Live from an undisclosed location mere hours away from London, it's a completely unofficial and unsanctioned Olympic TWiP Special! Except it's got nothing to do with the Olympics at all, it's about comics. Although I think some of the athletes may have been dosed with some of that Mutant Growth Hormone if ya know what I mean.
What's up Hotdog! (Yes, I have been listening to the archive of Comedy Bang! Bang!, I'm late to the party, sue me. No, please don't sue me) Welcome to another instalment of my comics reviews column, where I give you my unfiltered, uneducated thoughts on all the comics I read in a given week.
And this week is a doozy, there's 2 Green Lantern titles, some of Marvel's best books had issues out, and I finally tracked down a copy of Conan The Barbarian #6. So on your marks... get set... go!
Amazing Spider-Man #690– For some reasons the stores in my town didn’t get this one, so you’ll have to wait until next week, sorry!
Venom #21– In case you didn’t already know, this issue was a shocking reminder that Rick Remender’s Venom does not play around. Flash faces his final confrontation with the Crime-Master, who we now know is Bennett Brant, and it’s just as shocking and violent as you’d expect. And it’s not over yet. Even though at the end Bennett his killed not by Venom, but by his sister Betty, there’s one part of this story left to tell, and while it’s a shame that the preview page spoiled it, I’m very much looking forward to one more Venom/Jack O’Lantern battle. But first, the events of #21. We get an insight into just how Bennett isn’t dead, and it really only begs more questions. I wonder if Remender or Bunn are going to explore this idea of there being a secret organisation of Crime-Masters in one of his other titles, it could be a good thing for the Uncanny Avengers to investigate. This issue also featured some great fights, with first Venom against Megatak, and then Venom Vs Toxin. A few years ago the idea of symbiotes battling each other would have been a big no-no for me, but Remender has somehow made it work, these characters are no longer lame. And in the best example of this book not pulling it’s punches… when you think Flash has saved Eddie Brock from Toxin, he instead gets sucked back in and horrifically burned. Poor Eddie, he just can’t win. Then at the end, Flash comes clean to the Secret Avengers, I really can’t over-state how great this book is, it makes no sense that a Venom series is good, but it is.
Mighty Thor #17– Matt Fraction wraps up both the story of Don Blake and Jeff The Emo Kid this issue, and I’m not sure how I feel about this story, it still seems rather disjointed. I did like that the solution to Don Blake’s problems lied with The Mares, but I still think there are unanswered questions about the nature of Don and Thor’s… relationship I’d guess you’d call it. It was also good how Fraction used a character type that’s normally used as a scapegoat for all that’s wrong in society as the example of what’s great in humanity. Jeff was a pretty interesting character, and that last page was a excellent HEAVY METAL image. It was also refreshing the way Fraction approached the Mares in the end, they weren’t really villains, dreams are they only way they can communicate, it’s quite tragic. And also you have the Enchantress getting cast out with her new Executioner. It seems like that pair are favourite of Fraction, I remember that Thor: God-Sized book by him that was basically an Executioner story, I hope they’ll back. So yeah, a lot going on and I don’t feel like it had much space. Perhaps it was all wrapped up too quickly to make room for the crossover with Journey Into Mystery. Speaking of that crossover, I don’t read JiM, I hope I don’t miss out on anything by avoiding the ‘Tumblr feels’ that book generates in it’s fans. I hate feels, just say feelings! And communicate with words! Not gifs! Ahem.
Incredible Hulk #11– Another really enjoyable issue of Incredible Hulk, this is Jason Aaron at his best I think, taking stupid concepts and making them feel real and giving them consequences. So here we’ve got whacky stuff like the Hulk fighting Bigfoot, but Aaron creates a pretty cool mythology for the Sasquatches of the Marvel Universe, so it doesn’t feel dumb. And then there’s Kraven The Hunter. This was a great take on the character, he was a bad-ass here, but Aaron also made sure to keep the darkness, the suicidal nature he’s had ever since he was brought back. And he also had a bazooka that shot bear-traps. The perfect melding of silly and serious. I still have reservations by exactly what Banner’s plan is. It’s all well and good taking us on this wild ride, but where is it all going? By the looks of the cover to #12 it has something to do with Wolverine, and now it seems like he’s got a Bigfoot Cub? Wha? Dalibor Talajic’s art was very strong, perhaps the best work I’ve seen from him, reminding me at times of Eduardo Risso. This hasn’t just been a tour of the Marvel Universe’s corners, it’s also been a tour of great artists.
Winter Soldier #8– This book continues it’s excellent run, this is so gritty I almost forget it’s Brubaker working in the Marvel Universe, this could easily be up there with the best of his Indie work. This issue features Bucky and Jasper Sitwell desperately searching for Black Widow, who’s been captured by Leo. I loved the pages with Bucky just beating the shit out of a whole lot of lowlifes in an attempt to find a lead, any lead. The art from Michael Lark was just brilliant, you could tell so much just from Bucky’s facial expressions. Leo continues to be a great villain, his plan is coming into focus now, and the way he engineered getting Natasha into the Ballet was great, you think he’s going to just sniper the original Ballerina, but no, that’s too obvious, he engineers a car-crash. Great stuff. I also liked that this issue gave some more depth to Jasper Sitwell, he’s going to be a great supporting character for this book. Of course he’ll probably die next issue now.
Avengers #28– This issue of Avengers is an example of what Bendis is best at during crossovers, taking an issue out to focus on what particular Avenger and what their mindset is. In this case, it’s a focus on Red Hulk. He’s in a unique position really, most of the team think he’s just a mindless bruiser like the original Hulk, but both he and Captain America know that he’s more than that, he’s a General in the US Army and he probably has more knowledge of what to do in War than any other Avenger. He uses this knowledge to decide to go on a solo assassination of Cyclops, which has some pretty interesting results. I particularly loved the scene where Emma thought she could just make him kill himself, not realising that it would just trigger Rulk, that may be one of the all-time great transformations. In the end, General Ross fails, but all is not lost, now he knows that Cyclops has still not accepted that this is war, that because Cyclops played the hero and didn’t kill him… the Avengers can win. Dun dun dun! Of course, we know now that Red Hulk gets his ass handed to him by Namor in AvX #8, so who knows if this plot will get to play out, but this was a very entertaining issue, both in terms of the larger plot, and also in how it developed Red Hulk’s characterisation. Walt Simonson’s artwork was of course brilliant, it was great to see Bendis let pretty much the entire first half of the issue be told by art alone, yes, there was writing, but it was very much separate from the action. It’s a technique he did occasionally in Ultimate Spider-Man with Immonen, and it worked a treat here.
Secret Avengers #29– Spoilers for the end of AvX! There is still a Marvel Universe for stories to take place in! Heh. Anyways, this issue returns the book to its core cast and core motive, the Secret Avengers taking on the Shadow Council. So there’s the return of John Steele, of that Red Light District Country from the Point One issue, and of Max Fury himself. It’s great to have this story back, and I’m very excited to see Remender wrap up a story Brubaker started 3 years ago with the crowns and all that. It was cool for the team return to Bagalia, especially now that it’s population is 100% super-villains. The Masters Of Evil have their own Sovereign Nation! Come on, that’s escalation in story we can all get behind. It was good to see Venom take centre-stage in this issue, I love his solo book and now that Remender is leaving it, it’s cool that he’ll get to write the character butt heads with Hawkeye and attempt to bone Valkyrie in this title. The fight between him and Taskmaster should be good. There’s also the little matter of ‘Ant-Man’ being a spy for ‘Father’, I wonder how long until that plays out, his new decent attitude should be raising some alarm bells surely, he’s gone from being the worst guy in the world to being a goodie-two-shoes. I also dug that Remender kept some humour in here, Zombie Rasputin!
Dark Avengers #178– This book continues to be a lot of fun, I’m really enjoying how well Parker is balancing two separate storylines, each with very large casts, he’s juggling a lot here and he’s pulling it off. This issue probably featured a bit more of the Dark Avengers than the Thunderbolts, so let’s start with them. The team faces off against a bunch of Dagan Shah’s monsters in a very entertaining fight scene which demonstrated just how great an artist Declan Shalvey has become. I particularly like the way he draws Dark Spider-Man, he’s very, well, spider-like. I’d like to see Shalvey draw an arc of Spidey, which would be excellent. I also like how Parker is developing the rest of the team, especially Toxic Doxie. I was wary of these characters joining the book at first, but I’m liking it now. Back to the future (heh) as the Thunderbolts face a Judge Dredd kind of character that seems to be a pensioner Luke Cage in Iron Man armour. Being British I am of course a big fan of Judge Dredd, so it was a lot of fun to see an analogue kick some wimpy US superhero butt. I’m not immediately gripped by this alternate future yet, but I’m sure Parker will do a good job with it next issue. Kev Walker did his usual excellent job on these sequences too, I think that’s probably part of why the two storylines are working, each has a distinct artist.
FF #20– This issue seemed to me like Hickman basically tying up a lot of the loose ends his epic mega-story had left behind. So we get the return of the Inhumans, of the Kree, of the Light Brigade and of Annihilus. I’m not sure where all of this is going, and why exactly Black Bolt is being such a dick, but there were cool moments to be found here. My favourite scenes were probably the twin scenes featuring Franklin and Val interacting with their future selves, they were a lot of fun, particularly Franklin driving around and talking about school. I do like that Hickman is allowing a bit more humour into his stories these days, or at least that the attempts at humour actually land for me now. The ending was interesting too, Black Bolt really shouldn’t fuck with Ronan The Accuser again, there’s going to be trouble there.
Wolverine & The X-Men #14– Kitty Pryde and Colossus take centre-stage for an issue which explores their relationship and also shows the toll that the war has had on the school. There are only like 3 teachers left, and one of those is Toad! I’m glad to know that this title is continuing post-Marvel Now, if we hadn’t been told that, I’d be fearing the worst. The scenes between Kitty and Peter were great, their relationship has been a cornerstone of the X-Men world for so long that it was very interesting to see that explored, and also to see what a man who has the powers of a god can’t have what he wants. Jason Aaron did a really good job with Colossus here, a character who’s not one of his regulars, as he showed the man inside struggle with the hubris that the Phoenix (and lest we forget the Juggernaut) is boiling up inside him. In the end, he manages to hold back, and it’s telling that so far, all of PENIS except for Namor have managed to keep their humanity (or mutantity) in the face of the Phoenix, but how long can that last? I feel sorry for Colossus really. Also interesting in this issue was the return of the teachers to the school, that a lot of them are leaving Cyclops’ side. I especially like the focus on Iceman, and how he’s somehow become the conscience of the X-Men. I’m not sure whether I prefer this to back when he was a hilarious idiot, but it’s interesting. Go Iceman! Jorge Molina fills in on the art here, and he does a good job, he’s definitely the most mainstream-style artist to have worked on the title, but it still kept that little glint of humour that’s essential to this book.
Uncanny X-Force #28– This book once again does the exact opposite of what you’d expect, instead of picking up on last issue’s shocking revelation about Daken and the conflict with the Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants, we are instead whisked off to yet another dystopian X-Future for fun and games with Deathlok and a totalitarian state. I thought it was cool how this future took the modus operandi behind X-Force, which is pre-emptively stopping threats to world, and extrapolated it out to a full-on Minority Report world where Psylocke uses her telepathy to send a squad to kill someone as soon as they think about maybe kinda murdering someone. I’m pretty much a sucker for alterna-futures and this was a decent one. Remender of course makes sure not to forget his characters, so we get cool scenes between Psylocke and EVA, and also Nightcrawler and Deadpool. I continue to impressed at how much more depth Deadpool has in this title than he does anywhere else, I don’t know how he does it. I also liked that Nightcrawler seemed to be opening up a little. The new artist, Julian Totino Tedesco, is a new name to me, but I liked his work, it kept the look that Jerome Opena has established for the title, but with some more expressive elements to it, a bit of Eric Canete perhaps? The ending in this issue was another in a long line of good UXF cliffhangers, Psylocke kills herself to prevent this future… will it work? And even if it does, what about the Brotherhood? What about Kid Apocalypse?
The Ultimates #13– He’s back bitches! Ultimate Captain America is back and he’s still a bad-ass dick. I’m still not entirely sold on this crossover event, but this issue was a good one, Sam Humphries seems to be getting to grips with these characters very well, he particularly nails the tone of who Ultimate Iron Man is in this issue. I also liked that he’s returned to the new US President as a character, it’s interesting to get a story from the perspective of the supposedly most powerful man in the world, especially when he doesn’t have as much power as he should have. But the real fun here was to be had with the return of Cap and the way he fought those anti-mutant militiamen. Humphries’ take on the character isn’t quite as much of a dick as Millar’s, but he did a good job at getting how he’s not quite the boy-scout the Marvel Universe version is, I particularly liked how unimpressed he was by these punk kids. So now The Ultimates are back, but what threat are they going to have to face? Who is this Morez dude? He has one eye and one red eye… it’s not ringing any bells for me, unless it’s a reference to the version of Stryker from the X-Men 2 movie. Billy Tan’s art was OK, I run hot and cold with him, in this issue it worked, but I can foresee him getting rushed and the next issue looking terrible. We shall see.
Hit-Girl #2(of 5)– I think I’ve kind of become desensitized to Mark Millar’s particular type of hyper-violence, because the stuff in this issue that stuck with me wasn’t Hit-Girl killing a load of gangsters in very violent ways, but the smaller stuff with Mindy trying to learn to be a normal teenage girl. Of course, Millar plays it for laughs with very scathing attacks on the kind of shit teen girls like, but it is very interesting to see a character who is so out-there and unrealistic try and be real. But the violence was pretty cool. I also liked the familiar meta-commentary about super-heroes, with the repeated jumping through windows, and Kick-Ass’ terrible attempts at making Spider-Manesque one-liners. The Red Mist stuff is cool, but I do feel that on the whole this book is suffering from being set in between Kick-Ass 1 and 2, we already know what’s going to happen, so there’s not much suspense. It’s still fun, but it’s lost the usual ‘HOLY SHIT WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT I BET IT’S INSANE’ feel that most Millarworld stuff has.
Superman #11– Hey guys, just a tip, but if the cover to your comic promises to reveal ‘the secret’ behind Superman’s new costume, it might be a good idea to actually reveal the secret, rather than just showing the transformation and explaining nothing about it. A rather odd choice of cover blurb indeed. Other than that, this was a good comic. There’s two main strands to it, the first is Clark Kent dealing with all sorts of relationship drama with Lois, Jonathan Carroll and Lucy Lane. I quite like that Jonathan Carroll isn’t actually a shirtless McConaughey douche like he seemed in #1, but actually a good guy, adds some depth to Clark’s sadness, and also redeems Lois a bit. It seems to me like they are setting us up for a Clark/Lucy romance, which would be an interesting twist I guess, and I’m sure it would annoy a lot of hardcore marriage fans, which is always worth it. The other storyline involves a return to the Russian Submarine stuff from a few months ago, as Superman fights a generic green alien bad-ass. My main problem with this book has actually been how lame the new villains have been, why exactly isn’t Superman fighting any of his traditional foes? Do the DC higher-ups consider Toyman and Prankster and Mr Mxyzptlk to be toxic? I can’t imagine why… But seriously, those silver-age villains may be lame, but at least they aren’t painfully 90s. Hopefully this lizard-dude gets some development in the next issue. I did however like ‘Ivan’ the Russian spy, especially the mention of him being undercover in Presidential Security! The US government in the DCU really is incompetent.
Green Lantern #11– It’s actually pretty cool how all of the story arcs in this book lately are running into each other and making it all one big story, it’s very old-fashioned, but I like it. Now that the threat of the Indigoes is sort of over, we’re back to one of Johns’ favourite villains, Black Hand, who is just as creepy as ever. Thankfully it seems like Black Hand’s plans are not going to lead to a Blackest Night sequel or anything too big, he’s just fucked up and wants to create zombies, a nice, comfortable threat! Heh. The best thing about this title continues to be the bickering relationship between Hal and Sinestro, I may still hate Hal, but giving him a ‘straight man’ like Sinestro to play off of has improved him, made him less annoying and given his devil-may-care attitude a nice contrast. I’m sure the most talked about scene in this issue will be the one at the very end where Hal and Sinestro get sucked into the Book Of The Black and get a vision of what’s coming up in the GL books with that new event. Johns specialises in these teases, and this one was pretty effective, so alongside the new controversial Earth Lantern (I’m rolling my eyes at the gun and Arabic tattoo at the moment, but we shall see), we also see some ominous looking Guardians, the Manhunters being led by Atrocitus, Guy in prison, Kyle as a Red Lantern and some mysterious hooded figures. Ooooooooh. I’m not particularly pumped for this crossover, but this did pique my interest.
Aquaman #11– This issue reveals just what the heck those shiny gold things Aquaman and the rest of The Others have are, they are artefacts from the tomb of the first King of Atlantis, which makes sense, and considering this was the King who reigned when Atlantis sunk, it ties back in to Johns’ big running subplot. We also learn what Black Manta’s overall plan is, which is to find an artefact that The Others missed. I really like how bad-ass Black Manta is, I kind of feel like Johns’ use of villains is overrated, I particularly have a problem with the fact that he seems to like Flash’s Rogues more than Flash himself, but it does have to be said that he’s done just as good a job rehabilitating Black Manta here as he has with Aquaman himself. It was also good to find out more about some of The Others themselves, they are very cool new characters, although it was a little lame how Vostock immediately went into ‘telling origin mode’, surely most of these guys already know his origin? I also liked that The Others were annoyed at Aquaman for ditching them when he became one of the cool kids and joined the Justice League. Ivan Reis’ artwork was once again brilliant, I loved the pages where Aquaman leaped from the plane. This issue also introduces a new mystery, if it’s not Shin, then who was working with Black Manta? I’m guessing it’s one of The Others, but which one? Probably Ya’Wara.
I, Vampire #11– Who’d have thought a brutal war between Vampires, Vampire Hunters and Zombies could be so much fun? The scale of this book has jumped up at least 10 notches, and it only gets better. I particularly liked the way Andrea Sorrentino depicted the wide scale of the battle. I initially thought that Sorrentino could only really do dark, night-time stuff, but this arc has really shown that he (he is a he right?) can do a lot more than that. I wonder just how Tig and John survived getting blown up, I’m glad they did, but it wasn’t really explained, I guess they just ran fast? It was cool seeing Andrew really cut loose and brutally torture the head Van Helsing, Fialkov is obviously having a lot of fun with his new powers. And now, even though the head Van Helsing is down, it looks like the next big battle will involve not just Vampires and Zombies, but VAMPIRE ZOMBIES! Sorry, VAMPIRE MUMMIES.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #11– Those of you who know me will know that I hate Larfleeze with a fucking fiery fucking passion. Fuck! I hate him so much, it’s the worst thing in the world. So whenever he appears it’s pretty much a guarantee I won’t like that particular comic. But how do I feel when he appears and basically gets the shit kicked out of him? It’s a real quandary. I hate him, but I like seeing him beaten and losing. If only every appearance he made was him being beaten to death’s door. If only. Anyway, enough the annoying orange twat, there was other stuff going on here, most notably the revelation that it was Sayd who stole all of those rings and manipulated all of the events that lead to the formation of this loose team. That’s interesting, especially since she’s the only Guardian left who isn’t a massive dick. I’m guessing that her plan has something to do with the upcoming crossover, and that this team is essential to stopping the ‘Third Army’ in some way. Also, Invictus makes his move, it looks like Bedard is having to wrap up all of his initial plots before the crossover, which should be big, here’s hoping Invictus grinds Larfleeze beneath his boot.
All-Star Western #11– I just love the idea of a battle between the Court Of Owls and the Crime Bible. It’s a very clever use of continuity and one which helps lessen the feeling that the events in Snyder’s Batman are a massive retcon. They are still retcons, for sure, but this book is providing plenty of good context. Basically, the Owls and the Crime Bible are at each other’s throats over who owns Gotham, and Jonah Hex, Doctor Arkham and Tallulah Black are caught in the middle. It’s a little annoying seeing our heroes without any real agency, not really in control of the various evil forces attacking them, so I was glad that Tallulah escaped at the end and is going to be the real force. I found it interesting that this issue let us inside Tallulah’s head after 10 previous issues of being inside Arkham’s, it was a refreshing change of pace. I wonder why Graymiotti aren’t letting us into Hex’s thought process? I guess it’s pretty one-note, fight, fuck, etc. The back-up story introduced what I think is a new character, Terrence Thirteen, who is an ancestor of the more familiar Doctor Thirteen, and was a lot of fun, sharing his contemporary counterpart’s scepticism, but with added awesome facial hair. It was good to see Scott Kolins back drawing for DC, where has he been?
American Vampire #29– Pearl and Skinner begin their search for Vampires in 1950s Hollywood, with predictably bloody results. It was a bit convenient that the first house they visited was housing a Vampire, it would have been more effective if we’d seen more of their search, or at least some kind of montage (or whatever that kind of thing is called in comics), but I guess space is at a premium in comics these days with only 20 pages. The confrontation was pretty good though, I especially liked the creepiness of the Lions, it was kind of a double twist, you think he’s leading them to Vampires, but no, it’s only his Lions, and then oh shit yeah there is a Vampire. The other interesting thing here is how Snyder is tying the events of this arc to what happened in the very first storyline, with Pearl reminiscing about the last time she was in Los Angeles and how it changed her life. Hopefully this story will have as much of an impact on our characters. I continue to be very impressed with how well Snyder is creating a large, fully realised world, both in terms of space, but also time, so not only did stuff from the 1920s pop up here, but also the events of the Survival of The Fittest mini, which are used to explain how the VMS have Skinner under control. It’s great how much continuity and back-story we have now for this book. I’m guessing the ‘sire’ of this crop of Vampires is someone we’re familiar with too.
Spaceman #8(of 9)– The penultimate issue of Spaceman was, to me at least, the most overtly critical of modern society and reality TV of all of them so far. Azzarello doesn’t hold back here with the callousness of the TV producers, it’s very scathing. I’m not sure how I feel about it, I know science fiction is supposed to be a mirror to our modern world and blah de blah, but it is very on the nose. The more interesting stuff to me here were the scenes with Orson and Carter, the dialogue between them was very strong, and what they were discussing was very interesting, such as the similar natures of their jobs, and their own unique positions as Spacemen. Risso’s art was fantastic as usual, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing just how Azz will tie everything together, both in the present with Tara, and also the flashbacks, where I’m still adamant that Orson killed Ottershaw.
Haunt #25– Nathan Fox takes another break in this issue, and the very capable hands of Robbi Rodriguez replace him. I’ve only seen his work on an issue of X-Force before, but he does a good job here of keeping Fox’s tone and getting the right tone of insanity that this book has under Casey. The plot here is a fleshing out of just what in hell the deal is with the Insect Monsters that attacked Daniel’s church. They are part of an Insect Army, and we see them come into contact with a familiar face, Mirage. It’s a little jarring to see someone from Kirkman’s run show up, the book is so different now, but her role here worked, and she got to kick ass in some very violent scenes against the Insects. Casey also keeps up his quota of sick sexual stuff as we see Mirage’s informant riding a woman dressed in a leather horse outfit. Yeesh, that may be creepier than the bug monsters. There’s a lot going on in this book at the moment, and I like how Casey is using guest-artists to fill out the back-story, let’s just hope he pulls everything off and it all makes sense at the end. Not that it necessarily needs to make sense, that’s not Casey’s thing, nor should it be, glorious confusion is what we need.
Conan The Barbarian #6– Brian Wood and James Harren bring the fucking metal to this concluding issue of ‘The Argos Deception’. This issue was just gory as hell and a real blast from start to finish. In his attempts to get back to, then rescue Belit, Conan kills basically every thing in his path, whether it’s human or even horse. When he killed that horse… holy crap, that was cool. Harren really unleashes some fantastic hyper-violence in this issue, the guys going to be big I tell ya. I also continue to love how the blood and guts in the artwork is contrasted by Wood’s rather florid prose, it serves to make everything so much more epic. It’s also interesting that Conan is doing all of this for love, it’s not what you’d expect from the character, and it adds something new, for me at least, as I’ve repeatedly said, I don’t know much about Conan beyond that he likes to hack people to shit with swords and axes. So far, this book is delivering not only that, but some very interesting drama as well.
So there you have it. My favourite comics this week were Venom #21 and Winter Soldier #8, what can I say, I like me some grim 'n' gritty violent anti-heroes, and I like the unironically, I mean, I'm actually going to buy that Gambit book that's coming out soon. I will ride the grim 90s wave until it is dead! I can only hope that soon Venom will get himself a cybernetic arm and then the world will be complete.
Join me next TWIP-time on the same TWiP-Channel, for a look at Hawkeye, 3 different types of Spider-Man, Dial H and the final issues of both iZombie and JLI.
Written or Contributed by Niam Suggitt
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