Tag Archives: Comic Book Reviews

Tales From the Water Cooler #105

Welcome to Tales From the Water Cooler!

Join Infinite Speech, Decapitated Dan, and the Canadian Webslinger each week as they gather around the water cooler of stories to talk about comics.

Listen in this week as the guys are joined once again by the Clergyman to play some Superhero Jeopardy and go over this weeks books, Sage #10, Superior Spider-Man #4, Indestructible Hulk #4 and Nova #1.

And don’t forget to LIKE us on Facebook!

Tales from the Water Cooler: Episode #105

You can click the link to listen to the podcast or right click “save link as” to download it.

Tales From the Water Cooler #104

Welcome to Tales From the Water Cooler!

Join Infinite Speech, Decapitated Dan, and the Canadian Webslinger each week as they gather around the water cooler of stories to talk about comics.

Listen in this week as the guys are joined once again by the Clergyman to play some Superhero Jeopardy and go over this weeks books, Sage #10, Superior Spider-Man #4, Indestructible Hulk #4 and Nova #1.

And don’t forget to LIKE us on Facebook!

Tales from the Water Cooler: Episode #104



You can click the link to listen to the podcast or right click “save link as” to download it.

Tales From the Water Cooler #103

Welcome to Tales From the Water Cooler!

Join Infinite Speech, Decapitated Dan, and the Canadian Webslinger each week as they gather around the water cooler of stories to talk about comics.

Listen in this week as Decapitated Dan and Infinite Speech play some Black History Month Jeopardy and go over this weeks books, Powers: Bureau #1, Batman #17, Todd the Ugliest Kid on Earth #2 and Uncanny X-Men #1.

And don’t forget to LIKE us on Facebook!

Tales from the Water Cooler: Episode #103

You can click the link to listen to the podcast or right click “save link as” to download it.

Tales From the Water Cooler #97

Welcome to Tales From the Water Cooler!

The guys are back from vacation and are ready to rock and roll with some Super Hero Jeopardy! Listen in as they go over this weeks picks Vampirella Strikes #1,Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #19 and Colder #3.

And don’t forget to LIKE us on Facebook!

Tales from the Water Cooler: Episode #97

You can click the link to listen to the podcast or right click “save link as” to download it.


Review: Justice League #12 – Superman is a bad kisser!

Review: Justice League #12
Story: 7.5/10 • Artwork: 8/10 • Overall 7.75/10

Justice League (2011) #12
Written by Geoff Johns.
Illustrated by Jim Lee.

• ‘THE VILLAIN’S JOURNEY’ part four!
• The team struggles to stay together as they try to combat their newest foe.
• A shocking last page that will have the world talking!
• Continuing the origin of SHAZAM!

Follow Matthew Sardo on twitter @comicvault
If you would like to be part of the weekly chat as a guest email Matt at sardo@chicagocomicvault.com

Review: Green Lantern Annual – Made me so mad!

Review: Green Lantern Annual
Story: 8/10 • Artwork: 9/10 • Overall 8.5/10

Green Lantern (2011) #Annual 1
Written by Geoff Johns.
Illustrated by Ethan Van Sciver.

• The conclusion of ‘THE REVENGE OF BLACK HAND’!
• Everything changes here! EVERYTHING!

Follow Matthew Sardo on twitter @comicvault
If you would like to be part of the weekly chat as a guest email Matt at sardo@chicagocomicvault.com

Review: Wolverine #312 – Listen runt!

Review: Wolverine (2010) #312
Story: 8.5/10 • Artwork: 8/10 • Overall 8.25/10

This is a great Wolverine book to pick up if you want to go insane trying to figure out Wolverine’s origin. Jeph Loeb has fun with the character and Sabertooth only says two words in the book. Sorry about the Star Trek jokes.

Written by Jeph Loeb. Illustrated by Simone Bianchi.

Wolverine (2010) #312
• Sabretooth is back – but which one is the real one?
• Where has Sabretooth been and whose side is he on this time?
• The identity of the red-headed woman who came to Wolverine’s rescue is revealed

Follow Matthew Sardo on twitter @comicavult
If you would like to be part of the weekly chat as a guest email Matt at sardo@chicagocomicvault.com

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #692 – Alpha is a D-Bag!

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #692
Story: 8/10 • Artwork: 9/10 • Overall 8.5/10

This could have been a great issue but it came off pretty bland. Expected better from Dan Slott but Humberto Ramos still rocks every issue of Amazing Spider-Man. All in all it gets us one issue closer to issue #700.

Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #692
Written by Dan Slott. Illustrated by Humberto Ramos.

• Special 50TH Anniversary Issue!
• Join us for a once in a lifetime event: the one, true 50th Anniversary Issue of the Amazing Spider-Man.
• A special over-sized issue harkening back to the legend the legend that started it all! Get ready for an all-new tale about a different kind of power and responsibility…
• Plus original stories by Dean Haspiel, Joshua Hale Fialkov & Nuno Plati!

Follow Matthew Sardo on twitter @comicavult
If you would like to be part of the weekly chat as a guest email Matt at sardo@chicagocomicvault.com

Review: Image Comics – Planetoid #3

Review: Planetoid #3
Story: 8.5/10 • Artwork: 7.5/10 • Overall 8/10

Planetoid #3
Written and Illustrated by Ken Garing
Having made a stand against the cyborg militia, Silas must now lead the tribes in building a settlement.

Follow Matthew Sardo on twitter @comicavult
If you would like to be part of the weekly chat as a guest email Matt at sardo@chicagocomicvault.com

Review: Flex Mentallo HC

Stuck in perpetual limbo for over a decade-point-five from legal disputes and plagued by shipping delays, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s Flex Mentallo is finally available to the masses in a handsome new hardcover. Highly autobiographical, this really comes through for those who saw 2010’s Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods, the four issue miniseries is an extension of Morrison’s prior work with DC’s Doom Patrol. However, how has the long gestation period treated this comic? Has the wait been repaid or does it belong to an earlier time? Was DC’s excavation of the mid-90s worth it?

Flex Mentallo may have gotten better over the long wait mainly because of Morrison’s explosion of popularity and notoriety. The writer of 1996 was in a different position re: his fame and celebrity verses the writer of 2012. Today Morrison, and Quitely too, are household names for comic readers. The same couldn’t be said over fifteen years ago. Ground breaking and innovative, yes, but not the veritable industries the two are now.

So, what does that mean exactly? Flex Mentallo is maybe the most illustrative examples of Morrison’s views on superheroes, the power of myth, and the transformative power stories possess. A large chunk of his comic output circles around the themes contained within Flex Mentallo so if you’re familiar with most of his other work, I’m thinking of JLA, Batman, Final Crisis, and All-Star Superman, you’ll feel strangely at home and possibly treading familiar ground.

Still, don’t let that push you out. There is still a patented Morrisonian plot at work here, associative and corkscrewy to boot, with impeccable art from Quietly who can take the reader from a gritty poorhouse bathroom to near-Earth orbit and into the seams of reality without missing a beat.

Consider Flex Mentallo as Morrison’s Big Bang. What you’ll seen in here, you’ve likely seen from him before, especially during the comic’s lengthy reprint hiatus. But, Flex Mentallo represents the clearest and most compact vision of what it is Morrison is constantly circling around in his other comic efforts. If the comic has aged well it is because readers have become inculcated, infected some might say, with Morrison’s ideas. Flex Mentallo is that secret germ that has multiplied and spread out to a much wider world. It begins here.

If you struggle with the writer’s more obtuse or thematically complex work, start with Flex Mentallo as your primer. For already established fans snatch up this keystone work as soon as possible.

Moon Knight #12 – That’s A Wrap, Khonshu

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Alex Maleev
Colors by: Matt Hollingsworth
Lettering by: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover by: Alex Maleev

Moon-Knight_12Moon Knight comes to its logical conclusion this issue. While there might not be many surprises or big oh-shit moment’s in this final send-off, it end’s on a solid note. Snap Dragon is in police custody and is dangled as bait for Count Nerfaria. The trap is set and the Count goes for it hook, line and sinker. Nefaria pulls a Terminator and blasts the L.A. police precint well into next week. Also he rather brilliantly let’s the cat out of the bag that he’s been bribing the police commissioner. He’s gig to fuck him up for not taking care of Snap Dragon before she ratted him out. Moon Knight misses his cue a bit and swoops down on the scene rather late. Nefaria has already disintegrated a few people by the time Moony comes to the rescue. That’s what I love about Marc Spector, even in his last issue he’s remains a flawed crazy fuck-up.The final showdown is a gritty powers vs. weapons kind of brawl. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from these two sluggers, however I felt it could have been taken up a notch. How epic would it have been on a LA set piece rather than a percent office. Just my two cents, but it’s the last battle, the last issue of the series, why not give it a pretty setting. Anyways, Moon Knight has a shrewd Ultron-sized trump card up his sleeve, so you all should check it out and see how it plays out. It’s a slick and effective way tame the ruckus and put Nefaria in his place.

The whole point of the this series seems to be to plant the seed for the Ultron War. The last page confirms this as Bendis let’s you know that Moon Knight will return in “The Age Of Ultron.” Not as cool of a name as Ultron War, I know, but still I foresee that being a bad-ass series. When people as me about this series, the way I always describe it is it’s like a deep cut on your favorite record. Growing up I listen to a lot of Black Sabbath, and the first record that I owned, or rather stole from my old man’s collection was Volume 4. That whole record is practically deep cuts. On one hand you have powerhouse dirges like Supernaut, Snowblind, Wheels of Confusion, on the other you have small intimate tunes and experimentations like FX, Laguna Sunrise and Changes. These demonstrate a soft, orchestral approach and a departure from their trademark style. I think that there is some distinct parallels between the two. Now, I’m not going to call Moon Knight the Volume 4 of the comic book world. That would be insane and heresy. But perhaps it is  the Volume 4 of Brian Michael Bendis’s and Maleev’s Marvel tenure. There’s a lot of story meat that has Bendis signature style of ridiculous super-powered combat, smart-ass dialogue, insults, and snappy come-backs. However there are some softer moments as well. The short-lived fling with Echo. The tired and disappointing failures of Marc Spector. The small reflective conversations with his assistant Buck Lime from S.H.I.E.L.D. Then there’s some completely out of the box experimental shit, like the Avenger’s personality war inside his head. The death of some of the personalities and the also the acquisition of new one’s in some sort soul absorbing way that alludes to the possibility that this actually part of Moon Knight’s power set.\Maleev’s contribution to Moon Knight was is similar to his work on Daredevil. He added that grimy and almost xeroxed inking style. L.A. was rendered like it had been dragged through the Labrea tar pits. It added gravity, mood, and raw texture to the simplest of scenes. The photo references which Maleev heavily relied on for work on Spider Woman are minimized here. There’s a more naturally art-class approach. That’s not to say that some reference wasn’t used, as it obviously was, but it’s more interpreted and stylized rather than a straight replication. Hollingsworth colors added a lot to this series and really tried to make it sing L.A. Noir. Dirty broken neon signs, blood-stained dusk, smog drenched colors, with pockets of hot saturation; Hollingsworth lights the stage Maleev set like hardboiled detective movie being screened in the back of porno shop. It’s skeevvy, slutty and very much L.A. And that’s a good thing.

I like this journey of Marc Spector working on his “Legends of the Khonshu” TV show only to have it cancelled after waging a long and costly war with the kingpin of L.A. It was a fitting end. I feel like I finally have a grasp of his character after this series. This fractured hero tries to figure what’s going on is his head and redeems himself in his eyes and those of his peers as well. Yeah, he’s a fuck-up, but in a lovable way. More importantly he’s not an emo loser. He doesn’t give up and never says dies, although he can be really tempted to at times. Spector fly by the seat of his pants and rolls with the punches as best he can. He goes over the edge sometime, but always seems to pop back over to sanity. I’m sure in a lot of way’s it how people with real mental illness act. Besides that it’s one of the more engaging stories that Bendis has told. You can really just lose yourself in the story because of how decompressed and natural the flow is. The realism just makes engrossing and entertaining. It’s a shame this didn’t see more ground-swell support, because Bendis did to Moon Knight, what Brubaker did to Iron Fist… he took a C-string character and gave him A-string development. Nicely done. I look forward to the “Age of Ultron.”


Story: 9
Art: 8
Jerry Nelson

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

Tales From the Water Cooler #61 – C2E2 recap & Saga #2

Welcome to the 61st episode of Tales From the Water Cooler!

Join Infinite Speech, Decapitated Dan, and the Southern Sensation each week as they gather around the water cooler of stories to talk about comics.

Listen in this week as Decap and the Clergyman form a deadly duo! Jeff recaps his comic store vacation, Dan talks about C2E2 and then they take a look at this weeks picks Lenore #5, Alabaster Wolves #1 and Saga #2.

All that and more can be found here, each week on Tales From the Water Cooler!

And don’t forget to LIKE us on Facebook!

Tales from the Water Cooler: Episode #61

You can click the link to listen to the podcast or right click “save link as” to download it.

Review: Secret #1 – Teeth, With Which To Eat – Terrorist Dentistry

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Ryan Bodenheim
Published by Image

Standing in the line we’re aberrations
Defects in a defect’s mirror
And we’ve been here all the time real fixations
Hidden deep in the furor-
What we do is secret-secret!

We’re influential guys for the D.C.C.
We can lie so perfect
And we’ve got a party line to every call
It’s a very short circuit-
What we do is secret-secret!

– The Germs “What We Do Is Secret”

secret01_coverHome invasion. Corporate Espionage. A shooting in London. Security firm blackmail. It’s not exactly a recipe for a whizz-bang sellout first issue for a comic book. Yet here we are. Secret is off to the presses for a second printing and comics are flying off the shelf. So how does it all stand up and work?

Actually Secret is rather sublime. There’s a grand sense of power, conspiracy, government and corporate mis-deeds reflecting the age that we live in. It’s engaging in the way that it throws you off in to the deep end, to see if you can swim in the sharks. It’s the world of Michael Clayton, but with a high-priced security firm instead of a fixer. Just as you figure it all out Hickman throws a bit of a curveball at the end. It’s a small reveal, a quick glimpse at the big picture. There’s something more than just a corporate bleed-out happening. There’s something evil about all of this. They pulled out a man’s tooth and kept it and planned to do something sinister. I immediately think of voodoo or genetic manipulation, but it could all very well be symbolic. Maybe they pulled out his fake cyanide-filled tooth so he can’t kill himself. That could point to some rather nasty business. Anyways, it’s always hard to figure out what to make of clues like this with a first issue, it’s a big speculation dart-board at this point.. Just have to wait and see if the diabolical dentistry amounts to anything substantially disturbing.

 Secret is not without its faults however. For one, I can’t remember anybody’s name in the comic. I mean yes, I’m bad with names, but still… you need to be able to identify a character in order to feel something about them and the story. And I guess that’s the other thing. I could care less about any of the characters. The little details that brings a character to life and give them personality just aren’t there. Not yet anyways, I just don’t know them enough to form any kind of connection. I supposed we’re meant to feel sympathetic with the victim of the home invasion. He didn’t really have a “Save-the-Cat” moment where he earned it though, and frankly seemed kind of whinny and pathetic. The Security Firms goons have more fire and spark than him. They are shitheads, but at least have some kind of grit and interest. Mr. White Suit probably has some problems with violence and self-control and that could prove to be interesting. However Hickman is going to have dig deep and to get me to invest in a story about corporate douche-bags. Either a next level crazy plot (of which he is definitely capable of pulling off) or some serious character development is needed to keep me around.

Bodenheim draws an elegant Secret. He uses a modern thin line and adds depth and shadow in the coloring, in somewhat cell-shaded style. A reduced palette with two or three colors per page enhance the graphic designed nature of this book and makes it pop in a unique way. It reminds me a little of Frank Miller’s select coloring choices in his Sin City series. In this case it seems less symbolic and used more for a moody and psychological lighting effect. If you take a look at a movie like Blood Simple and you’ll get what I’m talking about. The tone and the intention of a scene are revealed in the colors used and the way it was lit. I haven’t seen Bodenheim’s previous work on A Red Mass From Mars, but his characters expressions kick ass here. The are very believable and the suit that gets his house invaded, you can see the agony and fear in his eyes. It takes a special kind of artist to pull that off . Well done sir. If there’s any weakness to his work I’d say that maybe the characters are too similar in facial appearance. Perhaps that’s why I’m having a hard time telling them apart. Of maybe that’s part of the theme ala’ American Psycho. Who do you trust when everyone is cookie-cutter clone with flimsy ethics?

There’s a lot of intrigue and mystery going on in this first set-up issue. It’ll be interesting to see if it veers off into super-science or stays in the land of conspiracy and lawfirm action. If Hickman pulls this off we could see a whole new wave Grisham-like comics popping up. As far as I know it hasn’t really been done before so I’m on board check out the first few issues at least, as this one was definitely worth my time.


Story 7.5
Art. 7.5

Jerry Nelson

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

Advanced Review: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Helldiver Book One – Death Is Just The Beginning

Written by: Michael Mendheim, Mike Kennedy and Sean Jaffee
Art by: Simon Bisley
Colors by: Chad Fidler
Additional Art by: Hoel Boucquemont, Vince Proce
Cover by: Ivan Khivrenko
Published by: Heavy Metal

Four Horsemen CoverThe Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a surprisingly smart story about religious factions battling over the seals to usher in the Apocalypse. This book is fast-paced and high concept like a big-budget Hollywood film. The Seventh Sign, Stigmata and the DaVinci Code all spring to mind. This comic starts off on the right foot with a mysterious and rather gruesome suicide in a church. That grabbed me right away. From there plot unravels in an engaging and fast paced manner.

Professor (or is it Rabbi?) Adam Cahill is warrior from a religious sect in charge of protecting the Seven Holy Seals. Break the seals , and it’s the end of the world as we know it. We are introduced to him through his daily life in teaching at B’nai Jeshrun Hebrew School in Chicago. The theme of redemption is brought up in class discussion and immediately I knew what this book was going to be about. “That’s where each soul is confronted with his or her sins, and how they respond to this reflection is the difference between salvation and damnation.” This of course makes perfect sense for a book called The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Then he goes home to his family and has dinner with his wife and child, showing that he might be a warrior and professor, but he’s also a family man too. Later on this is leveraged into some primal emotions when his family is under threat.

We get down to the nitty gritty when Adam is sent away to help defend some of the Seals at the Church of Trinity in Kiev from fanatical cultists. He’s too late. They find one of their priest crucified to blood drawn pentagram with his guts hanging out and they jacked one of the Seven Holy Seals (they have 4 now). The cultists are still there and Cahill freaks the fuck out on them. Cue bezerker rage. Cue bloodbath. Cue important exposition. From here I let the publishers blurb summarize: “… ageless forces have conspired toward a prophetic event foretold by numerous cultures and multiple religions, and when that cryptic date arrives, they strike against the order without mercy! Adam’s world is shattered, his family murdered, and he is sent spiraling into Hell itself. There, he must find three corrupt souls, chosen by Divinity, to join him in battle against the legendary Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These broken individuals must band together to not only save their own souls but decide the fate of Humanity.”

So yeah, Cahill becomes a Helldiver, which from what I can tell is like the Punisher, Hellblazer and Ghost Rider rolled into one. I can’t help but have a chuckle and think about “Holy Diver” by Dio whenever I see the word Helldiver. The reveal of divine intervention was a bit silly to me as well. That’s just something that I personally struggle with in almost any religious story involving the voice of God. As an agnostic leaning liberal I tend to find all such reference to the the direct hand and voice of God incredulous. My baggage is my baggage I know. It’s just one of those things. I do like that Cahill response is very human and complex. He reluctant at first, and it’s completely understandable. Becoming a Helldiver means giving up your soul and you place in heaven, but fighting for a higher cause. It’s just the sort of lofty plot point and character developement needed to sell the idea of the Apocalypse. There’s also some other religious viewpoints about the end of the world that are explored as well, so it doesn’t feel single-minded. Judaism, Christianity and Satanism all have a role thus far.

There’s some kind of code that’s happening in the dialogue and narration. Every few pages or so a number or letter is highlighted in red. I’m no cryptographer, so I couldn’t tell you what the hidden message is, but I’m guess it has something to with the theme of redemption, or hidden law from the Torah. It’s just evidence of another complex layer of intrigue that’s subtly infused into this endgames tale. I find it refreshing because while I drawn this title with the promise of Bisley vision of the Apocalypse, I thought it was going to be a fairly trivial story, and it’s anything but that.

Four_Horsemen_page11Look we all know Simon Bisley’s art stands tall. It’s herculean Frazzetta on steroids with the showmanship of a WWE cage match. Hulking bodybuilders with rope-y veins and psychotic eyes locked in mortal combat and drenched in a thick spray inky blood and brightly oil-painted ice cream colors. He made Slaine, Lobo, Doom Patrol, Fakk2 and Judge Dread pop with violence and glory. Simon’s gone on to work on album covers, magazines and movie posters.

He’s been on and off the comic scene these last few years, but has returned with a vengeance in The Four Horsemen. Here he shows some restraint, poise and temperament. Unfortunately there’s also a down-side to this as well. There are some panels that feel cramped and hampered by shot-scale choices and composition. But that’s most the more “normal” talking heads set-up scenes. Which, let’s face it, has never been Bisley’s strong suit. He’s best suited for epic battles and bone-crushing splash pages. Also, for some reason he draws eye’s too big on long and mid-shots and makes it almost manga-esque at times. That contrasts starkly with his penchant for detailed renderings. Cahill as a Helldriver is not the most original design from Bisely. He’s basically Lobo with straight hair and a trench coat with two swords strapped to his back. It’s look badass, but he looks like Lobo. There’s also an orgy scene that I would had liked to have scene with a bigger panel. I mean what’s the point of including a satanic orgy ritual if you draw it on one small panel. I remember the B&W book Faust from the late 80’s and 90’s by David Quinn and Tim Vigil. Issue #5 has a crazy violent blood orgy scene that was a double page spread that left a lasting impact on me to this day. I feel if you are going to go all-out, do it big. I mean this book is published by Heavy Metal, I don’t think anyone will bat an eyelash.

There is also some panels that are not Bisley in this book. Joel Boucquemont, Vince Proce, Ivan Khivrenko contributes some rather death-metal looking hellscapes, which kind of throw me out of the Bisley world for a bit. Some of the coloring is over saturated and photoshopped textured. But then again it seems the whole book has a bit of photoshop grunge textures on the borders and bleeds. A quick flip through the book and it looks like you have some very dirty and violent stained glass. It fits the subject matter, so I don’t actually mind it much, but I think it could be pulled back just a touch to a subtler and less distracting effect. Ultimately the story telling is good and easy to follow, so it’s easy to forgive anything that isn’t super polished.

The true pay-off is towards the end of the book where the art picks up considerably. Bisley is channeling Ivan Albright, Hieronymus Bosch, and WarHammer Games in his vision of hell. There’s some stark industrial wastelands, twenty-eyed demons trapped in dungeons, skinless victims hammered into architecture, and a big-titted succubus to rule them all. Breast implants in hell? Makes sense to me. And finally one of the Horsemen is revealed. That fucker is a doozy. He’s like Lock-Jaw from He-man crossed with Oderus-urungus from Gwar. And he’s sporting a BFG gattling gun on armored horseback. So now you have to pick up the second and third book. How can you not! I need to see the rest of the horsemen designs by Bisely and I most definitely need to see the raze the planet in an Armageddon holy war. Hopefully we’ll see some more consistency with the art in following issues.

The Four Horsemen is a solid story “golden fleece” type story about redemption, duty and faith, mixed with a rite of passage journey, and probably some other shit that is over my head. The set-up is solid and the beginning of the second act sold me on the rest of books. The art was a little all-over place but it ended strong. I have no doubt that the following volumes will surge with that burly signature Heavy Metal style we all know and love. If you are into sprawling good vs. evil epic stories of biblical proportions, then this book is for you.

Story: 7.5
Art: It ranged 6 to 9

Jerry Nelson

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

Review: The Walking Dead # 95 In A Larger World Part Three – Jesus Vouches for Rick, Knife Fight Ensues.

Written by: Robert Kirkman
Art by: Charlie Adlard
Coloring by: Cliff Rathburn
Cover By: Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn
Publisher: Image

Alright! Here we go, time to roll up your blood stained sleeves and dig in! The pussyfooting stops right here! The Walking Dead  #95 finally delivers on the promise of exciting new stories with outsiders. Jesus vouches for Rick and his crew and they granted access to a massive walled-in community. There’s two hundred plus people in this well-established community and a bad-ass hotel that acts as kind of headquarters.  We introduced to the boss of the town that looks like a combination between a casino-owner and sleazy used-car salesman. He thinks he’s the shit, and let’s Rick know it.

Right in the middle of giving Rick the five-cent tour there is suddenly some action. One of their other scouts is back from a peace-keeping pow-wow and shit didn’t go over too well. Rick can’t seem to keep the fuck out of trouble if his life depended on it. Which in this case it might. After big-boss man get’s into with his scout, Rick finds himself in the middle of a knife fight. I can’t give away too much more than that, but some serious shit goes down. Fucking Rick… Jesus vouched for you, and you get into a fight like 5 minutes later. Is that how you repay him? Christ almighty!! In all seriousness though, it looks like this trading expedition is going to end badly for Rick’s camp. Everything seemed to be on the level, but this turn coat scout flipped the fuck out and ruined everything. The story is pretty wide-open from here and it sets up an interesting conflict that can be explored in various different tangents. It ends in a Kirkman signature cliffhanger that leave you guessing and wanting more. My guess is that in part 4 all hell breaks loose and we are going to see some serious human on human violence. It should prove interesting.

The art team on this continues to knock it out of the park. Adlard & Rathuburn constantly delivers what the story ask for. In this case it’s scope, scale, and little bit of opulence and a ton of grit. The walled-in community looks huge, and that hotel was lavishly rendered. The knife fight was exciting and absolutely grimy. Blood, mud, ruckus; it felt like a scene cut straight from Deadwood. My only critique is on conceptual aspects of the cover. The way it’s composed it feels more like a panel than a cover. There’s just a bit too much negative space on the top and all the action is crammed on the bottom. It’s fucking nitpicky, I know, but when you are executing on such a high-level that’s the sort of thing that stands out. A solve would be to pull back a little on the scene an reveal more of the fight, or even use an overhead shot and get it all in. But really, when all is said and done, it’s one of the most consistently good-looking black & white books out there.

 In A Larger World is shaping up to be quite the arc. What started as a slow-burn has ignited into an explosive and fresh story for The Walking Dead. War, siege, feuds, raids are all on the table now. The stage is set for conflict and I for one am ready for an epic warlord saga in the world of a zombie apocalypse. Like Game of Thrones but with zombies. Check out this issue and see what all the fuss is about.

Story: 9
Art: 9

Jerry Nelson

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

Advanced Review: Clay County Graphic Novel – Rednecks vs. Aliens with a dash of Strange Brew

Written by: Bruce Brown & Chip Christell
Art by: Adam Mrozowski
Letters by: E.T. Dollman
Published by: Arcana

CLAY COUNTYClay County is like Tucker and Dale Vs. Aliens (circa 1950). Haven’t seen Tucker & Dale vs Evil? Then think Squidbillies with a dash of King Of The Hill. Basically its tongue in cheek rednecks drinking their way into and out of trouble. In this case it’s while an alien invasion of Earth is happening. The aliens are cruising around in flying saucers and kind of look Kang and Kodos from the Simpsons. They’ve invaded and took over the planet nearly three years ago and are just not getting around to conquering the backwoods podunk Clay County.

The plot synopsis on the back of the book does it more justice than I ever could:

“Now three years after their invasion the merciless aliens have crushed the resistance and annihilated all freedom fighters but one: Sgt. Coleman. Coleman is the Earths last hope, if he can find the mysterious power source known only as SF-92…

Together with the unlikely allies of Clay County citizens Bake, Vern, Hot Dog and Root; Coleman set out to find the SF-92 before the Earths otherworldly overlords do, save mankind, and drink a few cold ones along the way.”

Ok so this is something I probably wouldn’t pick up on my own. Since I scored a review copy I’m glad I gave it a go. It’s a light-hearted romp chock full of redneck colloquialisms, alcohol slapstick and fart jokes. Some of it is actually pretty funny too. “Gawd Dammer!” “Summabitch!” Granted there is a few times I feel it was trying a bit too hard, but some of humor wore me down and actually got me to laugh out loud at it. There’s a running gag where the rednecks never call Sgt. Coleman by his proper name. They call him “Coalmine”, “Kauffman”, “Coldsore”, “Codpiece”, “Cornfield” and so on. It’s starts out as funny, then it gets old, and then they run the gag into ground so much that you can’t help but laugh at it in the end. Frankly I like that kind of commitment. While this is a far-cry from the Blue Collar Comedy Tour and Larry The Cable Guy (that’s a good thing IMO) it definitely has the comedic charm of the Three Stooges and Strange Brew with a redneck slant. Dumb luck and buffoonery with a touch of restraint rule the day here. Oh yeah and one last thing. They battle the aliens with a killer pumpkin chucker, straight from the Mythbusters spin-off series on the Discovery channel. That my friends, is worth the price of admission right there.

CLAY COUNTY PAGEArt wise, this is a loose syndicated news paper-style in the vein of Calvin & Hobbes, Rose Rose, Bloom County and Mike Luckovich political comics but with a Johnny Bravo design sense. Eyes always seem to truly define the syndicated style, and the ones in Clay County are either bug-eyed, beady or squinty. Everything seems to have a bit of 1950’s atomic age swing to it, but very loosely. For the most part its colored in a duo-tone digital water-color/airbrush, with the foreground being either olive or blue and the background being the reverse of that (blue or olive). Honestly I think a straight flat duo-tone could have helped enhanced that 50’s style a bit. The digital airbrushing/watercolors were really sloppy in some areas that it was distracting and pulled me out of the story. That’s never a good thing. You know the saying, K.I.S.S. Keep it Simple, Stupid. I also didn’t like a photoshopped cover or the crappy graphics between chapters that look like they crawled out of MS Paint. I guess that’s my main beef of the art. That aside, the interior work services they story in a whimsical way, and adds to hilarity of it all. Mrozowski nailed the expressions of Bake, Hot Dogg and Root and really made them stand out as characters.

This is one of those books that you have to the appreciate dumb humor that’s going on to get in to it. That isn’t to say the book is dumb, or that you have to be dumb to enjoy it. It’s just either you get it or you don’t. I liked it. I thought it was funny. I had a rough couple of days and it brought a smile to my face. At the end of the day that’s what it’s really all about isn’t it? That you enjoyed something you read. You had fun with it and felt good after reading it. Clay County just might be that PG-13 redneck comedy relief that you need. It’s currently available to pre-order in comic shops thought Previews or on pre-order on Amazon.

Story: 7/10
Art: 6.5/10

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Review: Prophet #22 “You Throw like No Necks and Outsanders.”

Written by: Brandon Graham & Simon Roy
Artist: Simon Roy
Colorist: Richard Ballermann
Letterer: Ed Bisson
Cover: Simon Roy
Publisher: Image

Prophet_22CoverExcuse me while I ramble for a bit, but where the hell did this comic come from? Yes I know it’s a revived Liefeld comic from the 90’s but has it always been about weird sci-fi shit? I thought it was known for having an excessive amount of bullets and detail? People hyped the hell out of #21 and I dismissed like a fool because I’m not a fan of Liefeld properties in general and had too much on my plate. A buddy of mine forced this comic on me and I’m glad he did. It’s my favorite kinds of story: something new and totally unpredictable.

I have no idea what the fuck is going on but here’s what I’ve been able to figure out so far: After a long hibernation John Prophet is released from his underground life-pod to find himself on a distant future Earth. He is on a mission and makes his way across  this wasteland of techno-dessert and tribal insect aliens. He’s fought off mutant wolves, multi-mouth sheep-like creatures and even had sex with some weird alien thing. He uses this blue, glorpy gel thing as a disguise thing or something. Actually I’m not sure what he uses it for but it looks like blue jellyfish cape. Oh yeah, and the planet is thick with insectoid creatures. If the aliens from District 9 had a baby with Dark Crystal creatures they would look something like this. I think the main alien things are called Xiux-Guin. They have 4 eyes, 4 arms, and a mouth at the bottom of their long sinewy necks. Their hands have 3 fingers, and stand on their 4 legs like an awkward cockroach centaur.

In this issue John plods through a graveyard of dead robot giants and burned-out pods and comes across a Taxa caravan, a temporary oasis from the violent world. He finds employment shoveling Cikade which is basically giant alien shit that people use as building material in order to keep swarms of flying insects out. John makes a few enemies with some Xiux-Guin showing them up and throwing knives, even though he throws like “No Necks and Outsanders.” Later, Prophet commits a giant tribal faux-paux and that leads to all sorts of mayhem forcing him to flee from a horde of pissed-off cockroach centaurs. This leads him to discover a long lost human artifact that he can possibly use to escape. All sorts of hell breaks loose.

The story is a survivalist sci-fi mystery mixed with adventure and espionage and is told in a straight forward writing style that’s not overly descriptive but feels dream-like. Everything is alien and foreign to me. If Charles Burns, H.G. Wells and the guys that wrote Aeon-Flux sat down and collaborated on a story you might get something like this. It’s future primitive tale with only one human (so far) struggling against a planet hostile and strange creatures.

prophet-22-9I really love this kind of deep sci-fi, but can sometimes looks terrible (I’m looking at you Land of The Lost). Thankfully that is not the case here. Simon Roy illustrate this brutal future Earth beautifully. He uses a style that blends the best part of Geoff Darrow’s line work with Joe Kubert-like contour shading. My only slight knock against the art is the appendages of the aliens can look a bit clumsy at times.  The proportions seem a bit off and are longer than needed. Perhaps the creatures was designed appear more like tubes than limbs, it just wasn’t the best creative decision. I would have liked to see some tapering towards joints, or bulking up closer to the torso. Basically anything to give it some variation and not look so chunky. However it does appear consistent with the world as the dinosaur-sized  spider-elephants have a similar look. And I wouldn’t change a thing about those beasts! The coloring is close to what Chris Sotomayor did for Planet Hulk, but less on the Photoshop airbrush side of things. He has more of a watercolor approach akin to a printmaker coloring intaglio etchings. I also have to mention the lettering really quick. Ed Brisson uses a unique technique of putting the translation bubbles, straight over the xenomorph hieroglyphic text. It’s visually appealing and I immediately understood what was going on. Point for storytelling, point for originality and point for design.

Prophet really is a strange new world. This book has really grabbed me and I can’t wait to see more. There’s no comic on the shelf like this right now. Everything is unexpected and fresh, with bizarre twists and shocks lurking around every corner. Forget everything about the Liefeld series of the ’90’s. You don’t need any of the backstory to enjoy what is happening here. It’s the perfect place to jump on. Don’t sleep on this book!

Story: 9/10
Art: 8/10

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Review: Conan The Barbarian #1 Crush Your Enemies, See them Driven Before You, and Hey Check out that Half-Naked Goth Chick!

Writer by:  Brian Wood
Art by:  Becky Cloonan
Colors by :  Dave Stewart
Letterer by :  Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Cover by :  Massimo Carnevale
Publisher:  Dark Horse

Conan is awesome. I have very fond memories of seeing the movies when I was a kid. I remember first seeing a trailer for Conan the Barbarian  while I was laid up in the hospital getting over an intestinal flu. I couldn’t wait to get better and go check it out in the theaters.,The first was an epic sword and sandal classic like no other before. It had demons, giant snakes, cults, orgies, magic, and a brilliant score. I even liked Conan the Destroyer, which was vastly inferior as a movie, but equally brutal in terms of monsters, battle, and blood. It was more a quest kind of adventure that felt like a dungeons and dragon module. There was bizarre cults, wizard battles and human sacrifice. One of the first comics I ever bought was a Conan one from the early 80’s. It what first got interested in drawing. I even read a few of Robert E. Howard Conan novels with Frazetta covers which were a bit tough for a junior high-school kid like me to get through. They were dry, light on monsters and really kind of drawn out with lot’s of talk of wenches and ale. That was the first time I kind of got let down by the character. So I gave the books a pass, eventually got into other things and kind of forgot about Conan. When this new 2011 Conan movie came out I was disappointed again. I took me 3 times just to get through the thing, I kept on falling asleep. Whatever magic pull Conan had on me when I was younger had all but vanished. I know that Dark Horse had been keeping the Conan comics alive and kicking since the early 2000’s. The covers have always been great but I’ve never been compelled by writer or interior art to get it a proper shot. When I heard that DMZ and Northlanders writer Brian Wood was on scripting and Beck Cloonan was on art duties I thought I’d give it a crack. I was a big fan of early DMZ and I’ve read a handful of Northlanders books that really kicked ass. I figured if anyone could get the tone right it would be Brian. Becky Cloonan I’m not so familiar with. I’ve seen some of her art for her mini-comic Wolves that looked really stark and cool, so why not.

I wasn’t expecting this. Not in a million years. Wood and Cloonan have reinvented Conan into a likable self-aware rogue. He’s like your drunk friend that’s always at the wrong place at the wrong time, getting into fights, and causing a shit-ton of trouble, escaping with a few bruises and good story to tell. Not a frat boy, mind-you, more like the punk kid from the wrong-side of the tracks kind of friend. The dude that always had your back in high school, but broke anything that you lent him and never paid you back. Conan is impulsive and selfish (he’s a barbarian)but has a pretty big heart and ego to match. He just escaped from a clusterfuck on to a boat, and basically hi-jacks the thing in order to escape the wrath of a corrupt city guard. There’s a brief showdown with the captain which leads to nice exchange:

“Have you silver to pay for passage, barbarian?”

“I pay with Steel.”

This attitude feels right at home with the Conan I know and love from the movies. Yet it’s different. He’s got a bit more a playful almost light-hearted spirit. He’s not a burdened by tragedy and fueled by revenge like in the movies. Nor is he as dim-witted. This is more than I bargained for. I genuinely like this version miles above the original movie Conan. There’s a lot more depth and swagger to him. He’s not just a brute that can kick-ass, but someone who can con his way out of situation if he need’s to. He does that here. Conan regaled the captain and crew with a tale about how he was drunk at a tavern while the captain of the guard was killed over the mistreating of  a maiden. He was passed-out and picked up because all other suspects left. Sobering up in the court he realized how fucked he was about to be and grab his sword and battled his way out of there, only to be chased to the boat. He wins over the crew with his story.

Nathan_Explosion_vs_conanCloonan’s Conan (say that five times fast) looks like a healthy Nathan Explosion from Dethklok. He’s in his early 20’s and doesn’t have the muscle-bound body builder physique that is commonly associated without the character. He kind of just looks like a viking dude with long straight black hair that can kick some ass. At first I wasn’t so sure Cloonan’s style was right for this book. There’s any early double-page spread of Conan looking over his should during a chase that looked rather simplistic and crude, and did not evoke feeling of the epic age of Hyboria. There is a few spots where this happens and the set-piece backdrop fails to impress.  Her simplified cartoony-style just doesn’t work with a straight forward composition. Let’s face it, a lack detail does not take the breath away. However when she brings it in to the close-quarters and talking heads, you can get the real personality of the people she draws. Their expressions come through and tell the story in an economical way. I immediately know who Conan is as young barbarian. I get that the striking Queen of The Black Coast is an insane and sexy succubus and the captain is solid guy just trying to make his way in the world. Dave Stewart’s coloring compliments Cloonan’s emotive combination of dry-brush inking and fluid lines with a desaturated color palette. It completes the whole package and tone of the book and firmly places it on the fresh side of “indy”. You can tell straight-away this is not your typical sword and sandal Conan and runs a bit off the beaten path.

Even thought this a different direction for Conan it’s a good set-up issue. My main critique of this right now is that we are missing battle, grandiose backgrounds, and a bit of fantasy. Off-beat or not, those three ingredients are crucial to a successful Conan. I think we’ll get them soon enough, but I  could have used a bit more of a taste in the first issue. In the meantime there’s a lot that’s working right now. Conan’s personality is different from what I remember but it works. It makes him a bit unpredictable and therefore more interesting. I suspect some traditional Conan fans might have an issue with it though. Conversational dialogue style blended with romanticized narrative caption makes for easy and enjoyable read. The sexuality of the Queen of the Black Coast leaps off the page and in to your lap. She is simply stunning. That gothic beauty will keep all the fanboys coming back for more. Becky Cloonan rendered her in the most compelling way imaginable and really heats up the pages of book with her presence. All in all the Conan reboot is a solid first issue and has me hooked for more.

Story: 7/10
Art: 6.5/10

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Review: Severed #7 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Writer by:  Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft
Art by:  Attila Futaki
Colors by :  Greg Guilhaumond
Letterer by :  Fonografiks
Cover by :  Attila Futaki
Publisher:  Image

He loved to hear the little kids scream
His instruments of hell did gleam
A box with a cleaver, a saw and a knife
He used them to cut up their innocent lives

Mr. Albert Fish, was Children your favorite dish?
Mr. Albert Fish, was Children your favorite dish?
Mr. Albert Fish, was Children your favorite dish?
Mr. Albert Fish, was Children your favorite dish?

– Macabre “Mr. Albert Fish (Was Children Your Favorite Dish)” from the Grim Reality EP

(FYI – You might want to check out my previous review of Severed if you aren’t caught up on the full story.)

SEVERED 7 COVERSevered concludes in dramatic fashion this week with a final showdown. Young wayward fiddle player, Jack Garron, is trapped in a house with tattooed cannibal, Allan Fisher, in a battle for his life. The early 20th century has never felt so scary and dangerous. What Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft accomplish this issue is nothing short of amazing. They somehow manage to keep the suspense and the mystery going until the very last page. Even though we know Jack Garron survives (he’s been telling this story from the present) and he loses his arm, everything else is still up for grabs.

I’ve mentioned in my earlier review how I thought that Snyder and Tuft based Allan Fisher on real life cannibal, childer killer and rapist, Albert Fish. He was also known as the Gray Man, and the Bogeyman (there were several others too but these are the relevant ones). Of course we’ve all heard of the Bogeyman, as in “If you don’t go to bed, the Bogeyman will get you.” It has become sort of a mulit-regional legend used by adults to frighten kids into behaving. According to wikipedia: “Bogeymen may target a specific mischief — for instance, a bogeyman that punishes children who suck their thumbs — or general misbehavior, depending on what purpose needs serving.In some cases, the bogeyman is a nickname for the devil.” In the case of this story it may be relevant to punishing runaways. Jack Garron ran away from home in search of his estranged father because of a post card he got sent to him. It was his dream to be re-united with his dad and play the fiddle on the road with him. Now that he’s trapped in the house with this old pervy cannibal with shark teeth. Fisher tells him that he’s not here just to eat him, but also going to consume his dreams. His father is long dead and now he plans to take his arm so he can never play the fiddle again. Allan Fisher is the Bogeyman of this tale, a dream-devouring, child-eating immortal demon with truly evil motivations. Snyder and Tuft allude to supernatural elements and perhaps try to interpret the gap between the outlandish and crazy lies of Albert Fish and his Bogeyman reputation, and factual accounts of the crimes he committed. They consolidate legend and reality into Severed and spit out a timeless primal nightmare.

I’m usually pretty good a guess where a horror story is going to go. I’ve read a ton of books and have seen a enough movies to have a really firm grasp on the genre. So I was taken aback by how much I got wrong and didn’t see coming with this series. Whenever I thought there was going to be a scare, it was a red herring. When I was least expecting it I would get thrown a curveball and the plot would thicken or something terrible would happen. A foreshadowing kill in the first issue sets out a bait for the rest of the series.  Like-able characters and interesting historical backdrop drew me further into the story. Each issue builds upon the dread and tension established and left me anticipating a terrifying and bloody finale. Just when i thought I had it all figured-out stakes are raised when an unexpected guest from Jack’s past drops in. Suddenly nothing is safe. Is this set-up for some sick and demented dinner scene ala Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Hannibal? Will there be a demon’s feast or will it all fall apart? How does Jack get out alive? This is what I love about writing in Severed, it’s just unpredictable and inventive.

Unfortunately art took a step down from last issue. I know I was bitching and complaining about the soft coloring, but I still held the ink work and structure of the pencils in high regard. A heavy-handed air-brushed color approach by Greg Guilhaumond knocks out most of the line work and muddies the pages even further. I think if Attila had to time to color these pages, it would be on par of what we’ve seen before. I mean you can tell by the covers, that given the time to focus on one image, he can really nail it. That cover really pops. It has dynamic range, intricate detail and a dramatic palette. I think he just has a full plate and needed help on this one. That means we get mud, sweat and grime on every page, and get faded line-work. The last few pages that take place in modern times were especially hard for me to look at. The present day palette had little depth and look like high-school water colors. It’s a shame that a such mysterious and ominous conclusion got the bargain-bin treatment with cheap-o colors. However for most of the series it was a pretty solid effort.

Overall I was really happy with how Severed turned-out. I never thought I read such a page-turning comic that would leave me so anxious and nervous about what was going to happen next. The whole entire creative team deserve a big kudos for championing the medium and showing that true horror comic can be made even with the limitations of a comic book format. Although they veered slightly into the supernatural context of horror conventions, they didn’t rely on an abundance of monsters, blood and guts to scare the audience. It was with the use of foreshadowing and suspense that they crafted a frightening tale. That’s a rare thing these days, and they should be proud of their accomplishments. Don’t worry if you haven’t picked up Severed yet, you can grab the hardcover edition that is due out in April. Don’t miss out on one of the best comic book horror stories in the past ten-years.

Story: 10/10
Art. 6.5/10

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Review: Invincible #88 Who has the scourge?

Written by:  Robert Kirkman
Art by: Ryan Ottley
Colors by: John Rauch
Cover by: Ryan Ottley
Publisher: Image 

Invincible_88Here’s a quick one: First 10 pages, too long, didn’t read. Then, bam! Scourge virus! FUUUUUU!!!! (Troll Face).

Jokes, aside, Kirkman absolutely pummels you with exposition and babber-y in the first 10 pages or so. The arguments are dense and infuriating. It’s almost comical the amount of waffling that is crammed into the dialogue. Its used be a unique twist when a responsible and mature Mark would talk things out with an opponent and reach a compromise. Now it’s a over-used joke and just drags the comic down. Consequently the build-up of an intergalactic battle royale is slowed to a fucking crawl. Allen the Alien, with Oliver Grayson at his side, has come to Earth to unleash a single canister of the scourge virus that will wipe-out the Vultrumite threat, but kill all the human’s on the planet as well. Invincible and General Thragg face-off against Allen and Omni-Boy  in a contest of logic and reason. The conversation is lengthy and without much wit or humor. It’s only when the crew from Guarding the Globe show up to attack Mark and fuck everything up that things get interesting. When it goes off, it goes off in a big way!!! There’s an absolutely staggering plot-twist that I can’t talk too much about. It has the potential to shake-up the core of what this comic is really about, so I’m excited to see how it develops. But also it leaves me annoyed. The first half of this comic bored and pissed me off, and the second half was so exciting and tense that it left me wanting more only to be stuck with yet another cliffhanger. While that’s great for a reader, as reviewer I’m left with fuck-all to say, because any further hints will really spoil the surprise. I’m forced to keep this short.

Ryan Ottley’s art has certainly come along way, hasn’t it? His stuff is sick. He started on the loose and funkier side of the spectrum and has really worked to tighten up his lines. He’s perfectly captured the blend of wholesome animation style with the gross exaggerations of classic comic books musculature. This simplified look relies on colorist John Rauch for depth, lighting and shadow; while leaving the lines crisp, clean and bold.  The combined cell-shaded look with Dreamsicle colors fits the perceived innocence of this super-hero world. It’s austere and slightly romanticized just like moralistic blue-skies and apple pies vibes that book had when it first started out. So when action scenes cross the line, brutal violence and gore have a much greater impact. It’s like seeing Mickey Mouse ripping out someone’s entrails, it shocks your senses. The sick and sweet 1-2-punch is an affront to your values and safety. That’s why it works. A contrast of style and subject is used to great effect and delivers a thematic message just as much as a narrative point. A prime example is Ottley’s treatment of the climax which is powerful and speaks to a stubborn worldview and a failure to compromise while delivering a fucking painful story beat. And what a  beat that is. GAH!!! Can’t. Say. Any. More. Than. That.

(first half of) Story: 3/10
(last half of) Story: 9/10
Art: 8.5/10

Jerry Nelson

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