Review Swamp Thing #18

8 Mar

comics-swamp-thing-18Swamp Thing #18
DC Comics

Scott Snyder – writer
Yanick Paquette – artist
Colors – Nathan Fairbairn
Letters – Travis Lanham

Snyder and Paquette’s final issue gives us the bittersweet ending we were all hoping for. Swamp Thing #18 proves that when these two work together, it is magic.

Alec Holland and The Parliament of Decay bend space and time to allow Abigail to take her place as the avatar of death. This issue follows the climatic end of that quest. The final battle with Anton Arcane, who must be stripped of the mantle before Abigail can take it up, is the kind of outstanding action that sustained this series success in the beginning of this run. Full of tenderness, Snyder’s star-crossed lovers are given the treatment they so richly deserve. It is a satisfying conclusion to this eighteen issue run.

Abigail Arcane is given a chance to shine in this issue. Her character grows, as she becomes a powerful force to be reckoned with. The redemptive tone of issue #18 reveals Abigail to be strong and courageous to an even greater extent than we have seen preceding this point. She is capable of immense sacrifice and bravery. In addition to Snyder’s direction of Abigail’s story, Paquette quite literally paints her in a new light as well.  His character design in regard to Abigail is truly inspired, and singularly beautiful.

Snyder’s swansong is a near perfect ending to his epic saga; equally strong is the work of Paquette. Deftly personifying both death and rebirth, Paquette’s expressive artwork reaches new levels of intensity. Organic layouts and comprehensive aesthetic environments bring life to the story. Nostalgic symbols like orchids fill empty space, reminding us of all that Alec and Abbey have been through.

The culmination of this year-and-a-half long run brings the skills that Paquette and Snyder have shown over time to a new level of perfection. Swamp Thing #18 is full of high-quality action, strong character development, and emotional depth. In other words, it brings together the best parts of what we have come to expect from this incredible team.

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Review All New X-men #8

8 Mar

allnewx8All New X-men #8
Marvel Comics
Writer – Brian Michael Bendis
Artist – David Marquez
Color – Marte Garcia
Letterer – VC’s Cory Petit

Issue #8 of All New X-Men delivers humor, action, character development, and the realization that these characters are asking many of the same questions that we readers have been mulling over these last few months.

Bendis’ storytelling remains engaging. He shows his skill at juggling a large cast of characters while simultaneously advancing this high-concept plot. This series makes each character’s motivation clear, and deserves credit for allowing these motivations to matter. Each member of the team has agency and narrative weight, but somehow does not bog down the overall momentum of the story.

In this issue we finally get the opportunity to learn more about Warren as he fights alongside Angel to protect the Avenger’s Mansion from Hydra’s forces. Warren’s anxiety about his future crystallizes as he learns more about this contemporary version of himself. Bendis incorporates character development and action expertly in this stunning sequence. Just as the battle reaches its pinnacle, the Avengers make their appearance.

The realization that Hank McCoy has tampered with the space-time continuum does not sit well with the Avengers. They travel to the Jean Grey School to confront the doctor, with Captain America serving as ambassador. A conversation about ethics and consequences of scientific principles between a genius and a moral straight-arrow should not bring about much laughter. However, Bendis finds a way to diffuse the tension; giving the story a moment of levity as Kitty and Bobby approximate the exchange out of earshot of Cap and McCoy.

Warren’s apprehension about the future, and desire not to know what it holds for him lead him to make an ill-advised attempt to go home. Thankfully, there is a voice of reason to stop him. Despite the high-flying action sequence, the confrontation with the Avengers, and the breakdown of one of the main characters; the most important moment of this issue may be its reminder that Jean Grey is a wild card. What are the implications of such a young version of Jean having access to so much history that has not yet come to pass? If you are not asking yourself that question, you might be missing the point. This foreshadowing casts a long, dark, ominous shadow that plunges the series into a new level of darkness.

warrenMarquez artwork is very well suited for this series. He consistently brings a youthful exuberance to the page, and captures character with a seeming effortless. He gets the outside of the heads so right, that it is easy for the reader to get inside them. His work truly adds to the narrative quality of the book highlighting its themes and nuances, not in an obvious way, but by nudging readers to notice what Bendis has already put into the writing. A two page spread of Warren and Angel fighting Hydra’s goons reveals a great deal of contrast between where this character started, and what he has become. Marquez’s visual representation of this idea brings new clarity to a beautiful moment.

Do not miss an issue of this series. It bubbles with action, fizzes with humor, and beats with the pulse of a phenomenal cast of characters driving the book ever forward.

This review is also published at bagandbored.net

Follow me on twitter @comicsonice

The Tuesday Night Prayer of a Comic Reviewer

5 Mar

batman-jesus-2Dear Batman,

Please let me get all the creator’s names right.

And please let me get close enough for spell-check to know what word I am trying to use.

And please don’t let me accidentally use a word that spell-check suggests that has nothing to do with what I mean.

Forgive me my comma splices and run on sentences.

And give me the wisdom to know when I am fixated on a word or phrase, and have used it to death.

And let the books be good this week.

And give me the strength to drop the books that I don’t enjoy.

And please help me remember the absurd release schedules.

And forgive the executives for confusing us.

And forgive me when I mix AP and MLA styles. I know not what I do.

Bless the writers, and artists, pencilers and inkers, and colorist, and designers, and especially the letterers, for they shall inherit the earth.

If it be your will Batman, I pray that my shop’s shipments are undamaged, and that they get my pull list right… for once.

Help me support my critiques with evidence.

And guard my reviews against spoilers, and let those who would be spoiled find what they are looking for somewhere.

And bless Alfred and Jim Gordon,

Amen.

Damian Wayne: Where the Hell was Child Protective Services?

3 Mar

So Batman Inc, #8 ripped my heart out.

*Spoiler Alert* – just so we are clear if you are waiting for the trade or your shop’s shipment got damaged, or you had 50 books to get through this week, and you don’t want to know what happened in this issue, stop here. I might also suggest that you step away from the internet, purchase earplugs and blinders, and find an underground bunker to hide in… because everyone is talking about this.

First of all let’s talk about this cover.

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To the left of Damian’s face is a drawing showing the facial proportions for a baby, to his right is a drawing showing a child’s facial proportions. Is is just me, or does the one on the left look a whole lot more like him? When I look at this cover, it reminds me of a baby in a Christening gown.

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So from the start, contents of this issue seem a little perverse. Damian Wayne looks like an infant with the phrase “R.I.P.” emblazoned boldly under him. So, babies, death, sounds like a good time right? Let’s read on.

Damian comes to the aid of his adult counterparts. While his father, Bruce Wayne (as Batman) is locked away in a safe underwater. Of course Damian’s mother, Talia Al Ghul,  is busy as well; having put his father in the aforementioned safe, she has a responsibility as a Batman villain to give a long speech full of taunts and bravado. So obviously, they are occupied. He has escaped Alfred’s watchful eye, and Tim & Dick have no choice but to fight alongside Damian as all hell breaks loose.

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There are an alarming number of adults who miss the chance to intervene and save Damian, from his grizzly fate. Talia, his mother, has abandoned him. Bruce, his father is caught up in his own conflicts. Alfred, his caretaker, has somehow lost track of him. Dick, his stepbrother, may be allowing him to behave so recklessly because of some sort of nostalgia for his own Robin days. Tim seems too concerned about his interpersonal conflicts with Damian to appreciate the danger he might be in.

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I think all of these people would face legal action if Damian’s case was  brought into a court of law.

ImageFirst of all there is Talia al Ghul

She is the genetic mother of Damian Wayne, she and Bruce have a somewhat tumultuous past…

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Naturally, she decides to genetically engineer a child that combines her DNA with that of Bruce Wayne. I mean… logically, right? But she doesn’t impregnate herself, she incubates Damian in a tank that looks like it once housed Zordon from The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. So far, Talia has managed to sleep with Batman, have his baby, and not get a single stretch mark or give up alcohol for nine months. This is enough to make me kind of hate her.

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So, since she is going to all this trouble, surely she will be an excellent mother, spend all her time doting on little Damian and trying in every way to make his life as wonderful as it can possibly be … yes, that is what one would think, however; she sorta goes the other way with it.

As she admires the fruit of her test-tube; she lets Damian know that global domination is in his future. Oh, good. I know every mom seeing her kid for the first time thinks he or she is perfect, and possibly even more perfect than all the other babies whose mothers have ever looked at them, but I don’t know many who start planning out their kids careers at during their child’s first moments; and I don’t know any who start grooming them for world takeover before their child draws his or her first breath.

ImageDing! The timer goes off, and Talia welcomes Damian to the world with a smile and look of wonder that seem at home on the face of any new mother. This is pretty much the upper limit of their relationship, it doesn’t get much better. Of course, like any good mother she has plan’s for Damian’s education.



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ImageTalia trains Damian to become an assassin. This could be seen as abuse, but she always remembers his birthday, and its for his own good, right?

At any rate, Damian is put through years of physical and mental “conditioning” that result in him becoming a very talented but socially inept 10-year-old.

So mother-of-the-year, Talia is not. In some ways she loves Damian, and in some ways he loves her. He is a little boy after all, no amount of training is going to change that fact.

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Eventually,Damian goes to live with Bruce, probably for the best right? I mean how could a kid in the hands of superhero possibly come to any harm? Even if it is an unstable environment, anything is better than getting your ass kicked on your birthday, right? Surely Damian’s lot in life will improve now that he has a whole support system of caring adults.

ImageYeah, about that…

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So how did we go from movies and popcorn to a dead kid? Long story. First of all, Bruce and the Bat-family do try. He makes a genuine effort to take care of Damian and teach him how to do the right thing. He forbids Damian to kill, which seems like a good start. Most parents I know have the same rule.

ImageDamian struggles a little with the house rules. Gets in trouble, you know the usual settling in with a new authority figure stuff.

No one really seems to question the implications of a 10-year-old needing to be expressly forbidden to murder someone. This is probably as good of a reason as any to get the kid in therapy. Red flag, anyone? No? Okay, then lets continue.

Since we have agreed that it seems acceptable for ten-year-olds to have homicidal tendencies, let’s talk about how Talia reacts to his new (and dare-we-say improved?) moral compass.

ImageShe resurfaces in Damian’s life to tell him she’s disappointed in him, aw Mom, you shouldn’t have… But lest you think lacks the commitment to completely destroy her son psychologically, she also formally disowns him.Image

Where’s Bruce while all this is going on, you might ask yourself… turns out he has a pretty good excuse for turning a blind eye to what’s going on, see he’s kind of, oh what’s the word… dead.

So Damian learned he had a father, lost said father, and was abandoned by his mother. No one has considered that perhaps Alfred and Master Dick aren’t exactly the dynamic duo of parenting, that maybe Damian could benefit from some normalcy, be around kids his own age, have some pizza, a cookie, maybe? No? Okay. Just checking.

Eventually as most dead superhero dad’s do, Bruce comes back… that’s a really long story… so let’s just go with it.

So what’s it like, having a kid who has grown up learning how to kill people come to live with you when you have dedicated your life to putting people like that away? On the other hand, what’s it like to have Batman for a dad?

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It’s just PEACHY…

Bruce and Damian have their ups and downs. That’s for sure. Bruce tends to see him as another soldier in the war on crime, and Damian tends to overreach his means to try and win his father’s approval. They do have their tender moments.

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Just look at this example of fatherly love. Bruce is carrying a beaten and battered Damian away from a fiery end… wait a second… what the hell was a 10-year-old doing in a situation like this to begin with? Well there has got to be one nice moment, hasn’t there?

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There’s the money shot… So, Mom is evil, and while Dad occasionally allows him to be put in harms way; its essentially all sunshine and rainbows over at Wayne Manor, yeah?

ImageOkay, so this was early on, but still, is this anyway to treat a traumatized child when you are a full grown man?

Not Bats finest hour…

But it all turns out well in the end.

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Really? You’re bringing this up again? So it doesn’t end well? But I mean the kid had a few good years, right? Its not like he got put in the middle of his parents feuds, or had to take on emotional burdens beyond his years or anything….

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Well… huh… okay, so I guess things got a little messy. His parents didn’t get along. A lot of kids parents don’t get along. At least they kept it hemmed up between themselves. He was never literally put in the middle of their fights or anything, never forced to choose between his mom and his dad….Image

Well, that sucks.

All right so Damian was mistreated, physically abused, mentally abused, neglected, abandoned, forced to choose between his parents, lost his father, and died. That’s terrible, especially when you consider how well most kids recuperate from early emotional trauma.

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Touche’. Fair enough. I see your point. Bruce had a fairly idyllic childhood. His parents loved him, and put his needs before their own. One bad night changed him forever. Violence creates lasting scars and mental fixations that plague us for the rest of our lives.

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Even under the best of circumstances, parenting can fall short and fate can take over.

Martha and Thomas loved Bruce, and they would have given anything to protect him.

I just wish someone had felt that way about Damian.

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We all start out as kids, trying to live up to our parents’ expectation. Then some of us become parents’ trying be worthy of our kids. Missteps are easy. Children are precious. We have an ethical responsibility to make sure that they are cared for and loved. With all the things that can go wrong, why would we ever add to the challenges facing our children knowingly?

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Uncanny X-men #2 – Review

2 Mar

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Uncanny X-men #2

Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo

Published by Marvel Comics

The sister book to one of my favorite Big 2 on-goings, (All New X-men) offered up its second helping this week in the pages of Uncanny X-men #2 by Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo. As of now, I am having a hard time falling in love.

Brian Michael Bendis, master that he is, constructs a lovely, intimate narrative involving the lingering tensions between Scott Summers and Emma Frost. The pair shares a history that would make most Lifetime movies green with envy, and that is apparent in the way they interact here.

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Emma is not only struggling with the ramifications of a life-altering split with Scott, but also facing the terrifying prospect of living without her mutant abilities. Bendis does an incredible job portraying the storm of emotions raging inside of her. Facing the age-old dilemma, best defined by The Clash, “should I stay or should I go?” Emma makes the decision to stay.  She decides to serve as a mentor to the world’s newest mutants, whom she, Scott, Magneto, and Magik have been collecting. As the group attempts to explain the mutant way of life to their new recruits, they encounter trepidation from the initiates. Eva, one of the newest mutants, is concerned for the safety of her family. In a display of compassion, Cyclops and his team transport back to her home in Australia. They are unaware that a double agent, Magneto, has called in back up.

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So with such a solid storyline, why am I still hesitant to give away my heart? The answer is simple: I cannot embrace the art. Not only does the style of the art seem incongruent to the tone of the book, I question some of the choices made by the artist in a general sense. For instance, I cannot understand why in some when a full figure is shown the proportions of the characters seem altered, while in three-quarter view they retain standard dimensions. I am also leery of the cut and paste style used in some of the ensemble frames. The work looks like a collage of paper dolls pasted on a photo of the sky, because they have a white outline and none of the figures interact. This also makes the figures appear very static. Some pages have large white borders while the panels on the page seem squished. Scott Summers here looks younger (and a whole lot more like John Karsinski) than his younger counterpart featured in All New X-men.

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As you read this be aware that these critiques involve stylistic choices. Bachalo does not do anything wrong, these decisions just does not appeal to my tastes. The art is not bad, and I suppose that for readers who enjoy an Asian-inspired art style, it will seem particularly successful. Two pages in particular did impress me, the full page of Emma Frost in profile and Bachalo’s rendering of the Xavier School.

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Another frustrating feature of the book are the layouts. Bendis apparently favors confusing panel distribution in his scripts; I have encountered these snares in his other work. However, if you persevere and find the flow of the panels, you will be rewarded with a great story.

So there you have it, Bendis tells a great story; and I personally can’t get into the slightly manga-inspired art style. The world will eventually recover from the shock I am sure.

Follow me on twitter @comicsonice

This review was originally published on bagandbored.net, go check out the site!

Review Hawkeye #8

1 Mar

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Hawkeye #8

Matt Fraction & David Aja

Published by Marvel Comics

Hawkeye #8 starts with a visual bang of brilliant storytelling from Aja and Fraction. This issue marks the beginning of a new story arc centering on Clint Barton’s seemingly ill-advised involvement with a red-headed stranger, Penny, and her litany of complications. From the beginning of this series, Fraction and Aja have stressed that their focus is purely on what happens to Clint when he is not working with the Avengers. That’s for the best, because issue 8 takes him to some decidedly un-heroic (a strip club mafia-front and jail come to mind).

Clint gets tangled up in Penny’s charms and proceeds to make a series of questionable decisions. Fraction bravely allows Clint to be a guy, not a perfect, shining, armor-clad hero. Clint’s ability to (and at times downright insistence that he must) make bad decisions make him intensely relatable and endearing. The humorous tone of the book remains grounded firmly in Clint’s refusal to take himself seriously. Against all odds, Fraction is able to make an elderly man wearing a tracksuit and an oxygen mask work as a villain in a Marvel superhero book; this should give you some insight into the outrageous twists and turns you can expect in this series. Near the end of the of the issue Fraction relates these street level skirmishes to some truly heavy-hitting monuments of Marvel mythology, showcasing his skill as a writer, and setting the table for the next course.

While Fraction’s choices make the narrative of this book stand out, what cements this book’s must-read status for me is Aja’s artwork. Nowhere in the cape-wearing comic world is there a more identifiable trademark style than an Aja on Hawkeye. Not only his rendering style, but his aesthetic choices regarding everything from layout to the angles he chooses to show scenes might as well have his name in neon lights.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Aja’s style its somewhere between pop art and 1960s advertising graphics. Aja uses very little shading, and coloring is generally very monochromatic. Because he commonly fills a page with up to twenty-four frames, his canvases can be very small. So, considering that Aja works with a limited: color palette, linear variation, and space; and still manages to tell such incredible visual stories, I am going to go ahead and label him a genius. I am so glad that he’s back.

In addition to getting Aja back on the title this month, we have also been given the extraordinary gift of five big beautiful full-page illustrations from Annie Wu. Wu’s work evokes a completely different feeling than Aja’s and provides brilliant contrast by hearkening back to the genre of romance comics. I do not think there is another medium on the planet that allows you to purchase so much great art for $2.99.

Hawkeye is a completely original take on hero books tethered by Fraction’s bold storytelling and Aja’s signature artwork that hits the mark in a big way this month.

Follow me on twitter @comicsonice

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This review was originally published on Bag & Bored, check out their site here:

http://bagandbored.net/

We Saw Your Boobs-And I Want Feedback

28 Feb

 

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http://youtu.be/saHG2MLDfPI?t=12s

So, this is getting a lot of attention. Above is a link to Seth McFarlane’s opening Oscar number. This thing has raised a few eyebrows, and cause some people to pull out the old soap box. My reaction: what did you expect from the creator of such potty-humor juggernauts as *Family Guy* and *Ted*? McFarlane opened the show with a song and dance routine that named various actresses and the films in which they appear nude, aptly titled: “We Saw Your Boobs.”

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Some critics are complaining that the actresses singled out in the bit bared all for art. They are bothered because the actresses efforts have been subverted for the sake of a joke.

But that’s sort of the thing about art, isn’t it? Once you put words, or images, or body parts out there; people will interpret them as they wish. I doubt Van Gogh ever foresaw *Starry Night* iPhone skins and area rugs, but those things exist. So do people who think boobs are worth giggling about, McFarlane capitalized on a point of view that already existed, he didn’t invent it.

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I am not sure that the Oscar Award Ceremony was really the time and place for such humor, but I am not sure it was really the place for McFarlane either. The Academy did, in some capacity, know what they were signing up for (the segment was not performed live after all). Its not like Hugh Jackman went rogue with a number about testicles, or James Franco suddenly burst into spoken word poetry about orgies, or Billy Crystal had a wardrobe malfunction… this was planned. McFarlane is the guy who makes us laugh whether we want to or not, despite the fact that we sometimes know we shouldn’t.

So, with all that said, this got me thinking about comic books (yes most things do) and I decided to write about it. I was thinking that, while actresses and actors get the final say on their nude scenes; comic book characters are in the hands of their creative teams. They don’t get to choose whether or not the public sees them unclothed. Yet, once it has happened, its out there. For better or worse, to be appreciated, or mocked. I can’t imagine Barbara Gordon (as Oracle or New 52 Batgirl) signing up to do Batman Confidential #18, but there she is, wearing nothing but a cowl and a grimace. That book is still attached to her name, and if you google “Batgirl nude” it will pop right up. The legacy of nudity for comic characters is very similar to that of actors.

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So in preparation for a much longer post on this subject… I am putting out an all call.

Tell me what you think about nudity in comics. Is there a scene or character that comes to mind when you consider the topic? A time when it added to a story, or detracted from one, that left an impression on you? Does it affect the books you buy, or tell people you buy? Who gets it right? Who misses the mark? Surprise me with your own insights. Tell me what you think. E-mail me at comicsonice@gmail.com

I’ll post the best response here on my blog, and make sure everyone (or no one if you prefer) knows who is responsible.

Follow me on twitter @comicsonice

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Modernity & Mythology: What Saga Tells Us About Ourselves for Image Addiction

26 Feb

Modernity & Mythology: What Saga Tells Us About Ourselves for Image Addiction

Just posted a new Mirror Image feature on the Image Addiction website. I hope you’ll stop by and take a look.

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Review of Saga #10 for Image Addiction

20 Feb

Review of Saga #10 for Image Addiction

I posted a review of Saga #10 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples on the Image Addiction website, go visit and find out more.

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Review of Revival #7 for Image Addiction

20 Feb

Review of Revival #7 for Image Addiction

I posted a review of Revival #7 by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton for Image Comics on the Image Addiction website, stop by and check it out!

Follow me on twitter @comicsonice

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