Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Today: Still life with Batboat!

It's like a venn diagram of 'who would be interested in these things,' with possibly only me in the middle.
Even though I got a pretty good pile of quarter books this week, instead of diligently plowing through them, I've been playing Evil Dead: Regeneration. Not the best PS2 game ever; but it's always fun to play Ash and shoot deadites with shotguns and whatnot. With the always-entertaining voice of Bruce Campbell, and guest-starring Sam Raimi as Sam, an unkillable deadite-midget sidekick.

Finished that, so I should get back to work, right? Well, I also got another game I've almost inexplicably wanted for some time: Star Trek: Encounters. Shipboard combat with different eras of Trek; on different levels you captain Kirk's Enterprise, Picard's Enterprise-E, and so forth. I may have to look for some cheats, since I have comparatively little desire to play levels with Enterprise's NX-01 or Voyager. At least, I do compared to wanting the Defiant from Deep Space Nine. Loved that show, love that ship. Also, the game scores a Poor from Gamespot, so cheating may well be the way to go there.

Evil Dead: Regeneration got a 6.9 Fair from GameSpot, and it was described as "marred and buggy." Now that I think about it, there were two separate spots where the game glitched and froze up on me. Still, both games were about a dollar a piece at a yard sale (where the Oldest managed to get himself an old xBox and pile of games on the cheap) so if you're still playing an old system and find them at that price, well, go nuts.

I'm still in a brutal and anxious mood, since I've been waiting for something from eBay that I won two weeks ago, that has yet to show up. It's like waiting for Christmas, except you know when Christmas will be. But, I did find something in stores the other day: I'd been wanting to find one, but not for me: a Batboat! The Youngest has been watching the original sixties Batman movie, and I think he'll like it.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

No animals were harmed during this post...except that one, I guess.

Oh, calm down, PETA.
Although I read Marvel's Conan the Barbarian for most of it's 275 issue run, there were a few dogs in there. Um, I mean, a few stinkers, let's say. This month, Conan's chatting up a barmaid, when he gets smacked in the back of the skull and the wench stolen by a bar thug. (In best pulp tradition, Conan gets hit in the head more than Hal Jordan.) Conan gives chase, but the bar thug has taken refuge in an abandoned, and presumably haunted, wizard's tower.
Hey, an 'arrrooo'!
Upon entering, Conan discovers the body of the thug, killed by something; and the skeleton of the wizard, eaten by something. Then, Conan finds the girl, and...
'Rut-ro, Raggy!'
...a Scooby-Do episode gone so very wrong. No, actually, it's the wizard Caldix, who died some years back, and then his spirit became trapped in his dog after his dog ate his corpse. Moreover, the dog-wizard is trapped in the tower because of his final spell; or else because Caldix may have been a shut-in before that. Conan treats him to a bit of stabbing, before throwing him out of bounds, and Caldix's spirit is forced out into the void. The dog dies, sadly; but Conan rescues the barmaid, who had been telling Conan her name means, "lucky."

From Conan the Barbarian #114, "The Shadow of the Beast!" Written and edited by Roy Thomas, illustrated by John Buscema and Ernie Chan, and adapted from a story by Robert E. Howard! Well, they can't all be The Frost-Giant's Daughter...

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Taking a day, folks:

So unbelievably aggravated lately. Things aren't going that badly, just...annoyingly. Not enjoying myself at work, not sleeping as well as usual, feeling a little run down, still waiting for something from eBay, and just hating everyone in the tri-county area.

Is there anything more depressing than going for a walk and seeing a pregnancy test in the street? How about, walking by there regularly, so you'll see it daily? Worse, you reach a point where you consider just biting the bullet and throwing it away yourself, but that would involve handling it, and inevitably seeing the result...Worse still? Not the first time I've seen one by the side of the road...

So. Out today, but hopefully I'll be back in form on Monday. Have a good weekend, and for the love of god, don't look at it...
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Namor's pretty good at knowing his battlefield:

Since I brought it up yesterday, I somehow found a reprint copy of Sub-Mariner #8, "In the Rage of Battle!" Written by Roy Thomas, art by John Buscema, inks by Dan Adkins. Delusional and convinced he had the power rather than the Helmet of Power, Paul Destine tried to fly off a building and failed spectacularly last issue. The Helmet is taken into custody, while Namor takes care of the suffocating Lady Dorma; and the authorities ask the Avengers to deliver it to the Pentagon. Instead, the Thing takes the package, and the Sub-Mariner reluctantly is forced to fight him for it.

Maybe this doesn't happen in every Sub-Mariner comic, just the ones I've read, but Namor seems particularly adept at using the terrain to his advantage. Not just the terrain, of course, but the water, and the surroundings: he seems to have an uncanny ability to find and use water pipes, electrical cables, and retaining walls to turn the tide of battle.

Still, a pretty good issue, with the trademark Roy Thomas tie-in to golden age comics; cameos from the original Human Torch, Goliath, and the Vision; and great John Buscema art.
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Question: how long was Namor a homeless bum?

Most comics fans are familiar with the sliding timeline used by Marvel or DC: instead of Superman being around since 1938 or so, in the current continuity, he's only been in action for ten years or so. I think it's pretty much the same for Marvel: the Fantastic Four first went into space and got their powers ten, maybe twelve years ago.

The trouble is, there are events attached to real dates, like the Justice Society or Invaders in World War II. Now, Captain America ended up frozen until the Sub-Mariner found him frozen in a block of ice and tossed him in the ocean. Namor himself had only just recovered some of his own memory (not all of it, he didn't remember his time with the Invaders...since those comics hadn't happened yet) in Fantastic Four #4. Johnny Storm, having left the FF and hanging out in a homeless shelter, stumbles across the bearded, amnesiac Namor; he shaves him and drops him in the ocean...great thinking, Johnny.

I don't have my copy of Marvel Saga #3 next to me, but it does a great job of recapping Namor's post-war encounter with Destiny--not the blind lady that hung out with Mystique, but a mentallist named Paul Destine. Using the "Helmet of Power," which I think was a disguised Serpent Crown...this is getting more and more complicated...Destiny destroyed Atlantis and wiped Namor's memory. Or at least hid it. Namor would become a bum, wandering the streets and not even knowing who he was.

(The squarebound Inner Demons is a great look at Namor's lost years, and I may have to dig it up again. I did spent a few minutes looking for it under the title "Hidden Depths," which sounds better to me.)

The question is, how long was Namor a bum? And is that time getting longer in the sliding timeline? Does that damage the character, having him spend years out of action? Or is this just ignored? Or has that slid as well: was Namor active in the Marvel Universe in the sixties, the seventies, even the eighties; before Destiny got to him? I know there was that John Byrne missing years miniseries that was a bit of an attempt at patching holes the sliding timeline was opening, but I haven't read it. Anyone?
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I swear I'm doing a proper write-up on this one...

...luckily, this page has got a surprising amount of captioning, about Marvel's resident muck-monster, the Man-Thing. As usual, in the Marvel Universe, nobody goes to Florida unless it's to meander about the swamp and run into Manny.

We'll do a full write-up on this issue a little later (although, you can see what it was from the bit of indica scanned there) but it's from a book I loved that never seemed to break it big, and routinely had its artists stolen for bigger projects. Paul Ryan, Greg Capullo, Steve Lightle was in there for a bit...actually looking it up, though, most of those guys had pretty fair runs on this book who's name I won't mention.

...except for the tag there. Hell!
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Monday, August 23, 2010

Daredevil cancelled? Oh, no, how...ah, he'll be back.

So, when I saw the "last" issue of Daredevil in the Marvel solicits, my first thought? I guess Daredevil doesn't have a movie coming out and they need the staff and resources for another Thor book. And I was a little nostalgic for the long-gone days when, if a book wasn't selling well, the editor would turn it over to a young gun to try and turn it around; like Frank Miller or Walt Simonson...

I'm not too upset about the cancellation, since I know Daredevil will get another first issue sometime, and I don't expect them to kill him off or turn him evil or anything, and I haven't read his book in a while anyway. And I haven't seen a lot of DD specials or annuals or single issues lately; I miss one-shot stories.

Like today's book, from Daredevil #208, "The Deadliest Night of my Life!" Written by Harlan Ellison and Arthur Byron Cover, pencils by David Mazzucchelli, inks by Danny Bulandi. After a hard night on patrol in the snow, Daredevil's ready to pack it in and head to bed when he hears a lost little girl. The girl leads DD on a chase, and into a trap; and the girl turns out to be a robot. DD tosses the decoy away before it explodes, but is trapped in a tunnel under the slums.

Further on, Daredevil manages to dodge a barrage of darts, except one, and then trips out on the hallucinogen on it. He still manages to fight his way through more traps: quicksand, spikes, flamethrowers. Knowing he's being herded through a gauntlet, DD instead smashes through a wall to "backstage," the cables and guts of the deadly traps. He manages to damage some of the machinery, before the house releases snakes into the access space.

Finally reaching the roof, Daredevil realizes he's trapped in a huge mansion, but can't escape that way, it's covered with lasers. He falls back into the mansion, and is nearly dropped into a pool with a shark. But, since DD wrecked up the machinery, the water drained from the pool and the shark was flopping around dying. DD swims out to the shark's holding tank, but is exhausted, and near the end of his rope.

Pulling himself back up, DD makes his way to a living room, where he triggers a recorded message from Elizabeth Dawes Sterling. Who? She was Death-Stalker's mother...and you don't remember Death-Stalker either. That's fine: he died back in Daredevil #158, which is probably better remembered as Frank Miller's first issue on the book. Sterling was old money, and completely willing to throw a lot of it into avenging her son's death. When she died, the trap was set into motion; Matt knows the last trap has been tripped. While she carries on, he escapes up the chimney and gets the hell out before the entire building goes up. Still, even the spiked gate takes one last shot at him.

Matt makes his way to Natasha's, the Black Widow. He's a little cheesed at her right now, but he left clothes at her place, so he can change and make his 8 AM court date. Doubtless reeking of open flame, salt water, and fear sweat, Matt is a little late, but makes it...not noticing the two robot decoy girls in the gallery...

Crap, this issue wasn't a single-issue story at all, it's continued in Daredevil #209! Ellison and Mazzucchelli would be on the next issue, too. I thought they were just leaving it a little open, but shows what I know. This issue's before "Born Again," and DD seems a little too broken for just a bunch of traps: seems pretty tame compared to his string of murdered girlfriends, or the Kingpin ruining him, or actually going to hell. Well, he was just tired.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Shot on location!

New Bastards of the Universe up at Articulated Discussion! I had initially planned on shooting all of this particular episode outside, but it was too darn hot. I'd have a helluva time replacing that Warlord figure if he melted...

Conan is mentioned, but doesn't appear this episode, because I watched Conan the Barbarian a couple times while working on it. I hadn't seen it in years; in fact, I wasn't even positive I had ever seen it all the way through. (As a kid, I hadn't been allowed to see it; so I may have had to wait for an edited TV version.) While I like the movies, they aren't 'my' Conan; the version in my head is a very Marvel Comics one. Which may or may not be closer to the Robert E. Howard version, I suppose.

Anyway, I've seen a few pictures for the upcoming Masters of the Universe Classics Vikor, who is the proto- or barbarian He-Man, depending on who you ask. He's very Conan. Closer to Conan than to He-Man, on the spectrum of that. Vikor comes out in February, I believe; and he may be my first MOTUC classic purchase. If I can take the day off to fight it out with the website...I would be a MOTUC 'virgin,' when it comes to ordering them, so I'll write up my experience if I do it.
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Today: the Horder! I mean, Heckler, Heckler. Sorry.

The worst thing about this? I had the whole six-issue run of the Heckler at one point, and haven't the foggiest what happened to it. Well, that's not the worst thing: I keep only finding #1 and buying it...hell, I may have a couple more somewhere. And it's not like Bruce Jone's Warlord #10, a book that I own a substantial amount of its print run, in order to keep it out of the hands of the innocent; Heckler #1 isn't bad.

Aw, I miss the nine-panel grids...I recall co-creator/plotter/penciller Keith Giffen staying he wrote the Heckler as if Bugs Bunny was a superhero; but it's better than that, really.

I don't know if this book is fondly remembered by anyone except me. The plot is a skeleton to hang jokes on, and the jokes are not going to be for everyone, and even then they're hit and miss. Moreover, the Heckler's civilian identity is a cypher and he doesn't seem to have a traditional origin at all; or any real reason to put on a suit and fight crazy villains. (More bizarre-crazy, than psycho-crazy.) And if you're going to do a book in 1992, that's a bit of a rebuttal to the tastes of 1992; good luck, comics were just about tasteless there for a while. All gritted teeth and pouches...

That said, love it. You might not, but if it grabs you, the Heckler will make you want to put on a costume and run around town; with no powers, no training, and no motivation. I'd be a natural.

Still: every time I see this book in the quarter bins, I buy it. If I get six copies of issue #1 before I find the rest of the series...I don't know, I owe you a coke or something.

From "Our First Issue!" Script by Tom and Mary Bierbaum, inks by Malcolm Jones III, letters by Bob Pinaha, colors by Tom McGraw, inks by Kevin Dooley, and the rest by Keith Giffen.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

The one animal in Skartaris that the Warlord didn't shoot:

By the time Warlord reached issue #128, Travis Morgan had killed more dinosaurs, giant animals, and prehistoric beasties than your average comet strike. (It helps that Travis apparently brought more bullets than the Alamo on his spy mission over Russia; even in the last issue recently, his son goes back to the plane for more bullets!)
This time, Travis has joined up with masked barbarian Dreadnar, in a mission of vengeance against Puff there. Dreadnar had lost his village, his family, and most of his face to the dragon; but the dragon gets the caption boxes this issue, and Dreadnar is made out to be the psycho killer...even though the dragon admits in passing using sacrificial virgins to feed newborn dragon hatchlings; which doesn't make his claw-like hands clean, either...

In the end, Dreadnar is killed, and Morgan holds back: the dragon doesn't press the attack, since Morgan wasn't his enemy. Unfortunately, Dreadnar wasn't quite dead, and kills the dragon with a final blow. Unfortunately again, the dragon falls on Dreadnar, squashing him flat, and shooting his blood down to the hatchlings; meaning Skartaris is probably arse-deep in dragons now, if I remember Reign of Fire correctly, and I almost certainly don't.
Please use this sentence in the office today.  Please, please, please.
Elsewhere this issue; in fact, a good chunk of this comic, is devoted to Morgan's old companion Mariah, who went home to Russia and ended up in a prison camp. She makes her escape back to Skartaris with a prisoner named Maddox, who's had a beef with Morgan since he beat him up in grade school. And was going to expose his black-market smuggling ring in Vietnam. And Morgan shot him down after Maddox went to the Russians' side. Dude, there has to be a point, where you realize he's got your number, and leave the field gracefully...

And Morgan's daughter Jennifer gets a page to recap the not-quite-death of Morgan's wife Tara. And look hot. You can tell she's her father's daughter, since she's got the traditional skull on her outfit. Oh, and the white hair, I guess...

From Warlord #128, "The Brood" Written by Michael Fleisher, artwork by Jan Duursema, with ink assist by Tom Mandrake. I was thinking of this issue since I've been on the eBay lately, and saw the old Spawn: the Horrid figure, a pretty good-sized dragon crammed into a blister card. I used to have one, but either lost or gave him away--the wings may have broke, and while the Horrid was a noble try, I think he was just too heavy for his joints. And yet, I still want a new one. Hmm.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Well, I guess they wouldn't go to Skippers or Red Lobster...

Found the cash register from the Krusty Krab at a yard sale over the weekend, hope the Youngest likes it!
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Azazel? Seriously? What...the...hell?

I've seen this more than once now, but I don't know if other sources are picking it up from Bleeding Cool: actor Jason Flemyng is cast as Azazel in the X-Men: First Class movie. What...really?

Maybe someone can explain this to me, but I know some studios, like Sony for Spider-Man or Fox for the X-Men, still have movie rights despite Disney's purchase of Marvel Comics. They had them first, and I believe if they don't use them, the rights will revert to Disney/Marvel. That's why there's a bit of a rush job coming on say, Ghost Rider 2, for example.

Everything I've heard about the upcoming X-Men: First Class sounds like a bit of a disaster, though: it seems more like a reboot but still seems to be called a prequel, even though there are a ton of characters in it that were used differently in the other X-Men movies. And there are a ton of characters in it (check the wikipedia, I'm not typing all that) that weren't in the original five-man band: I would've thought it would be easy enough to get a movie's worth of material out of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Angel, Beast, Iceman, Professor X, and Magneto; without bringing in Darwin, Banshee, Havok and a seeming cast of thousands. I mean, Kevin Bacon's in there somewhere? Why?

So, I've been wondering...the rights to these characters is going to revert to Disney/Marvel at some point, aren't they? If so...would it behoove Sony or Fox or whoever to pursue a scorched earth policy? Eventually, Spider-Man/the X-Men/whatever character they lose the rights to, is going to be competition to those studios and whatever their current franchise schedule movies will be. For example: Fox makes an awesome X-Men: First Class. It and however many sequels they can crank out are huge hits, and then the rights go back to Marvel. The next summer, Fox puts out Movie Y, and gets crushed by Marvel's new X-Men flick.

But, what if Fox decides to burn that bridge? Make an utter tripe X-Men film, kill the franchise stone dead for a few years or more? What's stopping them? Even if they sink a bit of capital into making and marketing a bad movie, they could probably still recover a bit, while taking out some future competition. There are doubtless a bazillion things wrong with my theory...but still, it's a niggling doubt.

(This is going under the "vile speculation" tag, since that's how I think it works. Maybe if Fox keeps making X-Men movies, they get to keep the rights? I don't think that's the case, still pretty sure Marvel/Disney gets everyone back at some point.)

Back to Azazel, who I still think may be a red herring for X-Men: First Class. Or someone told them they needed more action figure ready characters; because there's little other reason to use him. He sure as hell ain't a fan-favorite or anything...

For those of you who aren't familiar with the character, or have blocked the memory out: Azazel was introduced as Nightcrawler's father in Chuck Austen's storyline, "The Draco." He first appears in a flashback in Uncanny X-Men #426, set twenty years ago...which would make Nightcrawler still a teenager, so he's aging backwards at about the same rate as Kitty Pryde.

The woman that would eventually be known as Mystique is living a good life, as the wife of a German baron. (There is virtually no technology to be seen in this issue; which doesn't date it as much as make it seem impossibly rustic.) Everything would be perfect for Raven, except for one thing: she can't get pregnant. And not for lack of trying; with her husband, with in vitro, with strangers she changes form to seduce.

Then she meets Azazel, in a human form. Devilishly handsome, they hit it off quickly, and it's implied that he gives Raven her nom de plume of Mystique. He praises her as magnificent, far beyond anything as petty as merely human, and in short order gets her to reveal her true form, before seducing her in a church.

Raven is both smitten and knocked up soon thereafter; but Azazel then rebuffs her, telling her to go back to her husband and raise his son as the Baron's. The Baron, however, is understandably dubious about his wife getting pregnant so suddenly after Azazel's arrival and sudden departure. He proposes a paternity test, and Raven answers by stabbing him to death and ditching the body.

Now completely alone, Raven gives birth, to a blue baby boy. Which would normally be a bad sign, but Kurt was obviously a mutant from birth. That's disturbing the delivery team enough, before Raven reverts to her usual blue form, and gets denounced as a demoness. Forced to flee her formerly "perfect" life, Raven curses Azazel for not loving her, for leaving her with "nothing of any value whatsoever," and she drops baby Kurt over a waterfall. (A "BAMF!" is seen, presumably Azazel saving Kurt.)
This was actually a fairly decent start of the storyline--Austen is virtually reviled now, and the rest of "The Draco" would bear that out. There's Nightcrawler's half-siblings Abyss and Kiwi Black, among others; there's Angel's healing blood that burns Azazel's spawn; there's Azazel trapped in some pocket dimension that he can occasionally get out of for booty calls...yeah, it gets terrible pretty quickly, and has been all but swept under the rug. And for some reason, despite no one wanting to bring it up, there's some question on whether Azazel is an early mutant, like Apocalypse; or an actual bona-fide demon of some sort.

Well, this post has gotten out of hand; so today's scans? From Uncanny X-Men #428, "How Did I Get Here?" (The title and title page seem very Claremont.) Written by Chuck Austen, pencils by Sean Phillips, colors by Dave McCaig. Sean Phillips carries this one a bit further than the later issues, with Philip Tan art. And tomorrow? A helluva shorter post...

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Monday, August 16, 2010

A year or two back, I lucked into a hardcover copy of Leave it to Chance, Book One: Shaman's Rain at a yard sale. I had the individual issues for #1-5, but it was a nice package, and I was glad to have it. However, what I didn't realize, was that the series had gone on from issue #5! I think I was moving at the time, and missed the rest of the run, until last week when I got 6-7 and 9-12 out of the quarter bin!

If you missed this one as well: Chance Falconer is the daughter of paranormal investigator Lucas Falconer, and wants to follow in her father's footsteps as defender of the city of Devil's Echo. Unfortunately, Lucas turns her down flat, insisting the job will pass to the next Falconer male, probably his grandson. At first, the decision seems purely chauvinistic, but in later issues Lucas would seem merely overprotective. Lucas' has already lost his wife, and his face to his work; and won't risk his daughter as well. (Actually, I always wondered about that, since his face didn't look that bad; although he could've used his magic to cover that.)

Of course, Chance doesn't take that lying down, and decides to try and prove herself a true Falconer. And in a city full of demons, Troggs, ghost pirates, and giant toads; she has plenty of opportunity. Written by James Robinson with art by Paul Smith, Leave it to Chance was a fun, engaging book; all ages without writing down to kids.

In the above scan, a murdered hockey player returns from the grave for the last game of the Stanley Cup--yeah, his murder can wait--and you know Chance and her pet dragon St. George are going to get in on that. A great book, and now I'm going to have to find the two issues I'm still missing...(EDIT: found one, that I actually already had, this afternoon!)

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Friday, August 13, 2010

A quick post for Friday:

I forgot to post yesterday, and then was having some computer trouble, but the JLApe posts ran without me. (I hadn't intended for both to go, but oh well.) But, I did finally get to the Comic Book Shop for the first time in a stretch. And there was good news and bad...

First, the good: The new issue of Unknown Soldier barely features the title character at all, and it's great. I'm going to have to keep my eyes open for whatever writer Joshua Dysart has planned after this one ends.

Everything from the Mignolaverse...and I don't know if they call it that...was also excellent: new B.P.R.D., Hellboy, and Baltimore. I need to order the Baltimore novel off Amazon: the miniseries is about a vampire hunter in an altered post-World War I setting. This first issue is set-up, but done well. There's a palpable sense of doom in all three books...in early Hellboy stories, you knew he was going to overcome the planned destiny of his stone right hand. Now, you're not so sure if he will, or even if he should; and Hellboy doesn't even seem like the only one that could end the world.

I also enjoyed the third issue of the Bob Layton Hercules mini; which was pretty much written for me since I liked all the old ones. Some of the jokes fall flat (the too-snarky ad-slogany logo on a terrorist's missile, for example) and you really kinda have to have read the old ones, but still, fun for me. And things continue moving in the Thanos Imperative #3, where Drax the Destroyer's policy on Thanos, friend or foe, is made clear; and Nova pulls a strike team to try and end the war with one strike. (Longtime favorite Quasar is back, and gets to do the slow badass walk to battle with Beta Ray Bill and the Silver Surfer!)

Now, the bad: Well, this first one isn't so much bad as rushed, the last issue of Warlord. Pretty obviously a much-longer storyline is crammed into one issue; which is admittedly better than being cancelled midstream.

The new Toyfare was better than the last couple of issues, but...maybe not as good as it used to be. Ditto Deadpool #1000. The only story I really liked was Howard Chaykin's "Today I am da Man." And that's probably because I like Chaykin's writing and art style; the story's pretty straight-forward, but the dialogue makes it for me. There were a couple others with moments--the last panels of Dean Haspiel's "Nightmare on Elm Tree" made me laugh, because I'm a bad person--but overall, lately Deadpool comics have been nonsense for nonsense's sake; and I dropped the regular Deadpool book from my pull box.

Now, that's not to say I probably won't end up with some: there's a wrestling issue of Deadpool Team-Up that should be good, but all too often that book's taken an idea or pairing that should be a slam dunk, then utterly failed to execute. That Frankencastle/Pool team-up was the last one to really disappoint me, and it was the last one I bought.

But that brings up another point: number of regular DC or Marvel books in my pull box? Zero. I gotta say, it's probably mostly price: there's more than a few books I'd be reading if they were cheaper. But I also have this weird theory...that I need to think about, try and articulate it a little. We'll see if I get it figured out over the weekend!

Oh, and I found a surprise or two in the quarter bins, but those'll keep 'til later! Read more!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

JLApe part eight, Martian Manhunter Annual #2, "Fear and Loathing on the Planet of the Apes"

That is a pretty good title, there. The last chapter of JLApe begins with J'onn J'onzz telling of his time in the wild, not merely observing, but living with the apes. In the form of an ape, J'onn observes the anthropologists observing the apes, until poachers kill both while J'onn is away. Experiencing "the intensely focused madness of primate rage," J'onn holds back and instead telepathically induces in the poachers a compulsion to confess.

From the whole experience, and humanity's "persistant misrepresentation" of other primates in movies, TV, and comics; J'onn attributes it to a subconscious projection of man's brutal nature to their innocent monkey relatives. "In the ape," J'onn realizes, "Mankind sees a reflection of itself as it would be if freed from the constraints of civilization."

It's usually safe to say, J'onn has a unique perspective on things. But he does cop to overphilosophizing about the current gorilla invasion, and he beams up to the JLA Watchtower, to confer with Batman. J'onn and Bats are both a little snarky today, but they both may have been up for days at this point. While Bats catches the rest of the JLA up, J'onn sets out to get some intel on Grodd, and Aquaman is still pursuing the apes' sub Kong. The Kong opens fire on an American sub, and even though they're apes, the American apes move to retaliate.

As detective John Jones, the Martian Manhunter interviews Detective Chimp, Monsieur Mallah, Congorilla, and Sam Simeon of Angel and the Ape. (That last one, J'onn meets as the Manhunter, since he knows Sam is a fan.) All three tell of Grodd's brutal ambition, but Sam admits when he chose to leave Gorilla City and become a comic-book artist, his brother Grodd was the only one to support him.

In Africa, the JLA evacuates Gorilla City, and J'onn shows up after piecing the puzzle together: Grodd has been turning people into gorillas, because he can siphon off their mental energies. Grodd gives J'onn the monkey equivalent of a slow-clap for figuring it out, because by this point Grodd's sucking the juice of several million gorillas...that line didn't turn out right. Grodd forces J'onn into his pointy-headed mode ('Gumby') but J'onn just takes it, "venerating in the presence of a superior mind." He professes his admiration for Grodd and his courage, in sacrificing his ego and transcending the material universe.

Grodd has no idea what that's about, and J'onn explains he won't just be absorbing all that mental energy, Grodd will become "the foundation of a wonderful syncretic collective." Grodd will lose his identity, to a larger gorilla group mind; and Grodd didn't sign up for that crap: he rejects the power, and goes into shock.

Aaaaand the rest is all clean-up: Ulgo apologizes to the JLA, and pledges to work for peace in Solovar's name. Steel and Batman write up the plans for a "de-apifying resonator" that Green Lantern can make with his ring and restore humanity. And J'onn admits that everything he told Grodd was a lie, since he knew anyone with an ego like his would never be able to give it up.

Scans from Martian Manhunter Annual #2, "Fear and Loathing on the Planet of the Apes" Written by Len Kaminski, pencils by Gus Vasquez, inks by Mark Propst and Claude St. Aubin.

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JLApe part seven: Green Lantern Annual #8, "Grunts"

Green Lantern Annual #8, "Grunts" Written by Keith Giffen, pencils by Octavio Cariello and John Nadeau, inks by Marcello Campos and Jordi Ensign. Bit of an odd one, here: back in part one, Kyle was turned into an ape, and left when the JLA split up to investigate, without any mental treatment from the Martian Manhunter. So, Kyle's mind backslides a bit, and he sides with the apes, joining a unit of ape soldiers.

Even though their new recruit is a human-turned-ape, the apes are pretty accepting of Kyle. Not unlike his status with the JLA, he's the rookie there as well, and they walk him through and explain events to him. Kyle is just another "grunt," a lowly ape footsoldier, even though he's got the mightiest weapon in the universe on his finger. Just as J'onn dropped the ball letting Kyle go without treatment; the apes don't pick up the fumble, failing to capitalize on it. (Ape Kyle would use his ring a little, but not to the extent you'd expect.)

Guy Gardner and Alan Scott appear, as Warrior and Sentinel respectively. They don't seem particularly worried that Kyle's 'gone ape,' over to the other side. In fairness, if you get bent out of shape about a little thing like that, you're probably not going to cope very well with a real emergency...

The Metal Men are also present, and Giffen may be the only writer to use Dr. Magnus as Veridium--he was turned into a robot or something, it didn't catch on. I think the weekly book 52 retconned that into a halluncination by Magnus, but here Veridium is. Guy asks him what it's like making out with a metal chick; which does seem a fair question.

Eventually, J'onn uses his telepathy to shock Kyle back to normal; but he has to go pretty deeply into Kyle's mind, almost having to force him to want to be human again. Kyle seems to feel like he betrayed his ape teammates, who end up in an ape POW camp, which thankfully doesn't appear to be a zoo with a different sign.

Next week? Martian Manhunter #2, the conclusion of JLApe!
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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Did anyone under like 30 get this toy? Anyone?

I haven't read a Brian Bendis written comic in a dog's age, but if he brought back Nightcrawler as Ronin, I would cough up for all the back issues I missed...well, maybe not all, but it'd be cool.

Immediately after ranting about being "done" with Marvel Universe figures, I find a pile for $2.50 a piece. Check your local Wal-Mart, if you're curious. (Cage is new, but we'll see some others later.) This is the time of year when a lot of chain stores reset their planograms for toys; and if a line of figures doesn't have a place to fit in, it can be on clearance like that. And sometimes that it happens at some stores and not others, even within the same chain. There's probably a reason, but I couldn't tell you off the top of my head...

Also on clearance, at some Target stores: A-Team figures, including the van! B.A. Baracus sold out pretty quickly, but there were three vans left, and I got mine for 75% off. So, I can't say run out and buy it at $24.99; but for $6.24 hell yes. I do wonder if any, you know, children, got one of these; or if all the vans ended up in the collections of adults who remembered watching it as kids.

Usually, I'm a couple weeks ahead on these; but this one I had to finish last night! Man, I better get cranking this weekend...
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Feeling the Unlove, or, getting ahead of myself:

Over at Battlegrip.com was a recent post entitled "DC Universe Classics and My Unlove for the Line." While admitting DCUC isn't his favorite action figure scale, distribution was the straw that broke Mr. Reed's figurative back, as it were; although he did have to admit he wanted a DCUC Knightfall Batman.

Now, as is the case for me with a lot of lines, I've been cherry-picking DCUC since the second wave; that is to say, I buy the figures I really want, and pass on the rest, even if I don't get all the pieces to Build-a-Figure, um, Collect and Connect. Through a bit of the ol' happenstance, I did end up completing the Collect and Connect Gorilla Grodd...some three years after it's release. But, over the weekend, I saw wave nine's Green Arrow and Black Canary, and passed: at fifteen bucks a piece, I couldn't justify the buy. Ten or even twelve bucks would've sealed the deal...

But what this got me thinking, oddly enough, was that I may be done with Marvel Universe. I got the Secret Wars Doctor Doom/Absorbing Man pack (with the Wasp as a pack-in, accessory, bonus, whatever) and liked it...but...

For some reason, it drives me up the wall that the heads of many Marvel Universe figures, seem to pop off at the drop of a hat...and I'm not thrilled with that metaphor, but let's go on. I don't have a decapitation problem with other 3 3/4" figures like G.I. Joe or Star Wars; and while I'm making a stink about it, it's not really that big of a deal. In fact, Doom's cape is removable since his head pops off, and for inventive types there could be some interchangeability to the figures. Maybe, I haven't tried it yet.

Target seens to have repriced the Marvel Universe singles to $6.99; which I would appreciate, but I've already picked up most of the characters I really wanted. One store had three Colossus...es...and while he seems like a perfectly fine figure, I just don't like Pete enough to care. Ditto Juggernaut. Havok was close, but not quite, I already got Kitty, and the A.I.M. soldier? You really need more than one, and I don't like them enough to buy three or five at seven bucks plus tax a go.

I very well could be proved wrong, but Doctor Doom may be the last character I have Marvel Legend figures of, but was still willing to get a smaller-scale Marvel Universe version as well. (At full price, anyway: I have picked up multiple MU at three or five bucks.) There could be an exception or two, but I rather doubt Hasbro's going to get around to a Beta Ray Bill MU. Of course, I would be all over more secondary (at best...) characters that never got their Marvel Legends due; like Quasar, Machine Man, Hellcat, Nighthawk...that list could go on. Sets like a Guardians of the Galaxy or Agents of Atlas box would net a sale here as well.

No, I think with the recent promises of the return of Marvel Legends; Marvel Universe feels like a dalliance, a passing fancy, something to bide my time until my true passion returns. Like an affair that at the end of the day, meant nothing, except perhaps reaffirming my original bonds. Wow, that sounds weird. And as I write this, I ended up with a pile of 3 3/4" figures this week. The best laid plans...
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Monday, August 09, 2010

And we're back! Maybe? Sort of?

Back from vacation, and while I'm rested and ready, I'm short on time today. But, we do have another new Bastards of the Universe up at Articulated Discussion!

I'm also opening a good pile of toys picked up over the last couple of weeks. There's some good stuff in there, that will doubtless end up in strips later.

Ah, what the heck, we've got a second, let's check out "Flesh."

If American readers know this one at all, it's probably from the Quality reprints as Scavengers, and this scan is from issue #2. And I can kinda guess why it was retitled for American readers, but Flesh was one of the first strips in Britain's 2000 AD. It never got as big at Judge Dredd or Strontium Dog, but Flesh still shows up now and again; and the killer tyrannosaur Satanus, the son of Old One-Eye, would later show up in Dredd's book more than once. (This issue of Scavengers at least, also has a Judge Dredd vs. dinosaurs reprint.)

Oh, the book itself? Time-travelling cowboys versus dinosaurs, with several horror movies worth of stock morons, cowards, turncoats, and bad guys there to be disemboweled and eaten. Reckon it'd take me about a bazillion years to put together a full run of Quality's Scavengers, but I do believe it's been reprinted more than once. "Script robot" R.E. Wright, "art robot" Sola. Read more!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

JLApe part six: Superman Annual #11, "The Apes of Wrath"...again!

Seriously, shouldn't an editor say something, when two annuals, consecutive parts in the story, use the same title?

We're up to the Superman chapter of JLApe: thankfully, just one. In some annual crossover events, like Armegeddon: 2001, there would be the Superman Annual, then one for Action Comics, Adventures of Superman, even maybe Superman: the Man of Steel. And one chapter of this should do it...

The late Solovar's successor as ruler of Gorilla City, Ulgo, is gung-ho to battle the filthy humans. Something called 'Grogamesh' is coming to help him out with that. Meanwhile, while the apes have turned a lot of humans into apes (and putting them on their side) the military has not been targeted, meaning they can counterattack.

Meanwhile, reporting for Lexcorp, Lois Lane is not terribly impressed with the newsworthiness of the ape invasion: if you can see it out your window, why would she have to write about it? Instead, she's checking out the tape of Solovar's assassination, and notices a distortion not unlike the apes' apeifying weapons. I am going to make 'apeify' a word if it kills me.

Lois goes out and finds Superman, who is still an ape, and starting to lose control. She takes him to Professor Hamilton's for help, but he's been changed as well. When Lois mentions looking for something that would work on his "solar metabolism," Supes jumps to the conclusion the sun itself would do it, and flies out of the atmosphere, gets zapped, and falls into the river.

Not knowing how she can help, Lois gets to the river, in time to see Supes arise, as a giant ape! With apeifying vision! And then Supes eats her.

Well, not really, to any of that: Superman returns from space, restored. The giant ape is the aforementioned Grogamesh, and it's really a giant battle robot. It opens fire with enough firepower to level Metropolis, or at least knock Superman on his butt. Lois is inside, the prisoner of Ulgo, who's piloting the robot; in a much-less exciting manner than you'd expect: Grogamesh is magically-empowered, so Ulgo doesn't seem to have to do much besides sit in his chair and growl speeches.

When Grogamesh attacks the Pentagon, during the fight Superman points out that Grogamesh had been made "using the hides of a thousand slaughtered gorillas!" Which burned right off early into the attack, too. Ulgo had been tricked by Grodd and his conspirators, and tries to stop the robot, but loses control. Superman gets Lois and Ulgo out, then takes apart the mighty battle robot, magic or no. All's well that ends--hey, wait a second...

That may well be the best page in this whole crossover, right there. Scans from "The Apes of Wrath" Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, pencils by Joe Phillips, inks by Rich Faber and Rob Stull. Next week: Green Lantern Annual #8!
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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

This is a spoiler for...whatever comic Cable died in, I guess.

Cable and Nightcrawler have both gone to the big waiting room in the sky, to wait for a Comic-Con announcement or big crossover event to return. And if Cable makes it back first (which he will) I'll be super-pissed.

I wasn't a fan of the character to begin with, but I cannot stand the way Cyclops is written lately. He's pulling crap that he wouldn't have stood for Professor X doing, and actively tried to stop Magneto from doing: the isolationist nature of the X-Men, his private murder squad X-Force, and in the end of Second Coming (spoiler!) five mutants return and Cyclops grins and acts like that was worth sacrificing his son, Kurt, and however many else he lost there. (Thanks to the Weekly Crisis for the writeup on that issue!) Douchebaggery.
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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

If you don't want to see Sgt. Rock punch out Solomon Grundy, I don't think we can be friends.

Would you recognize Sgt. Rock and Bulldozer here, out of context?
We just looked at some misinformation from Nick Fury, but that one's going to seem clear as day next to this one: from 2002, Suicide Squad #10, "Time Passages," although the cover title is better: "The Rock that Time Forgot!"

The death and life of Easy Company's Sgt. Rock is something of a debate: some people, including his creator Robert Kanigher, firmly take the position that Rock (and probably the rest of Easy) do not get out of World War II alive; dying in battle before the war ended. Others believe Rock survived, and went on to appear in Brave and the Bold, the Our Worlds at War crossover, and in this incarnation of the Suicide Squad. (Not unlike Hawkman's continuity, Crisis on Infinite Earths may not have helped here; Earth-1 and 2 versions of Rock may have made more sense.)

I don't have all the issues of this one, but accompanying Rock was his Easy Company compatriot, Bulldozer. Bulldozer was currently wheelchair-bound; but both he and Rock were in far better shape than eighty-year-old veterans should be. As a dinosaur movie (conveniently) plays in Bulldozer's apartment, he and Rock remember why...maybe.

In 1959, the ex-Sgt. Rock is receiving his third visit since his discharge from agencies trying to get him back to work. This time, although he never says his name, who he works for, or who's in charge, it appears to be King Faraday. Faraday comments on the comics and magazines on Rock's coffee table, noting that Rock doesn't care for super-heroes, and may have had either a minor scuffle or drag-out brawl with Wildcat. Rock claims that was blown out of proportion, but Faraday tells him, more than once: "You're a resource going to waste. You need purpose." Rock doesn't have much of an argument for that. I mean, can you see him joining a bowling league or something?

At Area 51, back in uniform, Rock catches up with an old friend:

Rock is unenthused that Bulldozer apparently threw his name around as a good prospect for the "Suicide Squad." Bulldozer apologizes, but he hadn't really expected them to drag Rock back in. Besides, Rock really is the best man for the job, as seen on the next page:

That "KERPLOP!" you just heard was the Rock-purists keeling over, but I would probably have read a book of Sgt. Rock fighting aliens, giant insects, and/or Solomon Grundy. (It isn't clear if these missions were before or after Rock signed back up. Possibly from during wartime, since Bulldozer's nose isn't broken, and it still is later this issue.)

Their next mission is to accompany Dr. Rip Hunter (apparently not calling himself Time Master as of yet) to the ever-popular Suicide Squad destination of Dinosaur Island. Hunter is going to try to close the temporal rift on the island; Rock and Bulldozer are there to keep him from being eaten by something straightaway.

By this point, Rock and Bulldozer have been shot at so many times and seen enough weird crap that they're less fazed about a time rip than that the doctor's name is Rip. Using the Time Sphere, they arrive in the late Jurassic era, where Bulldozer promptly throws up. In kind of a dick move that's probably right, Hunter makes Bulldozer clean up his puke, so it doesn't contaminate the timeline or something; and everyone knows raptors are like sharks for the smell of vomit, so...

Bulldozer ends up falling through the invisible time rift, and Rock goes in after him; which gets them back to the present the hard way, without any time spheres or protection or anything. Rip finds them when he returns, and takes the unconscious pair back to Area 51, where they eventually wake up. A visiting Faraday tells them nothing: are they OK? Was the rift closed? Without ever coming out and saying so, it's strongly implied, this incident kept Rock and Bulldozer from aging completely normally. Possibly.

This version of Suicide Squad would end with issue #12; with Bulldozer getting up from his wheelchair and walking away with Rock. Or, "Rock," as he unmasks, leaving behind a rubber face Mission: Impossible style. A caption reads, "Frank Rock died in 1945." But did he really, or is that the official version? Who was that masked man? Nemesis? Someone else? If Rock was Nemesis, who was Bulldozer? And if they weren't really Rock and Bulldozer, did that flashback really happen? And if it didn't, why make John Severin draw it?

Suicide Squad #10, written by Keith Giffen, art by John Severin (flashbacks) and Paco Medina and Joe Sanchez (present). The letters page implies Severin stepped in to help out; and I don't know if Giffen wrote the flashback specifically for Severin or not...I want to guess, not; since I would've gone all-out guns-a'blazing action then. Oh, and nice Mark Texeira cover as well.
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Monday, August 02, 2010

Redacted? Classified? Misinformation? Or retcon?

As in Punisher Armory, Brown does a great job with this style of page.
We'll be looking at a few books the next few posts, that may or may not have a common thread; of either being outright lies, or getting forced out of continuity in short order. One of the issues we're considering, I don't even have; but as it turns out, we don't need it. (Even less so than some of the comics around here!)

Now, I love Marvel's Nick Fury, but he's been in a pile of terrible comics. His war comics are nowhere near as good as his DC counterpart Sgt. Rock's, and his late 80's book was generally awful for 47 issues. There were a couple cool Jackson Guice covers, but the interior art always seemed rushed or unfinished, the print and color quality not as good as promised, and the direction of the book seemed to be all over the place. In theory, a Nick Fury book that included espionage, war stories, weird Sternako sci-fi spy stuff, and superheroes; could be good. Maybe it is, I haven't read the current Fury book; but the execution wasn't there for this one.

After issues featuring guest-stars Luke Cage (in his 90's Cage look) and Woodgod; Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #38 began a four-part series: "The Cold War of Nick Fury." Which is a great title, and it was co-written by Eliot Brown, who is probably best known for his technical work on Marvel's Punisher Armory and Iron Manual.

The story opens with Fury being debriefed by some spooks, presumably CIA. The spooks look more like spies than Fury, who is pretty casual about it: as he puts it, "When you work in the suspicion business, it's only natural for someone to get suspicious of you." Questioned by a weaselly-seeming little man, Fury is grilled about his pre-S.H.I.E.L.D. days, after the end of World War II; and Fury obligingly tells the story of his recruitment by the O.S.S.

With a small team of specialists, Fury is sent into the jungles of Malaya after a Japanese war criminal that had been experimenting with germ warfare, Dr. Ishii. After tracking them down, for fear of breaking germ vials with gunfire, Fury and his men are forced to fight Ishii's troops hand-to-hand, Howling Commando style. Well, I'm not sure I ever saw Nick double-stab anybody in a Lee/Kirby Howling Commando story, but you get the point.

Fury captures Ishii and his virus weapon, but is the only survivor of his group. When he gets back, he quickly realizes he was played for a chump on multiple levels: the mission was suicide from the start, the higher-ups knew Ishii had a larger, trained force; but couldn't commit more soldiers until they knew where they were. (Fury asks, what if they had all been killed? His supervisor explains, when they missed their supply airdrop, that would at least narrow down the search area...) The virus isn't destroyed, Ishii isn't tried for war crimes, and the whole experience is an eye-opener for Fury. Who looks weird with both eyes, by the way.

I don't have Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #39, but as it turns out, you don't need it. Still being questioned, Fury has another flashback, set in April 1953, about his involvement in the Pyongyang Dam. (Presumably, blowing it up...) In issue #40, Fury's questioner rages that the Pyongyang story was a complete lie: "The only part that's true was your name, rank, and serial number!"

Was Fury getting senile? Having a hard time remembering guys he shot and crap he blew up some forty years back? No, it's explained that Fury knew something wasn't kosher with his alleged-CIA interrogators: if they had been legit, they would've seen right through Fury's made-up version. All of #39 is written off as lies, misinformation...or a really quick retroactive continuity correction. Tough break if you coughed up $1.75 for #39, kids!

Brown is off as writer here on #40, halfway through "Cold War of Nick Fury," replaced by Scott Lobdell. As of yet, I have no idea of the reason for the switch; except for the letter page a few issues later mentioning a Kim Jong-il or Kim Il-sung reference in #39. But the shift is jarring, not just in writing style, but in theme. From two flashbacks to the Cold War, we get to...the new Super-Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Good god, they suck. Even in comparison to the first wave of Super-Agents, and that batch had the Texas Twister. (And a young Quasar, who's awesome.) Out of eight Supers in two waves, five were double-agents. Not a great track record, and I would bet Lobdell didn't plan on most of these new Super-Agents turning traitor; that was probably the work of the next writer, Gregory Wright (in issue #43) so Lobdell only wrote two issues.

Moreover, poor Ivory, a Wakandan like the Black Panther, is not only saddled with a terrible name; she's also miscolored as white in about a third of the panels she appears in. And she's the only non-traitor Super-Agent, she would later be killed by the others. (I don't think they were, but it would've been funny if the traitors had all been from different organizations...)

I am positive the behind the scenes of these issues, is probably more interesting than the finished product itself. (Yeah, it might have to be.) Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #47 would be the final issue, and this stretch of Nick's history is pretty much forgotten. Except for us picking at the scab here. These issues aren't great, but fun enough to pulp up for blog fodder...

Panels from Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #38, "The Fourth Horseman" Written by Eliot Brown and Bob Sharp, pencils by Jerry DeCaire, inks by Don Hudson; and #40, "Salvation" Written by Scott Lobdell, pencils by Paul Abrams, inks by Chuck Barnette III.

Tomorrow: A Suicide Squad comic! (Yay!) From 2002! (Huh?) With John Severin art! (Yay!) Featuring Sgt. Rock! (Bwah?) Maybe! (...)
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