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Spider-Man vs. Wolverine (1987, February)

Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). So, somehow, I totally missed this before. I don’t know how I managed that. Well, I can still do it now. So, by Christopher Priest (writing, back then, as Jim Owsley, but I’ll refer to him by his present name), Mark Bright, Al Williamson, Petra Scotese and Bill Oakley, “High Tide.”

High Tide

Hey, come on, Wolverine, wrecking tombstones is uncool.

It starts with a flashback. Wolverine is remembering a time he and a friend, Charlie (short for Charlemagne), were on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall, fighting Soviet operatives, who really, really wanted Charlie dead. Wolverine unleashed his berserker rage. Oddly, while this is supposed to have happened “a long time ago,” he’s still wearing a costume and has his claws. So it happened after the Hudson found him. Anyway, Charlie sneaked away while Wolverine was killing, but left behind a heart-shaped charm. That was the last Wolverine saw of Charlie.

Then we cut to Spider-Man. Since this is an X-Men blog, I’ll skip most of this, except to note that he spots an attractive, high-class woman, and finds a couple who owns a little mom-and-pop shop shot dead in a professional hit. After catching a movie with MJ, there’s a sniper attack. A little after, he kisses MJ, even though they’re officially not dating (even though they’re both pretty clearly in love with each other). He also declares he’s giving up being Spider-Man.

At the Bugle, Ned Leeds – who would soon be revealed as the Hobgoblin, and then later retconned into being framed as the Hobgoblin – tells JJJ that the dead mom-and-pop owners were KGB, as were the two pedestrians killed by the sniper. And at the scenes of the crimes, there’s been heart-shaped charms left behind. The mark of Charlemagne.

Wolverine’s in Berlin. He learned of Charlie’s murders, and took a leave of absence from the X-Men to investigate. Storm wasn’t happy about it, but he was determined. He’s being followed by a couple guys. He gives them a quick slip, and determines they’re muggers. He beats them up, in order to keep his KGB tails from killing them. Unfortunately, the KGB still kills them, thinking they might be Wolverine’s contacts. He confronts the tails, and they leave. Then they get killed by Charlie.

Later, he catches Spider-Man’s scent on the street, and goes to confront him in his hotel room. And I love Wolverine’s assessment of Peter Parker:

Spider-Man vs. Wolverine

Peter Parker . . . as KGB?

First, I love the idea that Wolverine thinks Peter Parker might be a KGB agent. Second, I love his description of Peter. “He was overdoing it with the Aunt May bit.” Of course, a few comics since then have had Wolverine and Aunt May interact, and it’s never not great. Regardless, Wolverine tries to tell Peter to leave, and to try to get Leeds to leave, too. When Peter returns to his hotel, he finds Leeds dead.

His killers are still there, and Peter’s frozen, until Wolverine busts in through the window to rescue him. Peter wants to leave, he can’t bring himself to do it. So he goes to a costume shop, asking for a black body suit. The guy doesn’t have one, but he does have . . . a Spider-Man costume. He tracks Wolverine into East Berlin.

Wolverine tracks Charlie to a steel mill that was a KGB front. And we find out Charlie is a woman! Which should’ve been obvious. We never saw her face in the flashback. She wore a hat, sunglasses and a heavy suit that concealed her gender. Wolverine – the only one in the story who knew Charlie – never used pronouns, but always said “Charlie.” And, of course, we saw an attractive woman right before the first KGB bodies were found. So, yeah, obvious. Anyway, they head out to Charlie’s mansion. She tells him she’s leaving him her money when she dies. She also talks about how much things have changed since the old days. She’s learned too much, and now everyone wants her dead, and there’s nowhere she can hide. But Wolverine says he’ll keep her safe.

They go out to dinner, in a room filled with people ready to kill her. And then Spider-Man shows up.

Spider-Man vs. Wolverine

I love Wolverine’s irritation here.

These two make for a fun pairing, which is why they get teamed up so often. Anyway, during the ensuing fight, Charlie slips away. So Wolverine and Spidey find another bunch of old KGB agents that are probably next on her agenda. Spider-Man almost freezes up again during the fight. Wolverine yells at Spider-Man, and the two split ways.

Charlie calls Wolverine, and they meet at a cemetery. Charlie wants Wolverine to kill her. She’s going to die anyway, but he’ll kill her fast and painless, while the KGB would make her suffer. He stabs her, but it’s not a kill wound. Before he can deliver the kill wound, Spider-Man gets involved. They fight, with Spider-Man getting increasingly freaked-out the whole time. He ends up relying on his Spider-sense to get a shot in, and then keeps pounding away. Wolverine keeps smiling, and comes right back. They tangle, and Spider-Man grabs Wolverine’s neck, but Wolverine says he doesn’t have the guts to kill. He also says – not for the first time – that Spider-Man simply can’t understand the world Wolverine lives in.

A helicopter appears, and Wolverine slips under cover. Spidey senses someone behind him, thinks it’s Wolverine, and unleashes a punch. It was Charlie! And his blow just killed her. And it’s pretty intense. The last few pages have him keep thinking back to that moment.

Spider-Man vs. Wolverine

This was a great comic. It does a good job handling the two characters. It’s Spider-Man put into a Wolverine story, and it works so well, because Spidey is so far out of his depth. It’s full of murder, and filled with shades of grey that he doesn’t know how to deal with. He’s very much a classic superhero: Good guy fights bad guys. Here, he’s not so sure who the good guys are. And more than that, he’s all about preserving life, while the end game here is ending lives. And that screws him up, leaves him doubting himself, and doubting his instincts.

Speaking of which: In the original draft, Spider-Man was going to lose to Wolverine. The whole point of the story was that he kept second-guessing himself, stopped trusting his instincts, and so also stopped trusting his Spider-sense. But someone in the Marvel office – Priest didn’t say who – heard about it, and kicked up a big stink about it, making a huge issue of the fact that Wolverine shouldn’t be able to lay a hand on Spidey because of the Spider-sense. So Priest was forced to change the fight. He still did a good job with it. It’s an exciting fight, largely due to the narration. We still get a sense of Spidey’s panic, and his feeling of being overwhelmed. I think Jim Shooter made a mistake in giving in to that loud voice in the office, by forcing Priest to change the story. I would guess that it was probably a fairly big-name writer. Maybe DeFalco? He was writing Amazing Spider-Man when this story would’ve been in the process of being written. Though Priest was actually taking over ASM when the comic came out. Well, whatever.

Wolverine is written fine. He’s Wolverine. Priest doesn’t do anything particularly special with him, though this is one of the earliest stories exploring his secret agent past. Getting into the shades-of-grey side of that stuff. Still, it doesn’t really do all that much with him. He’s mostly there as a contrast to Spidey. Speaking of which. . . .

This isn’t the first time the two had fought beside each other. They’d teamed up before, including in Marvel Team-Up. But this is the first time we’ve seen the contrast really explored. They’ve become a popular pairing, because they do play off each other really well, and I think at least some of that comes from this comic. But while most of their team-ups contrast them for comedic purposes, this one is very definitely dramatic; easily their most dramatic team-up, ever. There are some funny bits – the restaurant scene being the highlight for that – but for the most part, it’s all about showing the different worlds they live in, and just how out of place Spidey is in Wolverine’s world. Wolverine is a killer in a world of killers, and Spider-Man just does not fir into that, because he’s so dedicated to the ideal of no one dying.

The art is good. It’s solid art. It’s not spectacular, but it gets the job done. There weren’t many stand-out panels from a visual perspective, but neither were there any that were bad. Bright, Williamson and Scotese do a good job.

So, overall, a great Spider-Man comic and a decent Wolverine comic.

Uncanny X-Men #220 (1987, August)

Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). It’s my birthday! To celebrate, a comic. By Claremont, Silvestri, Green, Oliver and Orzhechowski, “Unfinished Business.”

Unfinished Business

Forge has looked better.

It starts with two eagles soaring over a majestic landscape. One of the eagles has a white Mohawk. Which is hilarious. They come together for sex, and start to fall, and only separate at the last moment. One of the eagles turns into a machine and attacks the Mohawk eagle, tearing it and leaving it broken on the ground. Gee, I wonder if that’s supposed to be symbolic or something.

Wolverine is on a mountain, sulking alone, and gets mad when Storm intrudes on his sulking. She looks out over the landscape, and says she wants to spread her arms and fly. She tells Wolverine she wants her powers back, and that she hopes Forge may be able to do it. While she’s gone, she needs Wolverine to lead the X-Men in her absence.

Uncanny X-Men #220

Not an easy woman to refuse.

Wolverine tries to argue a little more, but Storm really won’t take “no” for an answer.

A few days later, she’s in Dallas, at Forge’s Aerie. As she wanders in, she notes how odd it is that the place is unguarded. She finds the lobby covered in dust, with a notice of condemnation on the desk. There’s no power, no lights, and the phone is dead. And the elevator’s down, so she has to walk up a hundred flights of stairs. Upstairs, in Forge’s meditation room, Naze is communing with spirits. He learns Storm’s there, and gets ready to greet her, with a creepy smile.

Storm arrives in the Aerie proper, with all the floating platforms. She hears a voice from the balcony, and finds herself. It’s a hologram, replaying the end of Uncanny X-Men #186, the classic LifeDeath. She heads back inside, and the scene shifts to the jungle. Then the floor disappears. Luckily, her memory is good enough that she can make her way around, even when lasers start firing at her. She hears Storm shouting out to leave. Then images show up of her throughout her time with the X-Men.

She tries to make her way to safety, but gets hit by a stun-bolt that numbs her arm. She makes it into the kitchen, where we get more from LifeDeath. The kitchen is filthy. Next is the pool area, where the holograms are starting to overlap. She gets to his lab, and turns the holograms off. Forge shouts out, saying to bring his love back. He’s strapped into some weird machine, and doesn’t see Storm. Then it turns out he’s a hologram, too.

Naze comes in, and tells her he’s looking for Forge, too. He also admits that he turned the defence systems against her to see if she still had her edge. She gets pissed and starts storming her way back out, with Naze following her, saying Forge was in a bad state because of his love for her. He tells her that Forge is The Maker, with the power to fight the Adversary. But he rejected his destiny to go to war, where he lost his soul. Naze worries that Forge may have already been claimed by the Adversary, in which case, Bad Things. She tries to decline to help, but he reminds her he saved her life back in UXM #187, and he’s calling in the debt. She walks onto the balcony, and the wind is strong enough that it starts blowing her back, but she refuses to be forced to do anything by anything.

The next morning, after the storm’s passed on, she agrees to help Naze, who gets a creepy smile about it.

This is a fantastic issue. It’s all about Storm, and Claremont does great work with her. He explores her mixed feelings on everything from her powers to Forge. She goes to Forge to get her powers back, but she’s also worried about succeeding, since she’s proud of how she’s handled herself without them, and worries they’ll be a crutch if she gets them back. Of course, the main thrust of the story is her feelings towards Forge. She’s caught between hating him and caring for him. It makes for a compelling story. A lot of what goes on is just direct callbacks to LifeDeath, but that was such an amazing story that it’s hard to object. It makes you want to go back and re-read LifeDeath again, because holy shit, it’s good. This issue also gets Storm and Naze together, to look for Forge. This, of course, will lead into Fall of the Mutants. I’m excited for that!

The art here is great. I love Silvestri’s style. There’s an intensity to it, even in quiet moments. And action scenes are really exciting. He does a fantastic job with mood here. And body language, too. Storm’s body language throughout the issue is stellar. A lot of it is really casual, but still conveys her tension. It complements the art perfectly. The whole issue gives a real sense of tragic nostalgia. The dangers of living in the past. It is brilliant stuff, from all involved.

There’s also Classic X-Men #12, a reprint of X-Men #104. As usual, we’ve got added scenes, with Cockrum himself drawing them. Neat! Anyway, after the X-Men’s rented hovercraft is destroyed, we get reactions. Colossus turn to metal to save himself from a spinning blade, then gets pulled under the water. Storm gets grabbed with cables and zapped. Wolverine cuts her free, then gives her some air before drawing her to the surface. Banshee catches Nightcrawler, and they get hit by a wave. Magneto watches it all on a TV screen, musing on how different the new line-up is.

The back-up is Claremont, Bolton, Oliver and Orzechowski. In Paris, Magneto is sleeping. He remembers Auschwitz, near the end of the war. He saw a guard about to kill Magda, and he attacked and saved her, and they managed to slip out of the camp and into the woods. He promises to protect her forever. They survived, made it to a little village, got married, and had a child. They moved into the Soviet Union, so Magneto could go to university. He gets a job doing construction, and his boss tries to stiff him on pay. Magneto makes a crowbar smash into the door, and the guy pays up. Magneto isn’t sure what happened, since he hasn’t realized his power yet. He gets back to the inn where his wife and daughter are, and finds it on fire. Anya, his daughter, is upstairs, cut off. The ceiling almost collapses on him and Magda, but he creates a magnetic bubble that protects them. Before he can figure out how to save Anya, cops show up and start beating him for threatening his boss earlier. Anya dies, and Magneto freaks out and kills everyone. Magda freaks out and runs away.

Magneto wakes up, and sees some commotion across the street. A burning building. A mother and her daughter trapped, and the fire brigade not near enough to help. He thinks it’s not his business. Of course, he does still save them, because he’s not that monstrous. The husband thanks him, and Magneto says to tell the world who saved his family. It’s a nice story, with a good ending. We learn more about the experiences that shaped Magneto into who he is. We’ve seen him talk about Auschwitz, and about Anya’s death, but here, we actually get to see those events. And it makes it harder to really view him as a villain. (Of course, at this time, he wasn’t a villain any more; he was part of the X-Men.) It’s really powerful stuff, and the art helps to enhances the story. Nice as Bolton’s art is, a lot of credit should go to Oliver, too. She makes some great colour choices that add a lot to the story.

Classic X-Men #12

Escape from Auschwitz.

For example, right there. The black, white and red are really effective together. It gives such a powerful tone to the scene. It’s honestly almost a shame Claremont’s words are there, because the art – lines and colour, working together – tell the story so effectively. There’s also here:

Classic X-Men #12

The birth of Magneto.

Again, the art just conveys so much here. This is an instance where Claremont knew not to say anything, because there was absolutely nothing to say.

So, yeah, this story – this origin of Magneto – is a fantastic story, and one that’s a must-read, I think.

Also, Wolverine appeared in Web of Spider-Man #29, by James Owsley, Steve Geiger, Art Nichols, Bob Sharen and Rick Parker. It actually follows up a bit from the Spider-Man vs. Wolverine one-shot, which I somehow completely forgot to do a post for. Oops. I’ll do that Monday. Spider-Man’s moping on the docks, and Wolverine tracks him down so they can talk about what happened in Germany. They also fight a bunch of thugs. Neither of them are even in costume, either, which amuses me. One of the guys pulls a gun, and Wolverine gets pissed at a friendly scrap being ruined. Wolverine chases the thugs off and prepares to give chase. Spider-Man refuses, and says he’s giving up being a superhero, but Wolverine says he can’t do it. Spider-Man decides he’s right, and helps round up the thugs. With that done, Wolverine tells him he’s not to blame for what happened to Charlie or Leeds, the people who died in Germany. It’s an OK story. An OK Wolverine cameo.

And as an aside, this month also saw Captain America #332, where Steve Rogers gave up the shield and costume, and resigned from being Captain America. Forever! And West Coast Avengers #23 is the one where Mockingbird allowed the Phantom Rider to die. She refused to save him on account of the fact that he’d raped her. He drugged her into loving him. We don’t know if they had sex, but it’s still rape.

Alpha Flight #48 (1987, July)

Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Today, by Mantlo, Terry Shoemaker, Leiahola, Hilary Barta, Glynis Oliver and Ken Bruzenak, “Madness.”

Madness

This is seriously one of the blandest and least interesting covers I have ever seen.

Bochs is in some sort of bubble half-filled with water, ranting and raving. Puck wonders about his own place on the team, since he’s powerless. I’m sure we’ll get a panel soon of him whining that Heather could never love a dwarf. Heather thinks about how useless the team is, aside from Jeffries. Northstar says Bochs should be put away, and Jeffries gets pissed, and Aurora tells him to let Northstar go, and Jeffries threatens Aurora with darkness. And the reader wishes Mantlo was a better writer.

Anyway, Jeffries suggests they take Bochs to his brother, Lionel, which Heather opposes and Northstar supports. Heather eventually agrees, and also thinks about how she likes Jeffries. Because Mantlo is subtle.

Anyway, they head to Lionel’s clinic, where he quickly heals Puck’s injuries sustained last issue. Lionel promises to do his best, and also calls out his assistant for eyeing Kara. OK, that moment was kinda cute, I’ll admit. Even though it’s really inappropriate. So, Kara’s 13. She was specifically stated as 13 in her debut, which was just a few issues ago. Meanwhile, Knapp is actually referred to as Doctor Knapp. Doogie Howser aside, there aren’t many teenage doctors. Even if we assume the title is meant as a joke – and we’re never given any indication that that’s the case – it’s still clear he has some level of medical training. Later, Lionel calls him a brilliant surgeon. They don’t let teenagers do surgery. That takes years of medical school. So . . . how old is Knapp supposed to be, exactly? Even as a prodigy, he’d have to be at least in his early 20s, and that’s still pretty deeply unrealistic. So he has to be old enough for his attraction to Kara to be really frigging creepy. What the hell was wrong with writers in the ’80s?

Anyway. Alpha waits impatiently. And yep, there’s Puck pining for Heather! Dammit, Mantlo, you unsubtle hack. Also, Heather thinks once again about her feelings for Jeffries. In the OR, we find out Lionel’s a crazy bastard. He’s been grafting parts from dead people onto living people. That’s why Bochs’ legs are decomposing. He fuses Jeffries’ flesh, then gloats that he’s going to use Alpha’s organic material to create superior beings. Knapp attacks, and Lionel messes him up. And then Lionel and Bochs decide to merge together.

Meanwhile, Northstar slips away from the rest of Alpha, and Aurora follows him. She gets lost, and finds a room with some people in jars. Only two of these characters – Laura Dean and Goblyn – will ever actually matter. Laura’s coloured white here, but when she becomes a proper character, she’ll be black. Goblyn also looks different from what will become her usual look. Northstar reaches the OR, and reflects on the good life he’s led. Then the door is busted down by tentacles, and Northstar flees back to the waiting room. Lionel and Bochs follow, declaring themselves Omega.

Heather berates herself for not heeding her suspicions of Lionel. Yeah, Heather, you totally knew that Lionel was going to turn into a giant monster. Sure thing, lady. Regardless, she orders Alpha to attack, and says that they’ll save Bochs if they can, kill if they have to. We get some narration that the “do not kill” rule regarding superheroes is an impossible ideal.

Alpha Flight #48

Philosophical!

It’s an interesting discussion, one worth having. I’m not sure this was the time to have it, but whatever. It’s more interesting than anything else in this issue. Oh, and it ends with something happening to Knapp.

This issue is as weak as the rest of Mantlo’s run. No subtlety at all, with characters just declaring their conflicts outright. At each other’s throats in the most dramatic way possible. The villain also isn’t all that compelling. He’s crazy; yippee. That’s basically what it comes down to. He’s crazy. No need for depth and nuance, just make him crazy.

The art’s fine. It’s serviceable. Maybe could’ve done more with Omega; it never feels very creative. But I have no particular complaints about the art. No particular praises, either. It’s better than the writing, but that’s not saying much, given how poor Mantlo’s writing was on this series.

Ugh. And I’ve still got so much more of this crap to get through.

Marvel Fanfare #33 (1987, July)

Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). So, kind of a weird story today. Actually, a really weird story. By Claremont, Brigman, Austin, Oliver and Parker, “Shadows of the Soul!”

Shadows of the Soul!

Ooh, a wrap-around cover. Is this the ’90s?

This is a Questprobe tie-in. So I should give some context. Questprobe was a series of computer games published by Adventure International in the ’80s. Each featured a different Marvel character: the Hulk, Spider-Man, and the Human Torch and the Thing. Each had a comic tie-in. You can read about it on Wikipedia. Apparently, it was planned as a 12-game series, but the developer went bankrupt and closed down; X-Men were going to be the fourth, which is presumably why this story still ended up being done, before sitting around until Al Milgrom used it here as an inventory story. On a fun note, the whole Questprobe story ended up being wrapped up in the early ’90s, in the pages of Quasar! Mark Gruenwald actually wrapped up a few loose-end stories in Quasar. And told some great stories in general. So! This issue!

The X-Men are on Magneto’s island, the one that X-Plain the X-Men dubbed Octopusheim. They’re having a vacation. The line-up here is Storm, Wolverine, Kitty and Colossus, along with Magneto and Lee Forester. Obviously, this takes place before the Mutant Massacre. Magneto and Lee are dating, and incredibly melodramatic about it.

Marvel Fanfare #33

This isn’t even purple prose any more. Jeez, Claremont.

Kitty tries to use her phasing power to surprise Wolverine, but he knows she’s there, and she gets annoyed. She’s generally uncomfortable with the island. I can’t imagine why. Wolverine agrees, and says it’s like being on night patrol, always on edge and waiting for an attack. And, of course, Storm also dislikes the island.

Then the statues come to life and attack. Storm gets turned into stone. Kitty tries phasing through a statue, but instead of disrupting it, she gets stonified. Wolverine and Colossus both follow. Magneto’s the last one left. This is when the Chief Examiner – the fish-bowl-headed guy on the cover – introduces himself. He says the stone effect will wear off in an hour, congratulates Magneto on winning, and tells him to pass through a scanning gate. Magneto refuses, and attacks.

Meanwhile, Rogue is on her way back on a speedboat, after a shopping trip. After pulling the stone Wolverine out of the water, she flies to the island, where Magneto is ranting about being free. He puts on the Examiner’s outfit – complete with the fish-bowl helmet, and come on, Magneto, you’re better than ripping off Mysterio’s fashion sense – and attacks Rogue. In freeing herself, she accidentally hits the scanning screen, and it zaps her, and then she turns green. She dodges an attack, and stick to a wall. And then she lights on fire. Hulk, Spider-Man and Human Torch, the three people who’d already been scanned in earlier issues.

We then cut to an alien world, where we see a computer, an egg and a gem. Inside the computer, Magneto is in some kind of energy form. He meets a guy named Durgan, the creator of the Chief Examiner. He explains that his world is about to be invaded by another race of aliens, the Black Fleet, and his own people reject force. Durgan decided to take matters into his own hands, by creating a robot to find powerful beings and replicate their abilities. I guess “power,” here, is measured by popularity. Because, come on, Spider-Man as one of “the most powerful of beings”? Really? Not, say, Thor? Or Monica Rambeau? You go with Spider-Man? Anyway, the gem in the computer lab is sentient, and it’s the spirit of the gem that’s taken over Magneto.

Rogue continues to fight Magneto’s body, while Magneto and Durgan work together to get things back to normal, and Magneto’s sent back to his own body. Rogue passes back through the scanner, and is returned to normal. Magneto passes through the scanner, so his powers can be replicated. All the X-Men return to flesh and blood. Magneto lectures the Examiner on responsibility, and then gives a speech on violence and non-violent resistance. Yippee.

In all honesty, this was not a particularly good comic. It’s a video game tie-in, which are seldom good. The story is goofy, and not in a great way. Claremont indulges way too much in his purple prose, and in sermonizing. We get some OK character stuff early on, but nothing really special. It doesn’t even have the appeal of nostalgia with the line-up, since it hadn’t been that long at this point since Kitty and Colossus had been put out-of-commission.

The art’s really nice, though. Brigman, Austin and Oliver are all fantastic at what they do. Terry Austin was one of the best inkers in the industry, and Glynis Oliver one of the best colour artists. And June Brigman had a really good art style. Expressive faces and great body language. Really great body language. And it’s a very pretty, pleasant style. Really draws you in.

Still, the art isn’t enough to save this story. It’s not a good story.

X-Men comics of February 3 2016

Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). My birthday’s on Saturday, as an early birthday present, I got two Emma Rios comics. One with her on line art, the other with her writing. There’s also other comics. So here’s the ones I’ll talk about.

Uncanny X-Men #3, by Cullen Bunn, Greg goddamn Land, Jay Leisten and Nolan Woodard. Psylocke and Magneto pass through an anti-mutant protest to get to a medical centre where Triage is working. Three Dark Riders attack, and Magneto goes out to meet them. And I will say this, he knows how to make an entrance. The guy just can’t help but be epic. Psylocke reads their minds while they’re distracted, and then Magneto nearly kills them, before they teleport away. Then we cut to Monet in Tibet, to meet with Shen Xorn. Man, couldn’t he have just died off-panel? Do we really need that brought back up? This issue . . . I don’t know. It feels like there’s not much to it. Land’s art is less distractingly awful than usual, which is the very definition of damning with faint praise. I still hate his art. The writing is fine, I suppose. Pretty bland, for the most part. I don’t know, this just feels like a weirdly flat issue. There’s not much to it. There’s some banter between Psylocke and Magneto, there’s a fight where Magneto’s supposed to be badass but we don’t really get to see much of that. I think that’s the problem: The fight was really boring. It was mostly Magneto floating in the air while the Dark Riders shoot at him, and then two panels of him tearing them apart. It needed to have more action in it. The best option probably would’ve been to leave out the Psylocke panels at that point, and show Magneto defending himself and throwing distraction attacks at the Riders, until he finally tore them apart. Make the fight exciting and dynamic, rather than just . . . people looking at each other. And then Shen Xorn showing up is kinda questionable. I guess writers think any concept can be redeemed. But I’m not really sure that’s the case with the whole Xorn retcon, Shen Xorn included. And I say that as someone who actually loved the “Xorn is Magneto” moment in Morrison’s New X-Men run. But oh well. Bunn actually did do a pretty good job with Shen Xorn here, admittedly. I actually kinda hope he does get the chance to offer the Dark Riders some tea. And I hope Greg Land leaves this book and an artist who isn’t awful comes on, instead,

Deadpool & the Mercs For Money #1, by Cullen Bunn, Salva Espin and GURU-eFX. So, I’ve talked a lot about how much I hate what Duggan did with the mercs in his Deadpool run. How he writes literally every single one of them horribly. All out of character. So does Bunn do better? The issue starts with them attacking a Beyond Corporation facility. Yay Nextwave shout-out. I love that it’s actually become canon. The mercs are all wearing their own outfits, rather than Deadpool costumes, so already, that’s good. Terror still sounds off. Still more a generic quipper, rather than the very cultured monster he’s supposed to be. And actually, I’m going to talk about Terror. I frigging love Terror. I’ve read his ’90s series, and it’s great stuff. He’s a fantastic character, really smart and cultured and clever, prone to wordplay over quips or insults. He’s just fascinating. So it pisses me off that Duggan and Bunn have turned him into a brute with a bad sense of humour. It’s frustrating. If Duggan wanted someone with a specific personality, he should’ve found a character whose personality fit. Instead, he grabbed Terror and made him sound not even the tiniest little bit like Terror. It would be like writing Black Panther as an inner-city thug. This character isn’t Terror. He’s Terror in name only. Because Terror has a specific personality, and Duggan and Bunn clearly haven’t put the damn work in to figure out his voice. So to hell with both of them. Do your frigging research, guys. Anyway, the mercs get what they came for and deliver it to their employers, who are all dead. Killed, it turns out, by . . . the Crazy Gang. OK, this, I approve of. I approve of everything from classic Captain Britain, and classic Excalibur. Anything from classic Alan Davis. Any Alan Davis, really. If Alan Davis did something, I approve of it being used. I really do love the Crazy Gang. They’re wonderful. This comic? Kinda meh. Don’t care, really. I still have no idea why a single one of these people would work for Deadpool. Several of them sound out-of-character. The plot itself is OK. Group paid to steal MacGuffin, another group hired to steal it from them. No problems there. If it was a different group of characters – a group that made some frigging sense – this would be a good comic. But this group of characters does not make sense. And I can’t get over that. So it kept me from being able to enjoy this comic.

Uncanny Avengers #5, by Gerry Duggan, Carlos Pacheco, Mariano Taibo, Dave Meikis and Richard Isanove. Deadpool, Rogue, Cable and Johnny crash a party yacht, looking for information on the Red Skull. There are a few villains there. They say they know nothing about the Skull, so Johnny starts to leave, saying Avengers business is concluded, but the X-Men still have some questions. Which is actually a pretty cool moment. They’re given a bank and the country of Bagalia. Cable tries to go back to the future, but it turns out that, in his last battle with Stryfe, a tachyon anchor was attached to him. He returns to the base, while the other three head to Bagalia. They find the security systems already disabled in the vault. Gambit, obviously. And I want to criticize Duggan here. He has Gambit say “thief.” We all know it’s “t’ief.” Very sloppy, Duggan. Shame on you. Anyway, the issue’s OK. I find it hard to care, really. I don’t care about this series. I’m only talking about it because it has Rogue and Cable, but I may stop, since Gambit won’t be a regular character. Good art, though. Pacheco’s great, and the inks and colours are also solid.

That’s the X-titles. Here’s other comics.

Captain Marvel #2, by Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters, Kris Anka and Matt Wilson. Carol, AF and Wendy are exploring the derelict ship. It’s very dark, so they all have flashlights. It kinda bugs me that Aurora shows no nervousness, and doesn’t glow. She’s afraid of the dark; that’s a core aspect of her personality. And glowing is a part of her power set. We even see it later in the issue, but she doesn’t do it here, and I don’t understand why she wouldn’t. So that’s disappointing. Oh well. Wendy, on the other hand, is delightfully eager to be exploring a dark alien spaceship. Then a bunch of weird little amoeba-like aliens pop up, splashing everyone and landing on them. And Wendy is still happy and excited. Apparently, she only has one mood, and that’s excited. Nothing brings her down, even being covered in gunk. I like Wendy. Also, poor Sasquatch’s fur gets matted with the mucus stuff, and no one wants to pull it off his butt. They find the engine room, and the crew – all dead, in failed stasis pods. We also get back to the Eridani situation, and it turns out they may not be the threat. The energy signature of the ship that blew up the asteroid was that of a short-range ship, which means it couldn’t have come from the Eridani world. It had to come from Earth or the station. Dun dun dun! Also, we see a little bit of Sasquatch’s intelligence, and touch on Sasquatch and Aurora being split up right now. I wonder if that’s going to become a subplot. This issue’s great. I loved it. We got to see more from Alpha Flight, which I always appreciate. They’re great characters. I’m not sold on their take on Aurora, personally, but I love their Puck, and their Sasquatch is good. Carol, of course, is great, as are Wendy and Brand, in her brief scenes. The story is interesting, and I’m curious to see where it’ll go. And I like the art. I know Anka has his detractors, and I understand why some people dislike his style. But I like it. I think it works well. He does some great facial expressions, and some good body language. And he includes a little bit of body diversity, too – there’s a chubby ensign, and Wendy’s a little curvy. So his women don’t all look alike, which is always a really nice touch. So, yeah, I’m really enjoying this series.

A-Force is great. It’s full of some hilarious moments. But the most important thing is that Dazzler is now into roller-derby! That is so perfect and I love it! I think I’ve actually thought in the past that Dazzler should do roller-derby. It’s great. I’m so happy about that, you have no idea. I’m going to be smiling for a while just about that alone.

Vision #4 starts with an absolutely bizarre reversal of the old Charlie Brown football gag. It’s so goddamn weird and I love that. Honestly, the opening scene, with Vision and his kids, is so sweet and nice. There’s still some slightly unsettling elements with their speech patterns, but for the most part, this opening scene is absolutely the sweetest scene in the series so far. And it’s actually followed by another really sweet scene at the school, when a guy – her lab partner – talks to her. He clearly likes her, and she seems to like him, too. Also, best line in the whole issue – possibly of the week: “Wife, I am listening. It is just that I am also fighting Giganto.” But aside from that, this issue’s also got a ton of great drama and a fantastic twist at the end. This series is amazing. You have to be reading this. It is too good not to read it. It’s brilliant work.

Not a review, but I do want to talk about Pretty Deadly #8, by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles. It’s amazing. The art is gorgeous, of course. Rios and Bellaire are both amazing, the best at what they do. (So is Cowles, for that matter, but letterers run into the problem of not being noticed unless they screw up. He does do really great work, though, and makes choices that do enhance the story in very, very subtle ways.) So I love the look of Pretty Deadly. And the writing is killer. This issue has discussions of war and luck. The idea of luck actually plays a pretty big role in this issue, with two important lines of dialogue that really get into it: “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?” Which is to say that what seems like bad luck can work out in your favour, and what looks like good luck can cause you problems. And, even better: “You don’t earn good fortune before you get it, fool. You earn it after.” That might now be one of my favourite lines from anywhere. It so perfectly encapsulates the reality of “good fortune.” People always want to pretend that good luck goes to those who’ve worked for it, but that’s so seldom true. Luck is random. It goes to whoever it wants. When it goes to you, it then becomes your responsibility to deserve its benefits. It’s a brilliant line.

And there’s Mirror #1, by Emma Rios and Hwei Lim. Apparently, Mirror has actually been expanded into an ongoing, which is awesome. Congratulations to Rios and Lim on that. It’s very interesting. Some really interesting stuff here, with magic, human-like animals, plots, and a tragic love story. Rios is showing some solid writing chops. And Lim’s art is great. Very manga-esque. She draws some great animal-people. I enjoyed this debut issue, so I’m in this for the long run.

X-Factor #18 (1987, July)

Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Today, by the Simonsons, Wiacek, Scotese and Rosen, “The Enemy Within!”

The Enemy Within!

I’m pretty sure they’re arguing about how to hang toilet paper.

The team gets back to the HQ, and are greeted by Rusty and Skids, and Hodge, who makes Rictor nervous. Skids and Rusty call themselves “the Team Supreme,” which is, just such a cliche. Everyone in comics declares themselves “the Team Supreme.” Regardless, they thaw Iceman out, and Iceman immediately passes out. And Scott makes a snide comment about rising from ashes being Jean’s thing. After the adults leave, Rusty and Skids start to make out, but Skids stops it when she thinks about Scott and Jean: They fell in love as teens, and they still love each other, but things have gone really bad between them. I actually kinda love seeing the situation explained here:

X-Factor #18

I love X-Men comics.

Anyway, they go tell Hank about the weird things that have been going on, then chat with Rictor. The next morning, during a training session, Rusty talks to Scott about his feelings for Skids, and asks what it was like for Scott and Jean. Scott says they were being trained as Xavier’s soldiers, and romance would have been frowned on; at least, that’s what Scott thought at the time, though he admits he may have used it as an excuse to avoid getting close. He then talks about the New Mexico butte where they totally had sex, back in X-Men #132. Scott then remembers it was Phoenix that happened with, and he seems very confused about it all. Jean happened to be outside the room, listening, while telekinetically carrying a bed. As one does. Hodge watches the scene with amusement.

Scott goes to talk to Hodge about the PR campaign, and the way it’s promoting fear of mutants. Hodge says things are going well, and takes him into the training room, where Beast is training Rictor. While they watch the session, Hodge says Scott’s just irrational from grief over losing his wife, and also mentions how crazy it is that Scott’s fallen in love with three women who all look exactly alike. Rictor ends up freaking out and running out of the room, followed by Scott. Hodge asks Beast to look for Boom-Boom, and Iceman says he and Caliban are going, too, and they’re going to look for her as mutants. And also tells Hodge to sit on a tack. Woo, strong words there, Bobby. You dork.

When Scott talks to Rictor, Rictor says that Hodge’s voice reminds him of the voice of the Right’s leader. Jean comes in and thinks Scott is scaring Rictor and yells at him, and he yells right back. She goes looking for Scott. He’s in his office, accessing the computer files on Hodge. And Phoenix comes out of the monitor and talks to him. Jean comes in while he yells at Phoenix, and he’s really, really freaking out. She hurls him back, and a fight begins, with Scott saying he loves her while trying to shoot her. Dude. Talk about mixed messages. Anyway, they talk about their feelings while trying to kill each other. Because that’s just what the X-Men do.

In the end, Scott tries to prove that Jean is really Phoenix, by taking his visor off so she can block his eyebeams. Lucky for him, that’s right when Leech shows up. Otherwise, he would’ve killed her. It turns out, the Phoenix that came out of the computer was a hologram. Scott realizes Hodge set it up. I want to point out that Scott’s been hallucinating since Alaska, so he’s still pretty clearly not mentally healthy. But luckily, his hallucinations do stop here. By the way, I do love that, with the office all smashed up, the computer somehow managed to avoid getting damaged. The ceiling’s caved in, but the computer works fine. It didn’t even lose power! Very convenient.

And then we end on Apocalypse’s ship, with a man with blond eyebrows asking why Apocalypse saved him, and Apocalypse promises to give him the power to get revenge on those who wronged him. He agrees, in order to be able to fly again. I wonder who it could be!

This was such a melodramatic issue, and I kinda love it for that. I can’t really say it’s a good issue. It’s just so over-the-top. But that makes it so much fun. The Scott/Jean stuff is absolutely ridiculously melodramatic, with them shouting about their feelings while trying to beat each other up. It’s hilarious. “You can trust me!” *ZAPT!* *CRASH!* Real trust-worthy, Scott. He really is messed-up in this period. Like, we’re supposed to think it’s all Hodge’s fault that he’s the way he is. But there’s no indication that Hodge was responsible for Scott’s earlier hallucinations. Hodge is taking advantage of Scott’s fragile state of mind, but Scott’s been pretty clearly messed up for the entire run of X-Factor, and Maddie’s seeming-death only made it worse.

The rest of the issue’s OK. We get more hints about Hodge, with Rictor’s comments suggesting that Hodge might be the leader of the Right. Which he is, of course. The Rusty/Skids scene was meh – they’re characters I have trouble caring that much about. They’re pretty generic. They tend to be very one-note characters, there as much to exposit on other characters as anything else. And, of course, we find out what’s happened to Angel. It’s pretty clear that the character on the last page is Warren. No one reading this title was ever going to wonder who it was.

The art is fine. I’m not a big fan of Walter Simonson’s art style. He does fine work here, it’s just not a style I’m big into. Some expressions seem a bit odd at times, but for the most part, it’s good work, just not for me.

Overall, this was a fun issue.

Pull list for February 3 2016; Angela and SJWs

It’s now February! And Saturday is my birthday. Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). I’m off tomorrow, so reviews will be up.

I’ll go to the store for: A-Force #2, by G. Willow Wilson, Kelly Thompson, Jorge Molina and Laura Martin; Captain Marvel #2, by Tara Butters, Michele Fazekas, Kris Anka and Matthew Wilson; Mirror #1, by Emma Rios, Hwei Lim and I’m not sure who on colours; My Little Pony Friends Forever #25, by Barbara Kesel and Brenda Hickey; Pretty Deadly #8 (yay!) by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles; Vision #4, by Tom King, Gabriel Walter and Jordie Bellaire.

I’ll also review: Deadpool & the Mercs For Money #1, by Gerry Duggan, Salva Espin and I’m not sure who on colours; Uncanny Avengers #5, by Gerry Duggan, Carlos Pacheco and (presumably) Richard Isanove; Uncanny X-Men #3, by Cullen Bunn, Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Nolan Woodard.

So that’s 6 comics I’m picking up, and a minimum of 3 reviews (probably more). Decent week.

I’m most excited for Pretty Deadly. Yes. Yes yes yes. Awesome early birthday present. Pretty Deadly is amazing and you should be reading it. I’m also excited for Mirror, Captain Marvel and Vision. I will buy anything Emma Rios does. I don’t buy Island because she’s only an editor on it, not a contributor, but anything she creates, I’ll buy. I love her art. Love it love it love it. Mirror won’t have her art. She’s the writer. But just the same, I’ll support it, because Emma Rios. Captain Marvel #1 got off to a great start, so I’m definitely eager to see how it develops. And Vision has been insanely good. Seriously, if you haven’t been reading Vision, you need to fix that and read Vision. I promise you, it is better than you think. You say you think it looks brilliant? It’s better than that.

My February Marvel pull list: A-Force #2, Captain Marvel #2, Vision #4, Hellcat #3, Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur #4, Silk #4 and 5, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #5, Angela #5, ANAD Avengers #5 and 6, Spider-Man 2099 #6 and 7, New Avengers #6 and 7, Power Man and Iron Fist #1, Silver Surfer #2, Spider-Man/Deadpool #2, Weirdworld #3, Ms. Marvel #4, Ultimates #4. That’s going by Marvel’s release calendar for the month. So 21 titles. Getting heavy again.

I read Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland “Official” Graphic Novel, with art by Glenn Diddit. My review:

You already know if you want to read this. It’s a graphic novel adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It’s the complete story, though parts of it are paraphrased for brevity. This is my first time reading Alice In Wonderland. It’s OK. It’s fun, it’s whimsical, it’s silly. Parts of it do drag on, though. There are also parts of it that are tough to follow, not because they’re silly, but because they’re just awkwardly written. The art, however, is good throughout. I got the black-and-white version, and I found it fine. The art is expressive and comedic.

All in all, I found this enjoyable, but I also found it not really for me.

This was something I supported on Kickstarter. Speaking of Kickstarter! I have suggestions! I need to start mentioning the Kickstarter projects I back. OK, so, there’s Laura: A Slice of Life Graphic Novel, by Guillem March. This was March’s last project before he started doing work for DC (I haven’t seen any of his work, since I don’t read DC, but looking him up, he seems really talented), and it looks pretty good. It’s fully-funded, and then some, to the tune of ten times the goal, with over a week left to go. So 3 Euros – which is, I don’t know, $6? – gets you a PDF of it.

There’s Tuskegee Heirs, by Greg Burnham and Marcus Williams. It’s a take on the manga trope of kids piloting big-ass machines, but here, it’s a bunch of black kids, as an homage to the Tuskegee Airmen. It’s blown past its initial goal, but the real goal has yet to be reached. See, the initial goal was $10 000, to create the graphic novel. But the real goal is to reach $75 000, to fund an animated pilot. They want to turn Tuskegee Heirs into an animated series, and $75 000 will allow them to make the pilot as a pitch piece. They’ve still got over $30 000 to go for that, with less than 2 weeks, so they probably won’t reach it. But still, it looks like a great project, and something well worth backing.

There’s People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science-Fiction!, an anthology magazine of sci-fi stories by people of colour. It’s fully-funded, and is a cool idea, so throw it some more money. Fitting In: Tales of Supernatural Outsiders, which also seems neat. (The creator of that project, Jeremy Zimmerman, is the writer of the Kensei series of Young-Adult superhero fiction. I like his work.) There’s a Smut Peddler Double Header, featuring two books put out by Iron Circus Comics, the people behind the Smut Peddler anthologies of woman-made pornographic comics. (I’ve read the 2012 one, and it’s great. Very fun, very sexy, very positive and heartwarming. It’s good!) This double-header will be for My Monster Boyfriend, a new anthology of comics about, well, monster boyfriends, and Yes, Roya, by C. Spike Trotman and ghost green. My Monster Boyfriend’s list of full contributors has yet to be released, but it includes Trudy Cooper (of Oglaf, and if you haven’t read that webcomic, go read it now, it’s hilarious), Jess Fink, EK Weaver and, oh yeah, Gail frigging Simone. So you should definitely support that book.

And, finally, 1001 Knights, which is yet another anthology. Actually, that’s not accurate. It’s three goddamn anthologies. It’ll have over 250 artists, and 1001 characters. Here’s a list of the creators involved. Unfortunately, I have to confess to not knowing who any of them are, with just a couple exceptions. But nonetheless, I’m sure they’re all immensely talented, and I’m sure it’ll be a fantastic anthology.

So that’s what I’ve backed on Kickstarter lately.

So I’m sure you’ve heard about the controversy regarding the latest issue of Angela, and a specific set of panels. These ones:

Angela #4

But other than that, he seems like a pretty nice guy.

First, for those who don’t read the series, I should provide a little context. Angela and Sera are lovers. Sera died and went to Hel, so Angela’s storming Hel in order to free her. Sera – who is, as an aside, a trans woman of colour, and why the hell doesn’t Marvel talk about that? – is a bard and a sorceress, and has access to a lot of knowledge she’s not supposed to have access to. She’s also the narrator of the series. This is a book that mixes humour with epicness, and some of the humour comes in the form of dialogue that leans on the fourth wall. Sera is especially fond of doing that, and as she’s the narrator, an argument could be made that much of what we see is filtered through her perspective of events that already happened.

So that’s the context. So now let’s get to the above moment, and the controversy. There’s a couple different criticisms. Criticism #1: How would Bor even know what Israel is to have opinions on it? Some people dislike that level of anachronism. And that’s fair. I find it an amusing joke, but humour is incredibly subjective. I will never tell someone that they’re wrong for not liking a joke. (At least, I won’t say it with any seriousness, only as a joke itself.) The joke didn’t work for them, so that’s that. Not much room to debate there.

The more common criticism, though, is that it was “pandering to SJWs and the PC Tumblr brigade” and so forth. This criticism? Not valid. Because it includes bitching about “SJWs.” And that’s never a valid complaint. I look at the use of “SJWs” as a way of saying “ignore what I’m saying because it’s bullshit.” If you bitch about “SJWs,” then you’re a douche. That’s just science. I hate the term “SJW.” And the term “PC.” And, for that matter, I hate how people who use those terms use the term “pandering.” They try to act like people are trying to oppress them. Because going from 95% of characters representing them to only 80% of characters is so horrible. Straight White Males make up significantly less than 50% of the population, and yet, we still utterly dominate culture. And so many of us still feel threatened by Others making headway into that cultural domination.

These people don’t think of themselves as racists or misogynists. And yet, when they see something that calls out racism and misogyny, they get really mad about it. That says a lot, I think. The people bitching about the Angela scene also bitched about a scene from last week’s All-New Inhumans, where a couple of guys were talking about how hot Crystal was, and an Inhuman was disgusted. Why would this make people angry? Is it that maybe they identify with the guys talking about a woman purely as a sexual object? Because it feels like that’s what’s going on here. They don’t think of themselves as misogynists, but a lot of their opinions and behaviours get classed as misogyny, on account of actually being misogynistic. So when a comic calls out that sort of behaviour for the bullshit it is, they get pissy and whine about it being “pandering to SJWs.” They seem to think that either that sort of thing doesn’t happen in the Real World, or that comics shouldn’t address it, and both those ideas are frigging insane.

Back to the Angela scene. The scene posits that misogyny, Men’s Rights Activism and casual racism are Bad Things. And these people jump to criticize the scene, and in the process, act to defend the things the scene is criticizing. Because I don’t think these people actually do think those things are bad. I think they’re fine with misogyny, and even with casual racism. They think it’s fine to make misogynistic and racist comments, and if anyone objects, then they’re “PC police” trying to suppress free speech, because these assholes always fail to realize that free speech only means the government can’t punish someone for speech, not that anyone can say anything they want without any fear of consequences. If you use “free speech” to defend something you say, then you’re an asshole who just wants to be allowed to be an asshole. It’s that simple.

Also, these people shouldn’t be bitching about a book they’re clearly not buying. You can tell they’re not buying it, because they almost all say in their complaints that they didn’t think it was real, and that someone had photoshopped it. But of course they’re not buying Angela. It’s a comic about a female lead who’s in a lesbian relationship with a trans woman of colour. No shit the people who bitch about “pandering” aren’t going to read it.

I actually didn’t have much to say about the Angela scene. I mostly just used it as an excuse to call people who bitch about “SJWs” assholes. But I do have a few other things to say about it. A lot of people said the joke was lazy, others said it indicates a lack of cleverness on Bennett’s part. To those people, I say: Fuck off. How goddamn insulting are you? To accuse a professional writer, who writes several titles (all receiving plenty of critical praise), one of which is weekly, of being lazy? Yeah, no, that’s bullshit. Marguerite Bennett is not lazy. She’s very dedicated to her craft. She loves what she does, and she puts a lot of work into it. And not clever? Again, no. She’s very clever. You may not like some of her humour, but that doesn’t mean she’s not funny. She’s a writer who’s very well-respected within the industry. A lot of professional comic writers are fans of her. That’s not because she’s untalented. It’s because she’s damned good at what she does.

And not only is it insulting to Bennett, it’s also insulting to her readers. When you say the joke was lazy, you’re insulting the people who enjoyed it. You’re saying they have a poor sense of humour. That’s bullshit. The people who didn’t like to joke like to act superior about it. “I’m much too smart and clever to be amused by such a lazy joke! Anyone who did enjoy it is clearly less smart and clever than I!” Well, bite me. I liked the joke. That doesn’t mean my sense of humour is less refined than yours.

Anyway, that’s enough about all that.

My schedule for this week: 4-10 Sunday. Yeah, that’s my only shift this week. And I’m only working then because I took someone else’s shift. It’s ridiculous how few hours I’m getting these days. Anyway, posts every day except Sunday.

Jay Edidin

(or a competent imposter)

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