X-Men Archives Featuring Captain Britain #2 (1995)

X-Men Archives Featuring Captain Britain #2 (August, 1995)

“Friends and Enemies”
“If the Push Should Fail…”
“A Crooked World”
“Graveyard Shift”
“a rag, a bone, a hank of hair”
“Attack of the Binary Beings!”
Writers – Dave Thorpe, Alan Moore, Paul Neary
Art – Alan Davis
Letters – Jenny O’Connor
Colors – Helen Nally
Edits – Paul Neary & Gary Russell
Cover Price: $2.95

Welcome to our second X-Men Archives compilation post!  If you’re reading along with us daily… first, thank you – and second, there’s actually an all-new chapter included at the end of this installment!

It ain’t great – but, it does shed a bit of light on the departure of Dave Thorpe… which is quite interesting (in my opinion, anyway).

I hope you all enjoy!

We open with a “Crommie” walking down a darkened London street… we’ll learn that “Crommie” is code for someone who lives on Cromdale Road… and that each neighborhood in this Crooked London is occupied by turf-protecting gangs.  So, this Crommie… Jeff, is wandering through “enemy territory”.  He’s doing so in order to check in on a girlfriend of his, who he misses dearly.  He is attacked.  Nearby, Captain Britain and some members of the Avant Guard prepare to taint the water supply with the Junkheap Juice in order to jumpstart “The Push”.

Brian still seems kind of uneasy about going through with this… but appears to talk himself into it, by revisiting his own recent experience with the stuff.  If you recall, he was devolved into a monkey not too long ago… and only after dipping into the juice was he returned to his more Beautiful British Blonde form — even stronger than he was before!  He also reflects on the fascist-led Status Crew members he’d had a run-in with… who, seems to evolve mentally after engaging with the juice.  His thoughts are interrupted by the nearby gang-beating of the poor Crommie lad.

Captain Britain swoops in, and gathers both Jeff and his local girlfriend, Sharon.  The hooligans hurl insults in his direction, but all Brian wants to do is get these kids to safety.  I mean, these baddies seem more annoyed than astonished to see a man who can fly!

Brian drops Sharon off at home before taking Jeff back to Cromdale Road.  There, he finds that the Crommies have taken up arms… and are looking to enter into some gang warfare with the hooligans.

Well… this was a pretty weak one, wunnit?

I kinda get what they’re going for here… showing these Crooked Londoners as clannish, territorial, and warlike, and maybe justifying the use of the Junkheap Juice to enforce an evolutionary “push” onto them… but, this just kinda fell flat.

I mean, even if we take it as a Romeo and Juliet riff, where we have a couple in love, from two different (and opposing) groups… this still doesn’t quite work.  Mostly due to the fact that Sharon doesn’t seem all that interested in Jeff.  She doesn’t want to see him hurt, but there’s nothing here that says they’re anything more than passing acquaintances.  Well, maybe Jeff’s a bit smitten – but, Sharon seemed more put out than anything.

I gotta wonder if Dave Thorpe realized his time in the writer’s chair was coming to an end here, is it feels like we’re still in world-building mode.  Almost half of this story is devoted to recap, and setting the stage for what’s about to come.  I dunno… just not a great outing.

Art was still top-notch… so, at least there’s that.  Hopefully things will pick back up next chapter… which, again – is Dave Thorpe’s swan song before these pages start getting even more crammed with words!

Picking up right where we left off, Captain Britain is delivering the Crommie lad, Jeff back to his Crommie kin.  They’re happy and relieved to see him, however are outraged at the Block 45 Gang for attacking him.  They’ve bout had enough… and it’s time to finally put an end to this turf war.  Brian bugs out to check in with a member of the Avant Guard to see how close they are to getting “The Push” flowin’ through the reservoirs.  While there, chatting up the Guard, Cap is shocked to see — his old pal Jackdaw!  Jack tells Brian that he’s got a plan to stop the fighting while The Push is being prepared.

And so, lickety-split, Brian Britain is back in battle… well, stopping a battle, I suppose.  He uses his forcefield to push the warring gangs apart while making a sorta God-like speech, threatening retribution and whatnot.  This… doesn’t work so well.

Thankfully, it does manage to buy Jackdaw enough time to enact his plan… which is, well — so very British.  Ya see, he offers them all tea.  They ain’t in the mood to drink, however.  And so, Jack uses his mental powers to convince them to drink… and so, they do.  Here’s the rub — the “tea” they’re drinking is actually laced with the Junkheap Juice… so, a few sips in, it’s all good in the hood(s).

We wrap up with our good guys celebrating the fact that The Push was a success… This weird London has been 95% successful in its evolution… so, high-fives all around!

But hey… we’re certainly not going to leave this on such a high note, are we?  After all… who was that fella from the first chapter?  Ya know… dude with a little mustache, and a teapot shaped helicopter?  Who was that guy?  Anybody remember?  Well, Brian, Jackdaw, and Saturnyne (with a “Y” now) sure don’t.  Whatever happened to Mad Jim Jaspers?  Well… seems he was just biding his time… letting the heroes do their thing before deciding to strike — and boy, does he!  We wrap up this run of Captain Britain stories with this alternate London… going all shades of (literally) CROOKED!

Well, that’ll do it for the Dave Thorpe run!  Really setting the table for what’s going to be, perhaps, the most memorable and iconic work ever done with the character of Captain Britain.

So, whatta we got here?  Well… until the final page, it’s hard to see this little “gang war” story as anything other than filler.  I suppose it gave us a bit of insight as to the “micro” and “macro” influence the Junkheap Juice was going to have on the UK.  We know that, in the grand scheme of Saturnyne’s task – this UK needs to be a bit more evolved on the whole.  But, with this story, we were able to get a (literal) street level view of the evolutionary process.  So, in that regard… yeah, I suppose this worked.

We get the surprise return of Jackdaw… which, is definitely more set up for the Moore run… as will become evident… err, maybe next chapter?  His plan to serve the warring gangs tea was… kinda cute, I guess.  Not really sure why Brian didn’t just grab a gallon of the stuff and just pour it on the street folks like he did with the Status Crew a couple of chapters back.  Seems like that’d be the “go-to” for a situation like this, doesn’t it?  Oh well…

I think our main takeaway from this chapter is… obviously, the ending.  Mad Jim Jaspers… a fella we’ve only seen once before, and who was treated kind of like a joke… turns out to have been laying in wait for just the right moment to let loose with his “crookeding” of London.  For folks only familiar with our current-year “Ecks of Tens” era X-Books… this is why Jasper’s area in Otherworld is referred to as “The Crooked Market”.

I do have to wonder how this played out for readers of the day.  My first experience with this era of Captain Britain actually starts with the next chapter… where Mad Jim is already sorta-kinda established as our “big bad”.  So, for me, this reveal wasn’t all that shocking.  Well, it actually wasn’t shocking at all.

Overall — as much as I enjoyed these last nine or so chapters, I’m happy that we’re through “The Push”, and that the two-part Turf War story is in the rear-view. 

We open in England… not our England, of course – the Crooked one.  We see a bank of monitors being… well, monitored by the Status Crew.  They are identified as protectors, which is something we have seen in practice.  Of course, they answer to fascists – but, they are – to their minds – protecting the country.  They’ve been in power for a decade, and their first order of business was to kill all of the super-heroes.  All’s been quiet ever since… until now.  The Major, upon seeing the Crookeding of London, assumes that the cause of this is the recent arrival of Captain Britain (and to perhaps a lesser-extent, Saturnyne)… he declares that they have no choice but to unleash — The Fury!

We shift scenes over to the good guys… and the Crookeding of London is making the building they’re holed up in start to crack.  Brian wonders if this is a side-effect of “The Push” – Saturnyne assures him that it’s not.  They all head outside before being crushed… and find themselves faced by – well, The Fury!  This horrendous monster is introduced as a Cybiote whose specialty is… killing super-heroes.  It Blasts the Bejeezus outta Betsy’s Beautiful Blonde British Brother Brian!

Brian slumps to the ground… but rallies for a counter-attack.  This is quite unsuccessful… The Fury doesn’t even seem to notice that Cap bashed into him with all of his might.  Saturnyne siccs the Avant Guard on the beast… but, c’mon… that ain’t gonna do jack.  Seeing that this fight is futile… her Royal Whyness blips out with her crew — leaving Brian and Jackdaw to fight The Fury on their own!  Worth noting, that while The Fury is scanning Captain Britain here, the narration mentions that the monster was responsible for taking out “the atomic powerhouse called Miracleman” – that’s isn’t going to be the last mention of that character during this run… we’re even going to get to see him (from behind) in a panel!

She also leaves poor Dimples behind!  The Fury makes short work of him.

Then — Jackdaw!  Brian rushes over and cradles Jack’s dying body.  The li’l Elf isn’t too worried though… knowing that Merlin’ll whisk him away to Otherworld before he dies just like the last time.  Only… he doesn’t!

An enraged Brian lunges at the Fury… and is swatted away as though he’s nothing!

We wrap up with our hero looking toward the sky… and seeing a teapot-shaped helicopter.  The man inside unrolls a ladder and introduces himself as — someone who Brian has already met… Mad Jim Jaspers.

Well, this was just wonderful — wasn’t it?

This chapter was the first bit of vintage Captain Britain I got to experience back upon the release of that turn of the century “Alans” collection.  I was not expecting much, to be honest — and really, only bought the thing because, a) I’m an X-Completionist, b) people online were so excited to see this back in print, and c) I heard about the controversy surrounding the indicia snafu, and didn’t wanna miss out.

Well – this was all I had to see to know I’d be hooked.  I wanna say I read the entire collection in one sitting… such a captivating, and actually kinda scary story.  The Fury is an amazing antagonist… a horrifying perversion of metal with only a single mission statement: Kill Super-Heroes.  We don’t have to worry about rationalizing, justifying, or humanizing The Fury.  It is only here to kill.  And, how bout that design?  Simple but horrendously scary.  I love how its eyes are instantly recognizable.  If you were to see those glowing shapes in the darkness, you’d know exactly what you’re about to be dealing with.

I love the presentation here – I mean, how can you beat The Fury?  There’s a reason why Chris Claremont originally wanted to use The Fury for the Mutant Massacre — I mean, really – how do you beat it?  This is gonna be a fun read.

Let’s talk “playing the ball where it lay”, because this is a problem I have with a lot of current-year comics.  New writers come on and much of what came before their run is immediately jettisoned to make room for their “opus”.  Here, Moore is playing with the concepts and table-setting established by the Dave Thorpe run.  Mad Jim Jaspers, the Status Crew, The Push.  Now, this is kind of a chicken and egg situation, I suppose – I’m not sure how much input Moore might’ve had in setting up what was to be his run… but, if he’s simply building off of the foundation Thorpe had put down – this is a heckuva way to do it!

Now, we lose Jackdaw here.  This was one of the few things I remembered about these early Moore chapters — and why I was kind of confused when Jackdaw was already killed a few chapters back.  I knew he wasn’t long for the world — but, was sure that wasn’t his actual death.  As for his death scene here — it’s really well done!  I love that he isn’t scared… he’s sure Merlin was going to save him — but then, he didn’t!  Really such a powerful little scene there.

Saturnyne establishing herself as less heroic was a nice touch.  We’ve never been sure exactly what her constitution or alignment was to this point.  We know she had a task to accomplish — and that she was willing to work alongside Brian in order to get it done, but that’s really all we knew.  Now we can see her a bit more clearly — she’s looking out for herself, and only for herself.  She even leaves her poor lovestruck assistant, Dimples behind without a thought!

One last thing before we close out – this chapter includes a mention of Miracleman — and, if you know me, you know I’m going to talk about that.  I’m a little confused here, as at this point (1982), Miracleman is still known as Marvelman.  I wonder, did these panels read “Marvelman” in the original Marvel Super-Heroes (UK) mags?  Or, was it always “Miracleman”?  One might suggest that this Miracleman isn’t the same as the Miracleman we all know — but, a bit later on during this run, we’re going to actually see him.  It’s from behind, but there’s no mistaking that this Miracleman is Mike Moran.

Overall – this is a goodie, which I implore you all to check out.  This is just the opening salvo for The Alans… and, at the risk of over-selling things, it gets even better from here.

We open with The Fury watching the broken Captain Britain as he pulls himself into Mad Jim Jasper’s teapot chopper.  It’s made clear here (and even clearer in just a bit) that despite Brian apparently fleeing… the cybiote beast is not done with him.  We next join Beautiful Bri as he questions Mad Jim – blaming him for everything that’s gone on since he’d arrived in this twisted version of London.

This leads us to a bit of a quick n dirty origin for Mister Jaspers… and the take on him that we would see very briefly during the Claremont run leading up to the Mutant Massacre.  James Jaspers was a power-player in the government, who made the suggestion that it would be in the best interest of everybody that super-heroes not only be banned… but wiped out.  He used scare tactics to sway the people to his cause… and even created The Fury as his means to an end in achieving his goal.  Ya see, the gimmick here is that Jaspers himself is a Mutant (with reality-warping powers, naturally)… and, he didn’t want any super-powered competition.

It’s also made quite clear here that “Mad” isn’t just a silly descriptor for this fella… he’s flat-out insane.  The scene twists a bit — and Brian can see that the inside of this tiny teapot chopper is actually quite huge… impossibly huge.  Deep inside, he sees a banquet hall and a long table.  Seated there are some of his fallen friends, including Algernon, Dimples, and poor ol’ Jackdaw.  They all have sinister smiles on their faces.

Brian is then approached by the face of a child, who asks him for some money.  This is the same child who Brian had creepily asked if they “believed in magic” a few chapters back.  Our hero can’t take it anymore – and so, he books it out of the chopper.  Unfortunately for him, he cannot summon enough concentration to attain flight… and so, he crashes down to the ground below.  Turns out he’s landed in a superhero graveyard.  He walks past several headstones (including one for… Miracleman!).

He finally comes across the open grave for Captain UK.  Now, we’ve heard a little bit about this Captain earlier in this run… but, outside of knowing that they had vanished, we don’t know all that much.  Brian kneels down before the freshly dug grave and sobs.  He wants to know why Merlin would send him to such a place.  He doesn’t get long to ponder this, however, as… The Fury has not given up its hunt.  The Cybiote Blasts Betsy’s Beautiful Blonde Brother Brian from Behind until all that’s left of him are a Bundle of British Bones!

We wrap up elsewhere, with a woman suddenly shocked to attention — as though somebody had just walked over her grave.  Hmm…?

Another great chapter — and what an ending!

The Fury achieves its goal in taking out — what might be the only remaining hero on this Crooked Earth… and we get to learn quite a bit about Mad Jim Jaspers.  I love how silly and petty his entire rationale is.  He’s a powered Mutant… and, ushered in this wave of fear over the masses simply because he didn’t want any super-powered competition!  How great (and “Mad”) is that?

I enjoyed seeing his origins… finding out that this weirdo creep was, at one time, a mover and shaker in the government.  Not only that, he was apparently a trusted member of government.  Seeing this again only makes me wish that Claremont was allowed to use him as part of the Mutant Massacre.  For folks unaware (though, if you’re reading this minutia-laden blog post, you probably already know this), Claremont had introduced Sir James Jaspers during the Trial of Magneto in Uncanny X-Men #200 (December, 1985) – allegedly with designs on using him (and The Fury) as part of the Mutant Massacre.

From Uncanny X-Men #200 (December, 1985)
Chris Claremont (w) / John Romita, Jr. (a)

He is presented as a normal fella here… and, I would have to assume that most American X-Fans of the day didn’t have much of a clue that this dude was significant in any way.

The “madness” effects here were very well done.  I loved Jaspers’ hat changing from panel to panel… as well as the nightmarish banquet scene which haunted Brian to the point where he literally threw himself out of a hovering helicopter!  It was a great way to show just how Jaspers’ madness was permeating into our hero’s mind… and a sure sign of just how powerful a whatever-path Mad Jim truly is.

I suppose we ought to talk about the death of Captain Britain here, no?  I’m not sure anybody was buying this for a second… but, there’s a certain amount of genius to it which might not be immediately apparent to those of us reading this in collected edition… or, with four-decades of hindsight.  This is actually the final Captain Britain chapter to appear in Marvel Super-Heroes (UK).  Marvel Super-Heroes (UK) #389 (September, 1982) only features a three-page text-piece on Cap by Alan Moore (included below).

Captain Britain would actually vanish for five-months (publishing time), returning as a strip in Marvel UK’s new anthology mag, The Daredevils – which, in addition to Cap, would feature: Daredevil (duh), and Spider-Man.  This sort of break in publication isn’t something we see often… my mind immediately goes to the couple of months that DC Comics dropped the Super-books from the schedule following Funeral for a Friend.  It’s a great tactic to really “sell” that our character might actually be gone.

We wrapped with a shot of a woman… who, I mean – we all know this is Captain UK, right?  It’s not like it’s being presented as a big secret or anything — but, this is worth mentioning as it’s a seminal bit in the journey to establish the Captain Britain Corps.

Overall – still really enjoying this — and I hope you are as well!  Please feel free to drop a comment or shoot me an email!

NEXT CHAPTER: Captain Britain’s strip returns… five-months later – in a completely different Marvel Mag!  Boy howdy, these British books are hard to navigate!

Alan Moore Text Piece from Marvel Super-Heroes (UK) #389:

We open with the proclamation that Captain Britain is dead.  We zoom into a small planetoid shape, which the deeper we go looks more and more machine-like… full of metal pipes and whatnot.  When we finally arrive at the core, we meet Roma and her father, Merlin who have been able to collect a precious few pieces from the remains of Captain Britain… mostly some of Beautiful Brian’s British Bones.  Also, I’d assume a rag and a hank of hair, if the chapter title is to be believed.

Roma is tasked with using these remains to craft a new body for our hero… while Merlin attempts to piece together splinters of Brian’s personality – which conveniently facilitates a look back at Brian’s memories… ie, his character-career to this point.  While Roma does her hoodoo, Merlin tells us a little bit about who Brian Braddock was.  He was a twin, part of a poor family, a somewhat introverted student of science.

He fancied himself a student of physics, as it was a cold and precise science, without any ambiguities.  Hmm… in the Marvel Universe?  I’d think concepts of physics would be anything but precise there.  Anyhoo, his parents would pass away in an accident, which only made Brian more introverted and withdrawn.  One day while working at the Darkmoore Research Centre, the place was attacked by a man named Joshua Stragg – also known as The Reaver.  Brian fled the scene, however, stumbled into his own origin story – wherein, he was offered that choice – ya know, the Sword or the Amulet.  Brian would become Captain Britain.  Roma wonders if he’d have been happier just living an ordinary life… but, Merlin ain’t hearin’ none’a that.

As Captain Britain, Brian would find his worldview challenged (science vs. sorcery) having some strange adventures indeed… tangling with Vampires, Dire Wolves, and the Children of the Shadowlands.  This would ultimately drive him kinda batty… to the point where, at one point he threw himself from a plane.  Hmm, that seems to be a tough habit to break for our hero.  He’d land in the drink, and wash up on a beach in Cornwall without any of his memories.  He’d live in solitude for two years before being called upon again… this time, teaming with Dane Whatshisface, the Black Knight in Otherworld.

From here, we skip ahead to Captain Britain (in his current day togs), finally at peace as a being of both science and magic, being sent outta Otherworld along with his Elfin Associate, Jackdaw.  Sent back to Earth… but, not his Earth.  This is the story we’ve been covering to this point.

Then, a quick n dirty retelling of the last several chapters – Mad Jim Jaspers creating The Fury as a way to eliminate all super-types in his crooked world (except himself)… and The Fury ultimately SKARAKing Beautiful Brian to death.

By this point, Roma has finished putting the pieces back together… and Captain Britain’s body is finally ready to receive some magical shock paddles.  Merlin does the thing… and our hero is back among the living.  As he wakes, he’s sent plunging back down to Darkmoor, and the circle of stones.  Brian wakes up, and thanks God that he’s back on his home Earth.

We wrap up back in Otherworld, with Roma asking her father why he didn’t show himself to Brian.  To which, Merlin shapeshifts (for some reason) asking which form he should have shown him.  Roma sheds a single tear for the poor doomed Captain, and we’re outta here.

So, uh… I guess this goes to show that not ALL Otherworld Resurrections are wonky, eh?

All told, not a bad little chapter.  While I’d have preferred getting on with the story itself, I can certainly see why they dedicated an entire chapter to the retelling of Captain Britain’s origin story here.  First, he’s been off the board for a (relative) while at this point – five-months out of publication.  Second, this is the first issue of an all-new ongoing series – as such, this might be “somebody’s first” issue, and therefore, their first run-in with Captain Britain.

It was well told, and as a chapter in an anthology, didn’t overstay its welcome.  It gave us some context to just how complicated a character Captain Britain truly is.  I feel like many kids of my vintage might’ve written the guy off upon first meeting him as “England/Great Britain/UK’s Captain America” and nothing more.  Just a derivative and dull character, who acted in the interest of his country – and really wouldn’t be all that interesting to read about.  Well, many of us came to learn that there’s quite a bit more to Brian Braddock than the Union Jack uniform.

Really not much more to say about this – I can’t remember if they’re heading anywhere nefarious with Merlin… as that final scene kinda creeped me out a bit.  Not sure what that was all about.  Also, the opening bit with the Satellite/Planetoid gave me some real Monitor/Harbinger vibes from pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths!  Wonder if there might’ve been any cross-pollination there?

Overall – a necessary chapter, but probably not the most exciting.  Still quite well done.

We close out this issue of X-Men Archives with… a bit of filler.  This is the story that appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes (UK) #385 (May, 1982).  Ya see, the story that was supposed to be slotted here was, according to several British comics historians, supposed to be an overtly political tale which would mirror some at-the-time recent events going on in Northern Ireland.  Marvel UK wasn’t keen on all’a that… and, in fact, artist Alan Davis allegedly threatened to quit the book if the story went to print.  This is what would lead to Dave Thorpe leaving the strip.  While on the subject of Dave Thorpe, my research tells me that Alan Davis attributes the Marvel Universe “616” designation to him.  That’s news to me – I had always seen Alan Moore credited with that!  Anyhoo – there’s not much to this story… it’s pure filler, wherein “Binary Beings” spot Captain Britain and Jackdaw passing through limbo on their way from Otherworld to the Crooked Earth (if we were numbering this chapter, it’d be zero).  The gimmick here is… well, unclear.  One of the Binary Beings represents the mind… the other, the body – I think?  Our heroes find themselves zapped on board.

Brian finds himself before another pair of Binary Aliens… who have apparently taken Jackdaw for dissection.  Poor elf can’t catch a break.  I think these aliens assume that, since they are two-person acts – then so too is Captain Britain and Jackdaw?  I think?  This is kind of a mess.

Captain Britain fights his way to Jackdaw – and rescues him before a chicken-headed scientist can start cutting him into pieces.  Brian grabs the chicken-head’s “other half” (again, I think…) and threatens to take him out if they’re not allowed to leave.

Our heroes go to flee… and find themselves engaged in battle with robots.  Jackdaw uses his psychic energy to amplify the alien teleport system… which ultimately boots them from – wherever the hell they were.  It’s actually a cool little effect here – the panel itself actually crumples like paper, with Jack and Bri kinda getting tangled in it.

We close out with the revelation that neither of our heroes will remember this encounter… and, honestly – that’s probably for the best… because I doubt they’d be able to explain it if they did!

So yeah… kind of a mess here, eh?  I mean, it’s hard to hold it against them, considering the circumstances.  It reeks of “last-minute fill-in”… and, as it turns out, there’s a reason for that.  Paul Neary was in a tough spot… Dave Thorpe had set up his story… and was getting ready to, assumedly “take it home” – it’s not as though Neary was going to take the wheel completely and create his own ending for “The Push”, right?

And so, instead we get “An Untold Tale of Captain Britain”… which doesn’t do anything to muck with the status quo… or throw any wrenches into future stories.  It’s a disposable outing… that the characters (and readers alike) will forget as soon as they read it.  It’s just holding Captain Britain’s place in Marvel Super-Heroes (UK).  Nothing more, nothing less.

More on Dave Thorpe’s departure.  In my research for why we got this weird little filler story, I found some sites which stated that Alan Moore wrote the final page in Marvel Super-Heroes (UK) #386… ya know, the one that introduces the concept of Crooked London – and reintroduces the character of Mad Jim Jaspers.  Earlier in our coverage, I “thought out loud” in print, asking if Thorpe had set Moore up for his run — turns out, if this information is accurate – he did not!  He wrote up until “The Push” went through… and was outski!

There are some great resources out there if you’re interested in learning more about Thorpe’s clashes with Marvel UK editorial and his leaving the book over politically-motivated storytelling.

Overall – as a story, this one wasn’t at all interesting… but, the behind the scenes stuff almost makes up for it!

Captain Britain’s Uniform (by Alan Davis):

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