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291

God of Comics – Dragon Age: Knight Errant #3

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 11, 2017

Dragon Age: Knight Errant #3 (Dark Horse Comics)

We seem to be talking about this comic a lot but we’re just kinda eager for more Dragon Age. We’ve got a history of tragedy in these games, having romanced Morrigan, Anders, and Solas, and we need to know what mage is going to break our hearts in the fourth game – of which there are no details other then it’s maybe happening?

There was more intel on the new Metroid game(s) than on the fourth installment of Dragon Age. And, hey, Anthem looks interesting and Andromeda wasn’t as bad as people seem to think and that’s a miracle given the horror story that is that game’s production cycle, but…

We like this comic. We like it a lot. For those of us that are trapped by obsession on Thedas, this comic is the first story that takes place after the end of the last game. It’s in canon. We’ve returned to Kirkwall, the location of the second game and the former home of Marian Hawke and her ill-fated family. Seriously, you want tragedy? Bethany died! Carver’s a Warden! Mom was chopped into pieces and turned into a zombie that you had to kill! Uncle lost the family fortune and then found out he had a daughter who nothing bad has happened to (yet)! Boyfriend one is a murderous traumatized elf! Boyfriend two started a war! Marian herself is trapped in the Fade! At least the dog is okay…

Anyways, Hawke’s best friend is a Dwarf named Varric who was just made the Viscount of Kirkwall, a position that has been empty since the last one was beheaded. Good for him. Varric has been pretty great in two games now and he’s a writer and spymaster. He’s got good business sense and has seen some terrible things, so he’s probably got this.

The coronation is kind of a big deal and a lot of people were invited, including a knight whose best days are behind him and his apprentice, an elf named Vaea. Vaea has also seen the worst humanity has to offer because being an elf in Thedas hasn’t been easy for a while now, and she’s currently being blackmailed by members of the Inquisition maybe who want her to pull off a job for them.

She’s got to navigate the political intrigue of the upper echelons of society, including the holier-than-thou Prince Sebastian of Starkhaven and the somehow even worse Seneschal Granger while not exposing her knight to the job that she’s being forced to undertake on the side.

We’ve mentioned in the past that this comic is being expertly written by Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis, a writing duo who very much get the appeal of Dragon Age and the feel of Thedas. Artist Fernando Heinz Furukawa does a good job of capturing the feel and space of Kirkwall and is going to give us a look at Starkhaven in this very issue.

It might not be the visit to Thedas that we’re waiting for but it is worth the price of admission. Buy the ticket. Take the ride.

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279

SCRAP Entertainment presents Defenders of the Triforce

Culture, Events, Reviews

July 10, 2017

Escape Rooms are a recent advent, the product of clever people growing up and building games for other clever people. The idea is to create a room with a series of riddles, puzzles, and tricks that anyone can solve with the proper application of intelligence, and there’s some that are very good and some that are, well, they’re kinda meh.

Defenders of the Triforce exceeds all ideas of the former.

This is easily one of the best escape rooms we’ve ever done and why wouldn’t it be? Crafted by SCRAP Entertainmenta puzzle game room company that has been running since 2007 and has offices in Kyoto, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Toronto – this is one of the most immersive experiences we’ve ever had the pleasure of playing through. What’s even more impressive is that they’ve taken this particular room on tour.

Defenders of the Triforce has traveled to San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, New York, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Phoenix, Seattle, Chicago, Edmonton, and Calgary. We had the distinct pleasure of trying out their Vancouver efforts and were amazed from the moment we arrived to long after we left.

We’re not going to spoil anything or give away solutions to any of the puzzles, but we are going to talking about what this was like and urge you to go and experience this for yourself. It is well worth the effort.

Most escape rooms involve a single location where you and a small number of people are looked in that environment and look for a way out. Some feature multiple rooms and some don’t – it depends on the narrative structure of the story being told, because every escape room has a story and flavor that gives the experience context. Here’s the setup for this one:

Defenders of the Triforce takes place in a hotel ballroom. It’s massive, with a video screen that gives us our story – Ganon has returned and Link has gone missing. Princess Zelda is holding him at bay and we, each group of players, is given the means of becoming the Hero of Time. We are split into groups of six or seven but everyone plays at once. There’s a sense of companionship with the people at your table and competition with the tables around you, but it’s all in good fun – everyone can win, but everyone wants to win first.

It’s remarkable how well SCRAP has captured the look and feel of the Legend of Zelda. Early buzz from excited participants took note of the dungeons around the room – Kokiri Village, Goron Mountain, the Temple of Time, and a Zora Lagoon. Helpers flutter around with glowing faerie shirts, responding to cries of hey, listen and offering hints to those that need them.

And you might need them. The puzzles are fiendishly clever, though nowhere near as hard as the Water Temple. Time travel, gardening, music, movement, pots, rupees, all the things you’d expect from a Zelda game are present and accounted for. It’s amazing how easy it is to get lost in the feel of it all, the sense that you’re wandering through a Zelda game and that only you and your friends can save Hyrule from the Gerudo Tribe’s most infamous son.

Though SCRAP Entertainment has left Vancouver, there are plenty more locations that you can learn more about by clicking here. They’ve also got other games coming down the pipe and going on tour, including experiences based on Final Fantasy, Dragon Ball Z, and the Mummy (the recent Tom Cruise one, not the Brendan Fraser one). They’re also branching out into augmented reality games, and you can learn more about that by clicking here or watching this video:

In short, if you have the chance to go to an escape room run by SCRAP, grab some friends and do it. These games are awesome.

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273

God of Comics – Samaritan: Veritas #2

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 7, 2017

Samaritan: Veritas #2 (Image Comics)

Sometimes, I need to sit back and educate myself. There’s so much that happens in this medium, so many good stories that exist that it’s hard to pay attention to them all and some just slip through the cracks.

One of the reasons we started this whole God of Comics thing in the first place was to showcase some comics that people might otherwise miss, some really good stories that deserve more attention than they get. It’s why we’re so eager to talk about Hexed and Nailbiter and the Woods and Quantum & Woody. These are comics that we feel a lot of people would enjoy, and we know so many people that got lost in the mire of Marvel and DC Comics.

So, this: Matt Hawkins is one of the heavyweight writers over at Image Comics. He’s an excellent human being and excellent conversation at conventions, and we try to make a point of seeing him each year at Emerald City Comic Con. He’s the guy who looked at the Witchblade cosmology and moved that whole world into the future, creating a science-fantasy world that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

He’s also the guy who has been quietly writing his own little world for a number of years now, a high-stakes political thriller that spans multiple titles and deals with a variety of real world issues. Matt is kind enough to have an appendix that explains the story so far, highlights the comics you might want to read those stories in (and you will), and where to find out more about the issues he’s trying to address.

And what issues? Religious and political corruption, mostly. This comic stars a hacker named Sam who went off the grid and gave it up, got out of the political game after exposing a horrible human being for being horrible. Problem is, she then finds out that dude became President of the United States, which is how we know this is fiction. People would never vote for a violent rapist and sociopath with a serial track record of failure and dishonesty.

The president in question is a corporate puppet and she’s out to stop him from destroying America and the world, but she’s literally up against the dominant powers of our era and limited to whatever resources she can get her hands on after a year out of the game. The digital trail is there if you know how to look, but will people care when soundbites and alternative facts are easier to digest than truth?

Doesn’t matter to her – someone has to do something, and she will lay her life on the line to stop a group of selfish men from inflicting a nightmare dystopia that ends in genocide on the world.

If you like the politics of Mr. Robot or the political scheming of House of Cards, you’ll like this.

Atilio Rojo brings some of the best inks and colors you’ll see out of him to this project, and that’s not anything to blow smoke at. The man has a gift and he plays with shading and hue like a madman here, choosing what gets highlighted and what remains in the shadows with a master’s eye.

We typically do these things by week in alphabetical order, but we altered that a bit and threw this comic out last because you’re going to want to read it, you’re going to want the back trades, and you’re going to want to discuss this with people. Go to your local comic book shop, grab those back trades. Take the weekend.

Good hunting.

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198

God of Comics – Sacred Creatures #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 6, 2017

Sacred Creatures #1 (Image Comics)

We entered an age long ago where we stopped believing in Evil.

This isn’t about God or anything like that. There’s plenty of people that claim to have faith without the least idea of what their faith entails because it’s easier to echo a statement than to think about it – that’s why memes and talking points tend to rule out over facts. Without analysis, without reflection, it’s easy to get lost and Evil exists in every un-reflected life.

Doubt isn’t a test of faith, but a requirement of it.

This is a comic about Evil and, to a lesser degree, Good, in the modern world. It’s about a young college grad who is about to be a father, a decent enough guy with a loving girlfriend who he loves and how his life is torn apart by forces beyond his control, about lives toyed with and destroyed for the sake of a selfish few.

It’s also huge. Ye gods, sixty pages of glorious story that flits through time to show us the aftermath and what led up to it, hinting at things and slowly decaying the reality we know for one lurking just below the surface. It’s easy to see why people dismiss the horrors our protagonist suffers – why wouldn’t they? Those the gods would destroy they first make mad, and that is very much what they do here. Would-be gods driving their playthings mad, but their playthings are us.

But if you’ve been following the writerings of Pablo Raimondi, this is the sort of depth you’ve come to expect. He did Madrox over at Marvel, taking a joke of a character and exploring his psyche, and then did the Books of Doom with Brubaker. The man knows how to create tension and sliver apart the layers of any given reality with an expert’s scalpel, and he brings the full care of his craft here. Klaus Janson, likewise, has done amazing things previously at Marvel with Daredevil and the Dark Knight Returns and he continues to work his magic here.

Read this comic all the way through, consider it as a whole, understand what it is and know that you’ll be hooked by the time this story is done… and don’t forget the afterword. You’re in for one hell of a ride.

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151

Review: The Lady Show – Prom!

Comedy, Culture, Events, Improv, Reviews, Showcase

July 5, 2017

The Lady Show is a prime example of setting up a space of solidarity and creating a community around it. Their fans are fiercely loyal, deeply passionate and really excited for the solidarity! Creating spaces for women to express themselves in ways that are authentic and away from the expectations to perform in ways that are expected. If you ever needed an example what their community looks like, take a look at their Facebook pictures from The Prom. THEY LOVE EACH OTHER! 

The host for the evening was Katie Elen Humphries and her presence was the right one for the night. Her connection with the crowd was genuine and they really vibed with her. I want to stress this… THE CROWD LOOOOOVVVVEEEED THE SHOW!

The guests for the night were Carmelahhh ComedyJasmine Elist and Sarah Wheeler and they brought great heart and talent to the show. Carmelahh Comedy who do improv around the city had great skits about a dolphin joining a cult, crying and dying at work and being best friends who stop talking to each other. Jasmine Elist had an awesome guided meditation about being kidnapped and Sarah Wheeler was the musical guest of the night and her music was soulful.

Lady Show Super Fans Loneka and Natasha were living it up prom night style with tiaras, face glitter and all the booze 😉 ” The Lady Show is Epic!”

Cast members doing The Hand Jive!

Improv duo Carmelahhh Comedy doing a skit about a horny dolphin joining a cult!

Loneka got to go on stage and help the trainer!

Loneka is good at helping

Her reward… a dolphin ride!

Sarah Wheeler singing her heart out!

 

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108

God of Comics – Rat Queens #4

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 5, 2017

Rat Queens #4 (Images Comics)

Violet’s got some problems.

I mean, clearly. She’s a dwarf who shaved off her beard in defiance of tradition, left the mountain keep that was her home, and started a small-scale adventuring company called the Rat Queens. Her reasons have a lot of to do with the misogyny and isolation of her native culture, but she left that all behind her.

And she’s done so many things since! Created a family for herself, exposed the corruption lying at the heart of her new home, waged war against an army of orcs to defend her new home, and even saved the world from a Lovecraftian cult that nearly drove everyone she has or would ever meet insane.

Those accomplishments, though? It’s hard to remember when family comes to town.

Family, in this case, is her brother, Barrie. He shaved his beard mostly to annoy her and has been living in her new home city also mostly to annoy her. He’s built up his own band of adventurers called the Cart Kings because seriously, Barrie, we need to talk. I’m pretty sure that mushroom thing isn’t even sentient.

Anyways, things have been weird for the Queens and they’ve just added a new member to their party, a half-orc named Bragha who might take the edge off, so to speak, by adding another edge to their side. It’ll keep Violet from getting cut as much, is what I’m saying. And this is a good thing, given that the Queens are heading into the depths of a dungeon full of traps, monsters, and sentient decor that all wants to kill them.

Seriously, Barrie, the dungeon found sentient decor and you’re stuck with the mushroom thing? I think it might just be your druid’s familiar. Or the start of an invasion from the mushroom kingdom. Because you are not the sharpest axe in the keep.

Kurtis J. Wiebe pens another tale to keep us going, the sort of fable that feels like it spilled off the table of a really good DM and into a comic. We talk to him about that a bit, actually, and you can read his words by clicking here. New artist Owen Gieni adds his special kind of madness to the setting, including giant Canadian Geese because the small ones aren’t bad enough.

If you like tabletop role-playing, you’ll love this comic. If you’ve never done tabletop role-playing but have heard of it and want to see what all the fuss is about, this is a pretty good introduction. Rat Queens is awesome. 

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121

God of Comics – Jem and the Misfits: Infinite #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 4, 2017

Jem and The Misfits: Infinite #1 (IDW Publishing)

Happy Independence Day!

Yes, this article should be going live to celebrate the first day of America’s Independence from Britain, where they fought against tyranny (except not) and unified themselves into a country (wrong again) and became the greatest nation on earth (on track until the late seventies).

Among some, there is a linguistic argument between what freedom means to Americans – whether it’s freedom-from or freedom-to. A good chunk of free countries practice or attempt to practice freedom-from, where we try to create societies that are free from prejudice and hatred and corruption. Freedom-to means being free to do things to other people around you. It’s an interesting debate, and one that ties into today’s comic in more ways than one.

The Misfits are the antagonists from the Jem and the Holograms franchise. On the cartoon, they got nowhere near the sort of character development they’ve gotten in the comics, but on the show, they were freedom-to. They made the people around them and one another miserable. The Misfits in the comic started the same way, but we’ve learned more about them since.

Part of that journey has been seeing the origins of the Misfits, and how they went from freedom-from to freedom-to and are now sort of meandering their way back again. These were five talented women who wanted the freedom to pursue their craft and become the artists they knew they could be, but along the way they got lost in the stuff their fame allowed them to get away with.

Consequences caught up with them, though. Freedom-to philosophies are never sustainable over a long enough timeline.

The Misfits lost their label, had to go on reality television to re-invent themselves, managed that and built their own label with the proceeds. They confronted Jem, who threw their illusions back in the face, and Pizzazz is now self-aware enough to know when she’s wrong and went to apologize.

Once there, she discovers that Jem and the Holograms have gone to an alternate dimension; she follows and discovers an alternate reality where Jem rules and everything is powered by Synergy Hologram Technology. This means the Misfits now know Jem’s secret, but also that we’re in a world where the Holograms have lost themselves to freedom-to and need to be moved back towards freedom-from.

Writer Kelly Thompson and artist Jenn St. Onge have never been less than excellent on this title, which is one of IDW Publishing’s best. Do not miss this.

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God of Comics – Bloodshot’s Day Off #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 3, 2017

Bloodshot’s Day Off #1 (Valiant Comics)

It was Canada Day up here over the weekend.

July 1st is the day that we celebrate our country – we danced for our independence instead of fighting for it, handled thing diplomatically. We’ve made a lot of mistakes as a country and we’re still making mistakes today, but we’re trying to do better and I like to think that one day, we will.

But you can’t know yourself unless you know your history. You have to know where you’ve been to get where you’re going, and that includes all the terrible things you may have been a part of. In the case of a country, that means knowing the things your country did in your name. Residential schools are as much a part of who we are as anything, and we need to move past that by acknowledging that it happened and striving to do better.

So, this comic.

Bloodshot is a comic about a super secret weapon that was designed to kill a man powerful enough to think himself god. He was a golem, an unstoppable killing machine, but over the past five years we’ve seen him evolve, gain a soul, lose and understand and claim his identity. We’ve seen him strive to do better by acknowledging who and he was and contrasting that to who he is.

He then discovered that he was only one in a long line of such weapons, each a refinement and improvement over the last. There was a Jewish man that was changed in World War II and an African American that was changed in Vietnam and after their wars they were locked on an island until they managed to escape and returned to America, where they helped defeat a virus that was tied to their condition.

As a comic, Bloodshot has dabbled in all sorts of genre – horror, sci-fi, action – and always done something interesting with whatever it is that is being presented. This is something else again, though: this is aftermath. After the war, after the fighting, after the violence – what’s left? Can you ever go home? War changes everything, the trauma of war changes everything, and there’s far too many people that are happy to send soldiers off to die but leave them to their own devices when they return.

These two? They’ve been fighting since their wars and were never given an off day, never allowed to speak to their families, cut off and forced to die and kill and die again. Now that the general public knows about them, though, the government is being forced to acknowledge them and their ridiculous amount of non-stop combat hours, and so both of them are being given shore leave.

We get Holocaust-era Bloodshot going back to say good-bye to the world he knew, visiting the grave of the woman he was supposed to marry, meeting the grandson on his old rabbi. Vietnam-era Bkloodshot goes to make peace with his dying father, a minister who tried to save his son from the war. And both of them – always at one another’s throats – find themselves alone, find themselves relying on one another. It’s heartbreaking and heartwarming and a good place to start if you’re looking to get into Valiant, which, if you like superheroes, you should.

Writer Eliot Rahal does a good job of exploring the aftermath of war from two very different eras and putting two lost people into a modern context. Khari Evans does some beautiful linework, capturing expression and the weight of loss, while colorist Andrew Dalhouse brings out the light and and adds flow to some very emotional moments.

This is a comic about finding family and home when the world has passed you by, when the war is done and aftermath is all that remains. It’s a comic about accepting what was and trying to find a way to be human when war has made you a monster. It’s fantastic and a great way to reflect on what was and what could be.

Happy Canada Day.

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131

God of Comics – Spider-Gwen #21

God Of Comics, Reviews

June 30, 2017

Spider-Gwen #21 (Marvel Comics)

So, I was riding with a friend the other day and we got to talking about comics. It happens. We’re adults and geeks and it’s a thing we do.

Yeah, they just introduced their Wolverine-analogue in Spider-Gwen,” I said. This took him off guard – I don’t really preview or review Marvel Comics these days because they turned Captain America in a Nazi and then said the Nazis actually won the war and the Allies had to cheat to win. Also, Magneto, a Holocaust Survivor, is also being turned into a Nazi because the people running Marvel Comics desperately want their company to go out of business.

What do you mean, Wolverine-analogue?” he asked.

So I had to explain that Spider-Gwen takes place in its own reality and has its own continuity that doesn’t connect to anything, giving writer Jason Latour a chance to explore the Marvel Universe in a completely different way. The world Spider-Gwen inhabits is very different than the one we’re used to, with the inciting incident of that difference having taken place long before Gwen Stacy got the spider-powers instead of Peter Parker.

That’s why Captain America is a black woman, why Matt Murdock is the leader of the Hand and the Kingpin of Crime, why Norman Osborne is a good person and philanthropist and his son Harry is part of a super soldier program.

So, Wolverine…?” my friend asked.

Oh, in this world they call him something different.”

Yeah?”

Yeah.”

What do they call him?”

Mr. Murder-Hands.”

My friend had to pull over until the laughter stopped.

I explained that Logan, in this world, is living with a curse – he bears the life of every person he’s killed. He’s also an agent of SHIELD, their specialist when it comes to acquisitions and retrieval, and he works with the analogue of Kitty Pryde, who is a scary ninja person who walks through walls and also has claws because why not? Currently, they’re trying to get Harry Osborne away from Gwen, who is trying to rescue him from an overdose of the same formula that turned Peter Parker into the Lizard and eventually killed him.

That sounds awesome,” my friend said.

It is,” I answered.

Then we drove to Big Pete’s and he bought all the Spider-Gwen trades, because how do you not?

Why aren’t you talking about this?” he asked.

So then we got into a conversation about Captain America being a Nazi and all the stuff that goes with it. He didn’t believe me and had to look at those comics himself, finally throwing down the comic in disgust when he got to the thing about Naziism being an offshoot of Hydra rather than the other way around.

That’s some bullshit, right there.”

No kidding.”

“They actually expect me to buy that Hydra isn’t Nazis?” he asked. “I’m not five.”

“I’d like to say that’s the most insulting part of it, but…” I trailed off and he nodded in sympathy.

“Kids are going to grow up with this,” he said. “As we get real life Nazis running America, they guy Jews created to shame America into fighting Nazis gets turned into one.”

“That’s pretty much it, yes,” I answered.

“Does this Nick Spencer guy think we’re idiots?”

“Well, he was a failed Republican politician who advocated for the school-to-prison pipeline, so there’s that,” I said. My friend looked at me like I was insane, but it’s the truth. He checked, shook his head as he got back into his car.

“The CEO of Marvel Comics is a friend of Donald Trump and Steven Bannon?” he asked.

“You mean Ike?” I asked. “Yep. He gave a million dollars of Marvel’s money to the Trump campaign via Bannon, and that’s why I can’t give Marvel any of my money.”

Spider-Gwen is pretty great, though,” he said. “Why not talk about Spider-Gwen and mention the whole Nazi America First thing in the same article?”

What, like transcribe our conversation?” I asked. He nodded. “I could do that.”

And now I have.

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150

God of Comics – Jem and The Holograms: Infinite #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

June 29, 2017

Jem and The Holograms: Infinite #1 (IDW Publishing)

Okay, good. Jem and the Holograms continues to be a thing that you can read on a monthly basis (two times a month if you include Jem and the Misfits, which you should because it is also great). Kelly Thompson has done for this franchise what people at IDW Publishing tend to do – take the best parts of every iteration on an old intellectual property, throw them in a blender, and make them awesome.

In this case, though, outrageous might be a better word.

Here, watch this. You’ll see what I mean.

To wit: Jerrica has four adopted sisters and they started a band that sounded great except that Jerrica has stage fright, so they use the artificial intelligence with holographic technology that her father invented to create a different persona for Jerrica. This is how she became Jem and the Holograms got noticed in a big way and entered a battle of the bands being put on by the Misfits, an alt-punk band with some interesting power ballads and musical ambitions that would make most rock gods blush.

One girl from each band fell in love with the other, a super fan of the Misfits tried to kill the Holograms, the Holograms took it personally, the lead singer from the Misfits crashed her car while drunk, there was something to do with a bear, a third band called the Stingers got the Misfits kicked off their label because their lead singer was in love with Jem and thought that would make her love him (it didn’t), the artificial intelligence turned everyone rock-goth for a while, and then the Misfits started their own label after drumming up interest with a reality show.

Deep breaths. Okay. We’re all caught up.

This is the beginning of a crossover event that sees Jem and the Holograms entering a parallel world with the Misfits, a world where Jerrica’s father never died and the artificial intelligence seems to have gotten wider application. And if this sounds like a chance for artists Stacy Lee, Jen Hickman, and Sarah Stern to cut loose and do something wicked cool, well, you’re right. It is and they do.

And Kelly Thompson continues to juggle complex characters and their complicated relationships while brushing that fine line between madness and genius and cute. It’d hard to look away and why would you want to? There’s something magical about this book and these characters and this story, and if you haven’t picked up this comic yet now is the time to girl the hell up and dive in.

This comic is unspeakably cool.

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