January 27th, 2009

It’s just gibberish, eh? Or machine code, something something. That title. Or is it compressed, purposive – come see!

supeyonda supeyondb

(A short note about covers, because I had been rather smug about purchasing story covers – look, I’m not buying two covers, it’s ridic – but am now, after three consecutive Carlos Pacheco “this event does not occur in the comic” covers, and missing that ace Darkseid DC logo one on #4… I’m now sad and regretful about that choice. Laugh, if you will, damn you.)

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond(!) 3D #2 does not actually contain an exclamation in its listing, though I could swear there was one originally supposed to be there – like socialism, I’m sticking insistently with it in the face of all countervailing evidence. Hoo-hah!

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond(!) 3D #2 is a long comic title, the sort which DC seems to favour allowing its top-tier script-bots to plaster covers, your brains, etc. with. 52 Aftermath: Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood [52A:CB:5LoB] retains the pedestal, in recent memory.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond(!) 3D #2 shouldn’t really exist – not in the sense of “should one of Western comics’ bestsellers, an event comic supposedly for the masses, really resemble nothing so much as something so abstruse as the work of Italo Calvino“, enjoyably culturally perverse as that might seem – more tawdrily, #1 and #2 of this comic should, clearly, have been one issue. Whether this was a creative bump or commercial decision will likely remain a mystery, but I tend to think it was the latter – because a one-shot, whilst possibly accruing marginally better sales, would likely have been price-pointed at $5.99, as opposed to the combined $9 pricetag for these two beauties. More on Mammon, “the least erected Spirit that fell/From Heaven”, shortly:


Keen fans of a longer standing may remember this Ultraman from Morrison and Quitely’s late 1990’s capstone to the former’s JLA run, a prestige format Original Graphic Novel (savour that flavour – the more I do these analyses the more keystone this particular OGN seems; is it because it was my first exposure to GM JLA? It often works that way, but the thing yields more every time) named Earth-2… I’m not precisely sure of the audience for these pieces, actually; follow the links for refreshers or to find out, none of it’s vital but most of it’s – hopefully – enriching. I’ve read everyone else worth reading’s pieces on this comic, they’ll be interspersed here, so am in some sense batting clean-up and also trying to provide a collatory, unified read.

Anyway, closely utilising Watchmen (more on that shortly, too) as a touchstone for ‘realism-in-the-superhero-paradigm’ – extramarital affairs, the kink of the spandex, the leather close to skin, the world as a toilet, materialism as ontology and ideal – it was also a decisive step toward the more self-reflective and complex, semi-autobiographical strain of franchise-work seen in, particularly, Seven Soldiers but begun in the late 1980’s on Animal Man; in Earth-2, Morrison utilises the good antimatter Alexander Luthor as a fiction suit for this purpose. The torque on old DC planetary taxonomies (Ultraman &c. originally came from Earth-3) is that Alex has coined the novel’s title to describe the world of the DC heroes – his Earth is the real, unsuffixed, one.


It does seem more recognisable. But the balm is this: through their interaction, both the JLA and Ultraman’s team, the Crime Syndicate of Amerika, the CSA are “changed” – an author’s consolation, perhaps, that in writing high-ideal Heroic Fiction, one might alter one’s own environment positively in ways beyond making paper. Realism and idealism shift closer – but, then, there are an infinite number of ways to bisect a circle, through every decimal point of pi. Or is it half infinity, with the correspondance across axes? Same diff.

PAGE 2-3

Superman displays his super-confidence powers. He really is the ultimate American superhero. His power? Self-determination. Grant Morrison, this comic’s author (you may be familiar with him? his work?), has quite often talked about – he has taken an awful lot of drugs, to the point of getting a septic head, you have to remember – using the character as some ultimate totem for, I suppose, mental survival when acting as a fictionaut. I can’t find any of that on Google immediately, but here’s a touching story I skimmed: “Superman, save me.”

‘swhat he does. Is for. He wants to.

Beside him is – I don’t actually think I mentioned him doing #1, but a lot of that post is awful mealy-mouthed – Captain Allen ‘Atom’ Adam. He looks pretty confident too, arms folded; look, if you just want anno’s go and read Douglas and David – they both do a consistently excellent job, and I always look forward to reading them. We’re more trying to describe… effect, I guess, here. Construction, theme. Terrible, sad music.

I’m tempted to suggest Merryman (of the Inferior Five) is Limbo’s Superman-analogue; as a circular plane to a sphere, he’s the absurdist equivalent. Try and play association football, basketball with a circle, you’ll soon see. I mean, the guy’s the leader of the team and his power is evidently weakness. Based on Woody Allen? Did nut no. I always somehow associated the Inferior Five with MAD magazine, thought they had been in it, but apparently it’s their author, E. Nelson Bridwell, came from there to do them for Showcase. MAD’s in a fair bit of financial bother, it seems. I don’t have any emotional attachment to it, at all; I know it’s this massive American cultural touchstone – I just remember feeling faintly queasy, as I did with the Garbage Pail Kids cards at school (maybe not quite as much,) looking at Alfred E. Neuman‘s girning puss on the cover.

Rather fantastically, counterpointing the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, I see Bridwell wrote and the I5 featured in something called The Oz-Wonderland War; I don’t care how good or otherwise that is, I’m just so phenomenally pleased to discover it exists. There’s a case possibly to be made that this side-series to a Crisis is attempting to marry that ethic with the grandiose scale of Alan Moore’s conclusion to his ‘American Gothic’ arc in Swamp Thing #50 – “Crisis in Heaven”, like Jimmy Olsen taking a potion and shapeshifting into Doomsday, or “Tawny bites!” – it’s a neat trick, the marriage of innocent abstract and brute physicality, heaven and hell.

oz-wonderlandwar1 swampthing50

Anyway, this is Merryman’s moment, it’s a bit stirring – he’s inbred and useless, but nonetheless, strap a gat – you’ll feel like you can take on anyone, up to & including incomprehensible megacosmic forces. What’ve you got to lose?

PAGE 4-5

“…Mandrakk wakes!”/”She’s a vampire!”

I think, if there were much doubt beforehand, this is fairly conclusive proof that Final Crisis, as a whole, is a superheorro/r/ event, the inclusion of old man Drac sealing it. Because, look: possession by dark spirits, implacable Justifier zombie hordes, weretigers and the best type, scaled the fuck up: cosmic vampires. Also, Frankenstein.


Aw, yeahhh.

It’s basically a given that everyone – including J.G. Jones – wishes Doug Mahnke had drawn this whole event by now, right? Looking at a listing of his last year’s work, I kind of discovered that mightn’t be as feasible as I’d originally thought, but still. He drew the abysmal Requiem (for a Manhunter from Mars) clipshow tie-in and an issue of Nightwing – Jesus – when he could at least have done ‘Last Rites’ in Batman; seems to like working with Peter Tomasi, though.

Some notes: Doug (Wolk) ‘n’ Dave seem to think of the listed alternate sun/lightning-powered heroes, Savior is some dude from Astro City – my inclination is that, no, it’s probably one-time chum Mark Millar’s Trident comics creation, with the anglicised spelling of the same name… they’re probably entirely right about the rest, I was pretty much stuck on ‘Principal’ and am not 100% convinced it maps to Malibu’s Prime, but eh.

I’m not altogether sure whether Thor would fit in with that gang, but probably; he, Overman and Captain Marvel are orthogonally-related as (lowercase) thunderbolt beings.

Overman’s agency in the story is also a bit of a mystery; the nearest I can come to a conclusion is that it is his tragedy, his heart’s blood that fuels the narrative – every other member of the five/six/seven (oh, how Grant likes to make even such simple definitionals as numbers slippery) Supermen has an active or deductive part to play. I just can’t see him getting his heart’s desire, despite Checkmate’s inability to properly autopsy her. One version or other of Tristan and Isolde? Something Wagnerian – maybe Ring of the Nibelung, actually, given that’s the one with the incest that Silver-Age Superman only ever hinted at with his cuz. Disappointingly Overman’s a.e. appears to be Karl Kant, not Siegfried or anything so hot-tip obvious. Immanuel…? not to go there, too difficult & boring.

More notes, on scale: look, David Allison (clearly only people with names beginning ‘D’ will be linked today; it’s a bias – I just need one more to form a team to save reality!!) has phrased this authorial tendency to play with it wonderfully, somewhere – you’d think it’d be here, but I can’t find it skimming. I’m going to call it As-Above-So-Bel/l/owing, for now, because it occurred and seemed clever, but I’ll not want to hear it twice – in this case Zillo Valla has mailed (a part of) herself as an operative into… the story/DC multiverse/my comic, she could be a fictionaut, she could be a “sprite” in a mindmelting RPG, it’s all the same in the end.

Ah, Geoff Klock paraphrase by David A. actually:

an ever-egressing series of realities without ever placing them in a strict hierarchy

It’s like the i-Life in The Filth or All-Star Superman #10’s Kandorian antibodies, again, enacted here within the comic’s structure. Nanoman and Minimiss reconstituting everything, at another remove. Was it really such a surprise to discover fiction had levels?

Huh-pdate: David Uzumeri has posted a further piece on Mandrakk, which really serves to reemphasise this point and lacquer another layer of being atop.


“We’re so small… yet so significant… How can it matter so much?”

It does to me!

Superman feels for Lois the same way Greg Feely does for Tony the Cat – oh God, I’m a terrible person, that’s some Dark Side perspective. I mean, fans – which I would, somewhat unwillingly, count myself among – you can’t say they don’t give a fuck about anything. They’re pathologically attached, if anything – there was a study a few years ago, something else Google fails me in finding, that showed Superman fans, specifically Superman fans, or readers of Superman comics if there’s a distinction, were markedly more selfish, less giving, etc. Having some familiarity with the culture, and my own head-in-arse proclivities, it’s hard to disbelieve. You can get lost, but still: I care. It’s love! What’s better than that?

Sometimes, when I walk to the park with my boy and his mum, it’s almost too much to bear.

No, this series is the quantum moment from ASS #3, streeetched into sixtysome pages; Lois lives/Lois is dead – it’s all that matters – it occurs over a second! I love all that elastic timeframe stuff, which was used to great effect on the yearlong run Morrison and Millar had on The Flash, the second trade of which was released – I think – this last week. Highest possible recommendation for that one, beautifully humane; say what you will of DC and I know I have, sometimes their trading of their backlist is remarkably timely – as it was with those beautifully presented Fourth World omnibi.

flashhumanrace1 4thworldomni


PAGE 7-8

The thing about this comic is – it’s so starkly numinous, so utterly meta, and you’ve things like, okay, that’s Shadow Demons attacking Limbo and denizens, but it’s an act of eradication… Limbo’s a faded memory already, shit. It’s such a malign act, why would you even… this is why, I suppose, I’m right behind American football-looking dude Hardhat, once of the Demolition Team when he’s lamping one with that fishbone. Him and Private Eyes, ex-Hero Hotline operative seem to be the most foregrounded of Team Limbo; they’re my faves, anyway. BRAAT-BRAAT. Dunno where the guns came from, really: plot necessity.

Ultraman and Superman about to commit the “ultimate crime”, commingling – I’m sure there’s a joke about buggery in that somewhere, but I shan’t look too hard for it; there’s a lot of ways to bisect a circle as I say. The choice of words: “We annihilate one another” seems pointed if you’ve ever had the revelation that opposition is definition, that Slavoj Zizek is hard, but this:

The ‘synthesis’ is exactly the same as the anti-thesis; the only difference lies in a certain change of perspective, in a certain turn through which what was a moment ago experienced as an obstacle, as an impediment, proves itself to be a positive condition.

(found here, leads to pish, but top of page is useful)… if this makes a lot of sense to you, as a description of actual being, shorn of the sort of Aristotelian binaries practiced by Mister A (and we’re back at Watchmen; it really is an ur-text.) Annihilation of opposites is synthesis is the point – I don’t want to turn this piece into Tim Callahan’s chapter on Doom Patrol in his book on Morrison and simply enumerate these dualities as they crop up, because that’s incredibly aggravating, much as other parts of the study are pretty decent. There’s a very good, thorough, contiguous reading of Arkham Asylum, for example; it generally would’ve worked much better as a hypertext I think. Do ask if you want my copy.

This is important:


It’s one of those things that’s, again been supercompressed, into this dense – like a neutron star – narrative. I’ve sort of been finnicking about with the notion of time and the serially published superhero, mentally, for a wee while – we discussed the sentient DC Universe in #1, for example, and the difficulties in quantifying its nature of being. It’s – it seems a bit mad mental to take these things seriously, but if it’s your job to write them, I figure it should be a minimum fucking requirement, on reflection. The one problem, with continuity or the illusion of such, is always 3D time leaking in to the 2D world; characters accrue ludicrous backstory, encrustation on their hubcaps, there are signifiers that denote “this comic is from the past, and yet the character is the same age, roughly”, cultural parallelisms that are discomfitting (like, look, Captain Marvel may come from a “more simple, innocent” world, but he also fought horrible stereotypes like Nippo from Nagasaki) and so on. So I figure, taking a hint from Sonny Sumo* in the prior issue of Final Crisis, your 2D entity lives in lateral time. If it’s wrote, if it’s printed, if someone else reads it – whatever qualifiers you want to put on it, my personal take on the eternally vexed issue of continuity has always been all-encompassing, even, especiallly, the shit bits – then it happens/has happened/will be happening. So Captain Atom can simultaneously quantum superposition himself everywhere because he says so, because it’s right there on the page – he lives lateral time, judiciously. Look, electrons don’t really exist anyway.

*Sonny is a Grantsuit, btw. If there’s a baldy in a comic and he walked into another life from a “lateral universe”… yeah.

PAGE 9-11

The combination of opposites is ‘fusion’ not “fission” surely, though?

Oh aye, O. I. – “I’ve fused symmetries”.

(It’s, as others have pointed out, a lovely bit of serendipity that there’s a big ad for the Watchmen collections in the intervening ‘continuity breakers’ here; suck on that, trade-waiters! Part-timers)

“There are no dualities/only symmetries.”

Told you; Andrew Hickey’s review makes several splendid points about this – that i. that’s kind of a Ditko creation talking, so he’s detourned the fuck out, but also ii. that this, absolutely, is your Nietzschean Übermensch.

Some commentators have made much of the issue as an attempt at a rapprochement with Alan Moore’s devastating legacy – e.g. “Come back to us, Allen!” – it is appropriate given the context, here, and probably not past time for Grant to stop playing Oedipus and Alan, if he’s even listening at this point – God knows, Chronos. Captain Adam is the neutron here; the others float in his orbit, with various repellent charges – I doubt Billy Batson could have touched Overman either.


He moves in a direction you cannot point to.

Folk are making a noise about the 3D effect, like “oh, it’s not that good” but I don’t agree at all, really – I’m like: what are you talking about, it’s brilliant and purposive? There are little bits that are wonked, like Superman’s outreaching index finger here – is that a thumbnail, no it’s just a misrender – but really. Great. I’m wearing my glasses now, I just wear them about the house, they act to balance left and right hemispheres of the brain (possibly). The whole thing… there are moments of probably-too-cuteness in the comic, but it’s a Superman comic, it should be bluff and earnest and daft; like, read the instructions for the 4D vision glasses, it’s some next level Silver Age shhh…


Playful, like, but demanding the reader’s attention, nay, participation: Come on an adventure!

I like to think, though it looks a little out of proportion, that the flat plain that is Limbo, first circle of Hell is a thumbprint because they’re useful shorthand for memory. Superman – sorry, the composite Superman-Ultraman thought robot that I really want to make a case, in some insipid way, for being Optimus Prime – has his hand in the letterbox of the past.


The extemporaneously manifesting pathsteps taken here are Monitor-patterned, squares and circles; primordial fact of existence – there are only two types of line, straight and curved. There’s probably something in these designs that diegetically connects Metron and his crop (squaring the) circles to the Monitor-race/projections.

PAGE 14-15

Every other existence is a mausoleum – “the graveyard/death of the real”, cf: yr Invisibles/Matrix – things hang suspended in a moment… there was a game came out for, I’m sure it was the Sega Saturn, around the time of the console’s release, a helicopter game where terrain would sort-of spontaneously manifest, so you’d see – say – a bluff before you saw the rest of the mountainside. The rest was horizon. Then, most likely, you would crash into the mountainside. I want to say it’s Operation Desert Strike, but that seems to have been Megadrive/Genesis. Anyway, this brings that to mind.

It’s sort of interesting that Weeja Dell is Monitrix of the Marvel analogue universe? And her boyf is marooned in the wellspring of all superverses? Codependents, see. Final Crisis is all about lost loves. Catching that butterfly, she resembles no-one so much as Oubliette… hold on, that’s no butterfly!


While not necessarily Mister Mind, it definitely looks like a time fly. Which, of course it is – apparently harmless and sweet, in this supercontext, Destiny’s garden.

PAGE 16-17

I’m just going to turn to one of our most astute commenters, and onetime Doubtful Guest, the man they call “The Satrap”, at this point, and sit back and relax momentarily. From yr FC#6 thread:

In Beyond #1, the orrery of worlds looked a lot like a viral construct. You know, your run-of-the-mill bacteriophage, that injects its “infectious” code into its host through… the so-called base plate, the “lowest level”. Universe Designate Zero, mayhap?

Since I’m fairly sure that Morrison is itching with desire to make the multiverse explode with diversity, and since he must have read a fuckload of “New Scientist” issues going on about viruses being not only vectors of disease but facilitators of evolution, blah, blah, again with the science as trendy window dressing, my money is on FC ending with the orrery of 52 worlds (its hull, made of bullshit super-alloys, being akin to the capsid of a virus) breaking (at the bottom) and infecting the Monitor mega-mind with, well, infinite earths.

A multiverse where the kids can gather around the fireplace,and partake freely of the wondrous gifts of the storyteller…a Neil-Gaiman-friendly place, basically, which is a mildly horrific thought on close inspection.

Thanks, ‘trappers. These ideas are better than mine, so theft it is. I think it gets a bit mixed-metaphor-y when you’ve the whole “cosmic garden” bit at the end of 52, Mister-Mind-as-fruit-fly, see above, but basically the point is… what? DC Universe(s) are a particularly virulent strain of story; story is a disease/a succour? Welcome to the origin story of Jacques Derrida, Linguistic Theorist of the Postmodern Age: Pharmakon in ancient Greek means remedy. Pharmakon in ancient Greek means poison. How do you continue a career as a translator, therefore, Jacques?

Sorry you died.

I’m not altogether personally averse to the DCU being a Neil Gaiman-friendly place; Sandman probably kept me reading comics as a demanding teen, and was my introduction to in-story discussions of story qua story – these sort of unitary manifolds that fascinate, ah-heh, endlessly. (Sorry.) He also wrote the Secret Origin of the Guardians of the Universe, Neil, so fair play. These are the things people remember. I’m not averse to the DCU being basically anything – Morrison aside – other than what it is at the moment (the Rainbow Lanterns have a modest charm.)

After all this, something good has got to happen.

Chavez – Lions


PAGE 18-19

He’s a bad lad, Mandrakk.

“I’m inside a self-assembling hyperstory!“/”And it’s trying it’s best to destroy me.

As a summation – it’s all inexorable here, all fait accompli

This is my reason to be.“/”My purpose is simply to stop him.”


PAGE 20-21


It’s just those exposed bits of grill, there on p.21 – brings back childlike memories! Optimus Prime was my first real American hero: a truck that believes in sentient beings right to freedom? I don’t care if he originated in Japan or not. These nascent stirrings – it’s all one story in Hypertime! – imprintations of notions like “nobility” and “indefatigability”. Only learned through narrative, for most of us, the middle-class. And actually – this battle between form and void, I first encountered as a yout’ in the pages of Transformers UK #150, Primus v. Unicron; look, I’ve got those issues of Spider-Man & Zoids, every one, somewhere, hopefully still – but sometimes it’s just not enough. Simon Furman (holy shit, he’s got a wordpress blog – I really should stream of consciousness google more often) did end up kind of ghettoised; I suppose, maybe, we should all be grateful in a way.

And now, a short treatise on love – of which Mandrakk has destroyed his own: beatific concepts like ‘love’ and ‘good’, I think in this context or really otherwise don’t really have neat symmetries with their proposed opposites; Wonder Woman posits this very thing of ‘good’ in the Earth-2 graphic novel. Ultraman is in the thought robot, but it isn’t really him, is it? As I say, love is the tether for Superman here, for lost Nix Uotan in the main Crisis book – it’s one of those things… I have a scientist friend or two, engineers, and they’re quite insistent on their materialist worldview and that, but maybe a bit sappy too and I’ve debated against this with my entirely more fluffy bollocks worldview. Love won the day, I have to say, because: no-one wants to imagine that it’s a chemical imbalance or “a word to prettify savage genetic imperatives” [Namor the Sub-Mariner, Fantastic Four: 1234]. (I learn everything from comics.) No-one, and the worst thing you can say or imagine of someone – in the end, I think – and that’s why Ultraman is ultimately irredeemable, because his “treasure” is only gold: the worst thing is that ‘they love nothing’.

PAGE 22-24

Stirring stuff, eh? Oh, good, a fight – I know Grant’s a pacifist and all this, but really it’s a bit much sometimes. I buy superhero comics in part because I want brightly coloured chappies, mostly chappies, punching, lasereyeing other ones – more likely in a more subdued, even sombre, sinister form of dress – square in the puss, through the chest. This is a pretty awesome fight, better than Primus/Unicron because [SPOILERS for the Transformers mythos] Primus shat out and did a sneaky, weaksauce trap. Stakes is high.

Dax Novu (in Sicilian, anyway) means ‘new leader’, so far as I can figure – I was going to write a bit about the Superman robot and say how he’s the first superhero but actually he isn’t at all, everyone just thinks he is – funnily enough, a character called Mandrake the Magician (erm, hello, isn’t that Dr. Strange’s entire supporting cast?) seems to be largely credited with that honour. Superman isn’t even the first DC or Siegel/Schuster character – Doctor Occult, evidently influenced by Mandrake, has both these honours and you’ve other characters they created like p.i. Slam Bradley, who could quite easily have filled the Dan Turpin role in FC proper (reducing the Kirbyness a bit, true,) also pre-empt Soupy.

So, while you can say Superman’s not the first superhero – magicians are kind of a different kettle of fish, to me at least – he’s certainly the defining one.

Oh, I remember Mandrake now – he was in Defenders of the Earth (“Defenders!” – you have to say that bit afterward, whispered, it’s in the theme); hypnosis powers, “subject or subjects of this hypnosis would suddenly see the illusions he desired” which rather covers Zillo’s proclamation “…you’re using us to believe you into existence!” as well as yr standard Morrison-meta.

Ultraman proves not entirely useless: of course he’d be of more practical mind.


Perhaps I’m overly cynical about the production problems, as opposed to commercial concerns (Mahnke still found the time to do an issue of fucking Nightwing in the interim, though, probably*), with this comic – there are, after all, four inkers, and this page doesn’t have the 4D holography for whatever reason – anyway the Superman thought-robot is blind so no special glasses req’d, you insensitive bastards.

*Unless it was a… word? one of these ones they hold in reserve to fill a gap.

PAGE 26-28

The elixir cannot be held, contained, bottled – I imagine it’s the Philosopher’s Stone/Holy Grail/only love… Captain Marvel’s treasure is indeed a piece of Rock, Overman’s, hmm, well we’ll maybe see this week, I’m not optimistic for him, but we know who. Allen Adam’s is… supercontext? Ultraman gets higher purpose, I suppose – I think this is set-up for this week’s(!) final Final Crisis. The etymology of ‘Rox Ogama’ has me stymied, sad to say.

I like the missiles, they’re proper fucking horrible like a hammerhead shark or Nemesis the Warlock – just a proper action panel, page there, you can hear them screaming before they explode.

Missiles and kissiles.

PAGE 29-30

A wink and a ‘To be continued’; I think that’s a fundamental rule of classic Superman stories, that they end like so? “Never the end!”/Neverending – I liked All-Star Superman a lot, not as much as some people, it felt a bit like a highlight reel more than a narrative sometimes, people will say this comic’s more like a thesis – I think I like it better, this one. But I have spent about 8-10 hours and 4.5k words on this (“Who was J-Lo”, anyway? Bothers me) and got a reprise of that comic’s last page – but also: a warning!


So I want to go back to ASS, and read this as a capstone, see how it works as a reagent – but why is it a warning to Monitor? I think because, as Andrew also helpfully reminds, entropy is a fundamental law (except with an extremal black hole) of the universe and blah, blah, everything tends toward decay. Everything changes. Time leaks in, no matter how much you want to preserve fiction/germs at arms-length, you’ll not succeed. All is fluctuating, this is the observer effect. There are no spectators, only participants.

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