I really don’t need to explore the aftermath of another death or funeral in my comics right now.

Animal Man #19 is also one hard comic to rate. The art was superb– but the rest left me with a sickening feeling. Killing CHILDREN is a horrific “new” trend in the mainstream comics industry… And for THIS reason alone, here’s my low rating.
– Nick Furi

Capsule Reviews Zero Star Rating

Thanos Rising #1Thanos Rising #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Simone Bianchi
Colorist: Simone Peruzzi
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
21 Pages, $3.99

Let’s face it– as the Big Two Comic Book Publishers (Marvel & DC) continue to churn out books and make editorial decisions based more on profit than any shred of creativity– it’s easy to find lots of comics that are less than special. Today’s “Worlds Greatest Comic Magazine” (Fantastic Four) is anything but and calling The Amazing Spider-Man “The World’s Greatest Super Hero” for the last couple of years is tantamount to a false-advertising claim (or, at the very least, some hearty consumer complaining.) As Marvel becomes ever more assimilated into the Disney corporate structure, you can expect it to only get worse. Despite a few flubs here and there (John Carter— which was actually a very good movie, poorly promoted), The House That Mickey Mouse Built is well-known as a company that values high profit margins, licensing deals and synergistic corporate promotion above virtually anything else.

So, (Year-Old Movie Spoiler Ahead!) when I saw Thanos smiling a sly grin after The Avengers end credits, I knew it wouldn’t be long before a deluge of Marvel’s space-based heroes would be upon us. A few months later, Marvel Studios announced The Guardians of the Galaxy film– and shortly thereafter began soliciting a plethora of space-related comics, like the reconstituted Marvel Now! Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy (natch) and this Jason Aaron penned, Simone Bianchi drawn Thanos Rising mini-series (Surprisingly limited to a restrained 5 issues… But perfect for the Hardcover and Trade editions that will most certainly take advantage of the GOTG movie hype that’ll pummel us all in 2014.)

Knowing the main reasons behind this series’ existence, I couldn’t help but be more than a little skeptical about the comic’s quality going in. We’ve all seen Jason Aaron write some amazing stuff (Vertigo’s Scalped) and we’ve also seen him write a boatload of Marvel machismo-laden crap. Still, given Aaron’s bent toward “tough guy” narratives, he would seem like the perfect choice to write the early history of one of Marvel’s most malevolent villains. That said, I only had one question rattling around in my brain as I waited for the comic to download: “Which Jason Aaron would show up… The excellent indie comic writer or the seemingly jaded Marvel Architect who makes a great living as a fairly nondescript gun-for-hire?”

Amazingly (at least for me anyway), the better, more intelligent Jason Aaron showed for Thanos Rising #1. Somewhere between Scalped and his Wolverine drek, the writer has finally figured out how to concoct a solid, engaging mainstream Marvel comic book. To be clear, I am not saying TR #1 is as remotely great as the aforementioned Vertigo title… But I am saying this mini-series is miles above his usual Marvel work.

I don’t know… Maybe it’s the character. While Thanos has been around for a long, long time (see reprints of Thanos creator Jim Starlin’s excellent Captain Marvel comic) and been a part of many “event” storylines (like Infinity Gauntlet)… The Titan-spawn has nowhere near the baggage and ever-shifting personal history of Logan (James “Wolverine” Howlett). Thanos’ earliest years lie largely unexplored, giving Aaron full rein to develop whatever history he wants. This series is also seeing publication way before any big Hollywood Blockbuster comes along to muck things up, so I can only assume Aaron is getting much less interference from editorial as well… All making for a very solid storytelling experience.

Aaron goes to great, deliberate length to fully develop a young Thanos. The future madman is kind (even sweet)– despite having vague memories of his Mother attempting to slice him open seconds after his birth. Aaron also expertly weaves in moments alluding to Thanos’ powers to come, and how circumstances– not necessarily genetics– turned a strange-looking Eternal boy into a vicious killer with a Death fetish.

In truth, Simone Bianchi on art caused me to buy the book. What’s weird: Aaron’s excellent story is really why I liked Thanos Rising #1. It’s not that Bianchi’s line work is bad (it’s not)… It’s just not as good as the dynamic stuff I have come to expect from him. But, as we often say about many creators at IMJ, average Bianchi art is still much better than a lot of the goofs who have the gall to call themselves professional artists in today’s comic book industry. A major plus: Bianchi’s line work is much less cluttered than it can be– fitting Aaron’s scaled down, simpler story extremely well.

Not to belabor the point, but color me amazed about the entire book. While I still don’t think the majority of Marvel’s comics are worth $3.99 (it would take me experiencing something truly special to feel that way over a 20 page story), this comic was far superior to most of DC’s tepid $2.99 efforts. Sometimes, even in the corporate comic book world, you actually do get what you pay for.
– Ian MacMillan

Capsule Reviews 4 Star Rating

The Mice Templar Vol IV Legend #1The Mice Templar Vol IV Legend #1
Part 1:  A Dangerous Faith
Writer: Bryan J.L. Glass
Artist: Victor Santos
Colorist: Serena Guerra
Letterer: James H. Glass
36 pages, $3.99

Imagine jumping into the Lord of the Rings Trilogy with Return of the King. Now you know how exactly how I felt reading Mice Templar Legend #1. To be fair, the opening scenes did give some backstory– describing an epic battle of Templars, Maeven, an evil Rat Army and a backstabbing King. But when the sequence finished, I was instantly confused by a flood of new character– none of which were showcased in the story recap.

I’m obviously missing a lot of Mice Templar history. I knew this going in, but hoped I would get a good enough recap to be able to understand the current storyline. Don’t misinterpret this– the story is not awkwardly paced and the contents of the main narrative are not hard to follow. There are just lots of characters, and it is difficult to distinguish them based strictly on their looks. The creators apparently know this, since they put name boxes beside the characters when they are first introduced and also during the battle scenes (much like most X-Men comics have for the last ten years or so.) This helped me understand the content immensely. (A huge “thumbs up” to whoever decided to add the names.) While I don’t usually prefer my graphic stories riddled with caption boxes, too often other comics with large casts will only give readers the character names once (if at all)… And this is often problematic.

Mice Templar Legend #1 follows a band of warrior mice named Templar– with Cassuis and Ronan as leaders of two different groups. Major trusts issues plague both characters, as Cassuis realizes the mice must band together to survive. Ronan distrusts Cassuis so much, he resorts to drastic measures in order to make his warriors question his rival’s honor.

I really enjoyed Victor Santos’ art. It seems cartoony (mostly because he’s drawing animals fighting), but it also possesses a sense of realism. To be sure, Mice Templar is violent… But the comic doesn’t drown in it– even if Santos is never afraid to show blood when a mouse or rat gets stabbed or decapitated. If I were younger, I’m sure I’d think these scenes were awesome… Because I still do! The battle/action sequences are, by far, the most interesting parts of the book. (Funny… Since these are also the scenes from the past.) Santos’ layouts greatly enhance the action– making it exciting and easy to follow.

The supplement pages in the back of the book reprint the first ten pages from the front of the comic– with all the exposition replaced with dialogue. I truly enjoyed how these reinterpreted pages complemented the overall story… And there’s no comparing this bonus content to the unnecessary, cheap wiki-padding afflicting many mainstream comics. (I’m looking at you, Marvel.)

Still, I wonder if I’m discussing problems I really shouldn’t complain about. My main concern with Mice Templar Legend is I want to go back and read the previous story arcs before I continue on with the current one. This feeling is both a compliment to this new comic and a problem for me– since I believe most comics should stand on their own merits. To have the best scene in a comic (one of the best opening sequences I’ve seen in a long time) occurring in the past is frustrating. I want to read the cool stuff now!

I’m happy to see moments of greatness in Mice Templar Legend #1, but if I want the full affect– I know I’ll have to go back and read the previous trades. (Like I plan to do, before I continue reading this new series.) If I were up to date, I’m almost certain this comic book would knock me out. As is, I feel bad docking stars from this story as I do want to continue reading it… But as a brand new reader, it’s tough to follow. – Nick Furi

Capsule Reviews 3.5 Star Rating

Harbinger Wars #1Harbinger Wars #1
Writer: Joshua Dysart
Story: Joshua Dysart, Duane Swierczynski
Artists: Clayton Henry, Clayton Crain, Mico Suayan
Colorist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Dave Lanphear
27 Pages, $3.99

I’m an idiot. I know that. (Seriously, you don’t have to keep reminding me in your pithy emails.) But I am also a huge comic book fan… And as the internet proves all too well– tons of idiots can call themselves comic book critics. One of the idiotic things I did recently: Reading Shadowman, Archer & Armstrong, X-O Manowar and Bloodshot in Trade Paperback form… But continually forgetting to read my Harbinger Trade. I also forgot to bring the Harbinger collection with me just before I headed to the East Coast. I know I had the damn thing in my hand… And I simply don’t know how/why I didn’t think to slip it into one of my suitcases.

And I really wanted to bring the Harbinger book too… As all of Valiant’s reboots have been excellent (Shadowman, Bloodshot) or very, very good (Archer & Armstrong, X-O Manowar.) But I didn’t and chose to review Harbinger Wars #1 anyway… Really, how much could I have possibly missed? Turns out the answer is, “Apparently, a lot.” Despite Valiant’s excellent character info dump at the beginning of the book, I was as lost reading this comic as I could be.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t just confused due to my ignorance of the most current Valiant books or from not reading the first Harbinger graphic novel. The story here just seemed shoddy… And it was clear early on writer Joshua Dysart was not going to go out of his way to elucidate me. As the comic’s name clearly suggests, the Harbinger kids were the book’s focus… And I simply didn’t get it. When a character I did know would appear (Bloodshot), he somehow felt like a vestigial addition– despite appearing in several pages.

As you can tell from the credits, the comic also had 3 different artists– and the switch between them was jarring. I won’t name any names (doing so would be me being overtly nasty) but the comic reminded me why having several artists on one book is often an iffy proposition. Invariably, you end up comparing them to each other… And there’s always at least one penciler whose work pales in comparison to the others.

I could also sit here and debate whether it’s smart for a “new” line of comics to entice/force/cajole (pick your favorite pushy-sounding verb) into buying an “event” crossover when all their series are essentially just getting restarted. For the record, I think it’s a horrible idea. No matter how excellent your books are, it takes a large amount of hubris and some awfully big cojones to think your new fans will willingly swallow such a wallet-draining idea.

Despite my love for Valiant’s new books, Harbinger Wars #1 didn’t work for me– on several levels. Of course, if you’re not an idiot (like me)– and you’ve kept current with all their series– your mileage may vary. – Ian MacMillan

Capsule Reviews 2 Star Rating

Uber #0Uber # 0
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Canaan White
48 pages, $3.99

Reading Uber #0 caused me to remember why I always avoid the Avatar section of Diamond’s Previews Magazine. This is nasty, exploitative garbage– and I’m annoyed I wasted a good 5 minutes reading it. I suppose I should be thankful I only got a 10 page sample issue… Mercifully this means I won’t have to write a full-length review for it, as I’m not sure I could find 550 synonyms for the word “shit“.

“So what is the comic about?”, I hear you ask. Good question, and I wish I had a definitive answer for you… As the 10 pages I read didn’t contain a great deal of plot. The story is set during the final weeks of the Nazi Reich in 1945, but it really just seemed to be an excuse to show a civilian get raped by Russian Soldiers… And for some German Scientists to torture Polish Prisoners .

In his afterword, writer Kieron Gillen tried to show himself as high-minded by saying he used works like Der Untergang and Antony Beevor’s Berlin and Stalingrad novels for research. But Uber is not even in the same solar system of quality as any of those works– it really is lowest common denominator stuff.

The art by Canaan White isn’t Zenescope bad, but it isn’t anything to write home about either. There are a number of uniform and weapons errors which I wouldn’t expect an artist to make in these days of readily available photo/historical reference. The colourist and letterer aren’t credited in this issue, so I presume the artist performed these functions as well.

If you want to read some war comics, I’d advise going for some top shelf material like Johnny Red, The Grand Duke or even Garth Ennis’ Battlefields. I wouldn’t wipe my arse with Uber. – Locusmortis

Capsule Reviews Zero Star Rating

Savage Dragon #186Savage Dragon #186
Writers: Erik Larsen, Gavin Higginbotham
Artists: Erik Larsen, Frank Fosco
Colorists: Niskos Koutsis, Scott James
Letterers: Chris Eliopoulos,
Adam O. Pruett
27 pages, $3.99

Did I travel back to the mid 90s? I own Savage Dragon Archives Volumes 1 & 2 – (collecting the first 50 issues) and when I began reading Savage Dragon #186, I thought I was back at SD #20 through #30… As I was instantly smacked in the face by Overlord, the Vicious Circle and the Freak Society. Good to know that– after 136 issues– I will be exactly back to where I left at Issue #50.

Okay… That last bit is a little fallacious and me making a joke. But I still couldn’t believe what I was seeing… As the characters I read about in those earlier issues are still being talked about today. But obviously, there’s also a ton of info I’ve missed in-between issues #50 and #186– as creator Erik Larsen introduced many new characters and plot threads.

Savage Dragon #186 is a fun, classic-style superhero comic. Opening panels show Powerhouse familiarizing Spectacular Dragon with the new Vicious Circle. They happen upon a battle in process– with Claw (Larsen’s knack for coming up with cheesy names and corny jokes are two of the reasons I love the series)– and then some other heroes show up and fight. But Savage Dragon #186 is more than just action– there’s a strong story about family mixed in-between the fight scenes.

I must say I have mixed feelings about Savage Dragon appearing in only 2 pages of the comic. I’m a little miffed I didn’t get to see one of my favorite comic book characters in full force… But on the other hand (forgetting my joke at the beginning of the review), the story did progress. Savage Dragon may be this comic’s titular character, but I think he’s now sharing the main character role with both his daughter Angel and his son Malcolm. Amazingly, Savage Dragon #186 is also relatively reader friendly. The plot is easy to follow and offers a decent cliffhanger. Larsen makes a point of introducing all the major characters via dialogue.

I’m a fan of Larsen’s art, though it is a little rough at times. I remember reading somewhere how, in the early issues, Savage Dragon’s fin would change sizes all of the time. While the fin remains a consistent size here, there are some slight problems I did notice. In the first double-page splash, Claw has proportion issues. He’s clearly not human, but his feet and hands seem huge compared to his head. Also, it was difficult to distinguish if Claw was the same size as the other characters. (Maybe he’s a giant or his partner has the ability to shrink himself.) While Niskos Koutsis does a great job on the main story’s colors, I prefer to see Erik’s art in black and white (like the SD Archive Editions.)

The back-up feature ZEEK was entertaining as well. Writer Gavin Higginbotham and artist Frank Fosco have a similar style to Larsen– which makes ZEEK a great addition to the book. While I wished for more Dragon, at least the extra content is just as entertaining as the main portion.

Savage Dragon #186 is a good comic. Good enough that I wish more Archive Volumes would come out (hint, hint) so I can catch up. And while there are plot points from the last few arcs I want to check out, the geek in me wants to read the full story. If you want a fun superhero comic, check out Savage Dragon.
– Nick Furi

Capsule Reviews 3.5 Star Rating

Fairest #14Fairest #14
Aldered States
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Barry Kitson, Inaki Miranda
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: Todd Klein
20 Pages, $2.99

Little bit of column background here: Despite my sojourn to the East Coast causing tremendous havoc with my work schedule, my review of Fairest #14 is why the column seeing publication now– instead of its usual much more timely Sunday morning berth. Every other critic appearing in this week’s IMJ Capsule Reviews™ got their work in by our deadlines… Except me. Something else you don’t know– I usually buy/download a comic or two every week, just in case one of our critics gets in a jam… Causing me to jump in with an extra review or two. This leaves me with a litany of unread comic book singles (I am a trade-waiter, after all): Action Comics #15, Batman, The Dark Knight #15, I Vampire #15, Justice League Dark #15, Snapshot #1, Superior Spider-Man #3, etc., etc.

The other book I never got to review? Fairest #7, which was actually a fill-in issue written by Matthew Sturges and drawn by the always wonderful Shawn McManus. So when I picked/purchased Fairest #14 for review this week, I was damned if I wasn’t going to review the series this time.

And I so wished I had skipped it. First, I know how hard it must be for any artist to follow Adam Hughes’ wonderful cover art. Barry Kitson gets the unenviable job here, and despite some yeoman work by colorist Andrew Dalhouse— the art is flat and extremely uninspiring. Something that really bugged me in the comic: The almost always naked Princess Alder (she’s a living tree in female form) kept experiencing appearing– then disappearing– nipples. When they were there, sometimes they appeared as small dots– and other times as full, healthy areolae… Then, in some panels, they would mysteriously vanish.

It smacked of editorial interference… As if Vertigo Editor Shelly Bond (or someone higher up) just couldn’t handle a female tree creature with nips. Having them there– then not there– actually drew my attention to them more than if their appearance had stayed consistent throughout… Or they hadn’t been there at all.

Adding insult to the pedestrian art, the story was more than weird… And not in a good way. Fairest creator Bill Willingham (also creator of Fables– from which Fairest springs from) actually wrote the tale (after ceding the writing chores to Lauren Beukes for several issues) and is not writing the next story arc… So I was essentially reading another fill-in issue. Willingham, depending on what he’s writing, can be hit or miss– showing various moods. Fables, of course, is usually a hit… But Fairest #14 has the writer putting on his Imp Hat (which is much worse than a Pimp Hat) and the entire story rises and falls on one distasteful joke.

Not one of Willingham’s finest moments, that’s for sure. – Ian MacMillan

Capsule Reviews 1 Star Rating

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4 Responses to IMJ Capsule Reviews™ – All New Comic Book Reviews!

  1. ed2962 says:

    As always, neat reviews guys!

  2. megamanx4ever says:

    I loved Harbinger Wars BUT the main reason I think you might not have liked it so much Ian is because you have not read the Harbinger comics leading up to it and I cant reccomend that series enough it is absolutley fantastic. If you loved the rest of the Valiant books like me then Harbinger is a must read. It is prob my fave along with Shadowman right now(I still need to read Bloodshot which I am getting next week and Archer and Armstrong) and Joshua Dysart is one of the coolest guys I ever met. I met him at Wonder Con in Anaheim a few weeks ago. Anyway I suggest reading Harbinger and then re read Harbinger Wars that will most likely help you enjoy it much much more. 😀 https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/885308_522892251086327_2128260361_o.jpg

  3. hackslash2020 says:

    Ja das war Über Scheiße

  4. IronMuskrat says:

    Very cool reviews, I will have to remember to stay away from that Harbinger book, oh wait…. I didn’t! 😉

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