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Review: The Wicked + the Divine #45

“At every occasion, I’ll be ready for the funeral.”-Band of Horses

The Wicked + the Divine #45

Like the David Bowie song, five years is all we got with The Wicked + the Divine, and writer Kieron Gillen, artist Jamie McKelvie, and colorist Matthew Wilson go out on top in WicDiv #45, which is set 40 years after the events of the previous issue. It’s a thoughtful issue in the vein of The Sandman “The Wake” and is a fantastic character study as Gillen and McKelvie show what happens when the Pantheon grows old beginning with the much guarded secret of the final cover.

The entire issue happens at Cassandra’s funeral and wake so it’s fitting that the first big reveal is that she and Laura ended up married after a relationship with Eleanor. Speaking of Eleanor, it is so strange to see Lucifer as a senior citizen, and McKelvie does a fantastic job with all the wrinkles, crow’s feet, and other accoutrements of age for a group of characters that I, at least, thought would all flame out in their twenties. But, no, they get to live and reflect on life and relationships beneath the eaves of Valhalla, which has been turned into a National Trust site. There is continuity in the earlier Daft Punk/futuristic elements of Valhalla, but Wilson uses a more muted color palette in keeping with the somber occasion.

One of the most beautiful elements of WicDiv #45 is the interweaving, naturalistic conversations about the characters’ relationships as Gillen and McKelvie do a more graceful version of “Where are they now” with a good mix of grid layouts and wider panels. We get the last word on Zahid and Valentine with the brief return of Baal’s Nathan Fairbairn colored fresco as Zahid wistfully talks about how they have never been or will be with such a force like Baal. It all comes to a climax with Cassandra giving her own eulogy hologram-style, and what, in lesser creative hands, could be a pop-joke about the exploitation of Tupac or Prince turned into a wonderful final analysis of the Pantheon from the sharp, yet loving mind of a journalist turned goddess turned mortal.

The Wicked + the Divine #45

Although there are remarks about Laura being Cassandra’s “vice”, Cass’ final speech shows that she has become a little sweeter in her old age and that the conflict and drama of the two years of the Pantheon didn’t even matter to the end. When she calls Umar, who was feeling pretty down in his dialogue and missing Cameron something fierce, the best person she had known, it resonates emotionally because she isn’t the kind of character to hand out compliments willy nilly. She even gives Eleanor, one of the people she detested the most, the kudos for basically going hard and being the best embodiment she should ever be. Luci was the catalyst for me taking a Milton seminar in undergrad and, by extension, writing about comics academically so that series of panels landed hard.

After remarks on all the remaining Pantheon members, Kieron Gillen flexes his writing muscles and Jamie McKelvie’s flexes his facial expression and gesture ones for a poignant monologue on aging, which is honestly what WicDiv #45 is all about. There was the high energy, passion, action, and fandom of the early arcs supplemented by the greater context of the specials and “Mothering Invention” finally culminating in the Pantheon realizing that they could opt out of the millennia-long cycle of death and rebirth as ordinary humans. (Except Aruna can play the fuck out of a double neck guitar.) This issue shows the product of this mortality and has some awesome group hugs as the death of Cassandra causes surviving, former Pantheon members to come to terms with their mortality.

And because of how much Gillen and McKelvie have fleshed out this cast of characters over five years, The Wicked + the Divine #45 is an easy comic to self-identity with, especially when Laura faces the reader, does a final 1-2-3-4, and there’s a fade to white. Getting old is something that both scares me and is something I’m in denial of, and seeing characters that I felt like I grew up with wrinkles, long happy marriages, and stories of the past makes it a little more palatable. For a series that had a fairly large body count and had some dark relationship dynamics, this happy ending is a delight and an ode to building relationships and craft your own destiny and story to get a little bit meta.

This is a bit obvious to those of you who have been following me on my WicDiv reading/reviewing/interviewing, and yes, living journey the past five years, but The Wicked + the Divine is my favorite comic of all time. Sure, Sandman and The Invisibles are up there, but with WicDiv, I got to go on the journey each single issue, or step, of the way and theorize, weep, celebrate, and even build friendships along the way. It’s a book that’s always been about the big ideas like life, death, the creative act, but always had time for the little things that make life great like puns, pops, literary allusions, and fantastic costume design from Jamie McKelvie.

Even though I’ve been in denial since Monday when I read the final issue, The Wicked + the Divine #45 is the perfect ending to the series with Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson’s carefully crafted words and visuals on aging, looking back, and looking to the future. This is a comic that has engaged both my head and heart. Like Ananke, and in this issue, Cassandra say, “I love you. I love you all. I’ll miss you.” This comic will always have a beloved place in my heart, and I look forward to rereading, reminiscing, and recommending it into the decades to come even as I begin to look like the characters in this issue.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie 
Colors: Matthew Wilson Letters: Clayton Cowles
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Midnight Vista #1

Wednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

Each week our contributors choose what they can’t wait to read this week or just sounds interesting. In other words, this is what we’re looking forward to and think you should be taking a look at!

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.

8 Bit Apocalypse (Abrams Press) – A look at the creation of Missil Command with interviews of major figures and a look at that era of video games.

Alpha Flight: True North #1 (Marvel) – It’s Alpha Flight, nuff said.

Battlepug #1 (Image Comics) – The webcomic is back as a new comic series. It’s been years since Knmundian save the world with his Battlepug but a new threat has them back for a new adventure!

Die #7 (Image Comics) – One of the best comics out today, it’s a must for those into roleplaying games.

Doomsday Clock #11 (DC Comics) – We’ve been waiting for the latest chapter of this series which has gotten better the longer its gone on.

Everything #1 (Dark Horse) – Everything is a new mega-department store that may have more to it than just the goods you want.

Going to the Chapel #1 (Action Lab: Danger Zone) – We’ve read the first issue and it’s solid. A wedding goes off the rails due to a robbery. Think Tarantino via comic books.

The Goon #6 (Albatross Funnybooks) – One of the most fun comics out there today. A great mix of action and humor and every issue has delivered and then some.

Legion of Super Heroes Millennium #1 (DC Comics) – The Legion is coming back and it all starts here!

Lois Lane #3 (DC Comics) – The series has been top-notch taking advantage of why Lois Lane stands out as a character. Excellent writing and solid art combine to make the series stand out and us wanting an ongoing.

Midnight Vista #1 (AfterShock) – Oliver and his stepfather are abducted by aliens and years later a grown adult Oliver returns… and remembers everything.

Something is Killing the Children #1 (BOOM! Studios) – Mysteries about kids getting killed seem to be on the rise in comics but we’re intrigued for another one.

Spawn #300 (Image Comics) – The series reaches the major number of 300 and we’re excited to see what’s inside for this historical moment.

Triage #1 (Dark Horse) – An interesting sci-fi series that has a nurse waking up in an unfamiliar world with two doppelgangers, one a young and snarky superhero and the other a hardened rebel military leader.

Web of Black Widow #1 (Marvel) – Black Widow gets the spotlight in this miniseries which focuses on her past.

The Wicked + The Divine #45 (Image Comics) – The beloved series comes to a close and what a finale it’ll be.

Review: The Wicked + The Divine #44

The Wicked + the Divine #44

*This review contains full spoilers for The Wicked + The Divine #44*

With its skull on the first page of issue one, None More Goth visual trappings, and high body count, The Wicked + the Divine sometimes seems to be a book about death. However, it’s really about life and growing up and discovering your true identity, and stuff that sounds like self-help, hippy dippy bullshit. The Wicked + The Divine #44 is executed in a beautiful way by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson. Even though there’s one issue left of WicDiv, this The Wicked + The Divine #44 ends the series’ main plot and the tale of godlike teenagers, Ananke and Persephone, and best of all, Luci and Laura, the relationship between mad, bad, and dangerous to know and shy, innocent fangirl that hooked me on the series and evolved well beyond that.

The amazing cliffhanger of WicDiv #43 brought Luci back to the forefront of the narrative and the general limelight just before the end. Gillen has her call herself “the whole world’s dream girlfriend”, and McKelvie and Wilson oblige with some rockstar poses and a side of hellfire. Her new costume is one of my favorite McKelvie designs of the series and gives her the swagger of a person who is only herself when she’s performing in some way. She’s Lord Byron, Bowie, Jagger, and most of all, the Adversary. Luci desires to create chaos and enjoy life with her new lease on it, doesn’t want to relinquish her powers like the other Pantheon members, and would definitely rather reign in Hell.

This is where some writers would have a big punch-up, Miracleman #15 style, with Luci being full of hubris and wrecking London. However, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie definitely “zag” away from this path and do something a little more life-affirming with Luci and Laura. In a red and black, near farce of the Pantheon transformation sequence and using third-person narration, Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson sort through the pain that Laura has gone through the past two years, and how much she cared for Luci even when she was on trial for murder back in “Faust Act”.

It all culminates in one of the most touching sequences of the series (And we’re only on page 8.) where Luci simply says, “I’m Eleanor”, kisses Laura, and becomes human again. This series of pages is a wonderful inversion of the other Pantheon transformation sequences throughout the series, and the moments after are raw, filled with tears, and the formerly sharp-tongued Lucifer having almost nothing to say. It expertly combines the lofty themes of identity, godhood, and immortality with two estranged friends hugging it out as Laura demonstrates growth by choosing reconciliation over alienation.

The Wicked + the Divine #44

I could probably write this whole review about Luci and Laura, but hey, there are other characters and storylines in The Wicked + The Divine #44 all connected to the throughline of simply living even if it doesn’t mean being a god with worshipers or pop star with fans. With Luci returned to mortality, the situation with Minerva/Ananke is the last big plot thread on the table, and there’s a debate over what to do with her. Laura wants to kill her, but she’s growing as a person and defers to Cassandra’s sensible solution of using Mimir’s plot device engine one last time. (Cass’ reaction is priceless.) But Baal just wants to kill her and be the embodiment of toxic masculinity. His last interactions with Inanna are tragic and are a reminder of how great this series was at exploring queerness and gender performance.

The Wicked + the Divine #44

He’s done this throughout the series, but I would like to draw attention to how Jamie McKelvie draws panels with multiple figures in WicDiv #44. He doesn’t just focus on reader eye level, but in the spirit of the old film adage “acting is reacting”, imbues each figure with a small story of their own. A good example of this is the first reaction panel after the deaths of Baal and Minerva. Laura furrowing her brow and figuring what to do with two dead bodies and a SWAT on the way is the focus of the panel.

But McKelvie reminds us of the deep pain that Inanna feels about the death of his former lover and the empathy and friendship Dionysus has for him through his detailed work with them. All of this is with no words; just visuals. Also, Wilson uses a lot of black to give the panel and page a real funereal feel for the literal characters, Baal and Minerva as well as all of Ananke’s machinations and the concept of the Pantheon. There is also a slight glow in the background, which connects to the spotlights used by the cops throughout the issue and symbolizes that the ex-Pantheon members have to deal with the harsh light of reality as mortals from now on. (See the courthouse scene.)

With its opening words and repeated mantra “Once again we return” as well as the revelation of the eternal conflict between Ananke and her sister, WicDiv has been a study of cycles of life and death. This beautiful symmetry pays off big time in WicDiv #43 whose final page is not just an homage to the ending of its predecessor, Grant Morrison’s Invisibles, but the first page of WicDiv #1 with the visual of a living head instead of a skull. It’s also like the ending of John Milton’s Paradise Lost where Adam and Eve lost a chance of immortality in an utopia, but gained the ability to choose “their [own] place of rest”. Laura might not be a goddess any more and is still in hot water for killing Ananke, but she gets to live life as a human being untethered to any rituals or schemes.

I’ve spent the last five years living, regressing, and sometimes growing alongside these characters expertly crafted by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson so emotions definitely run high in The Wicked + The Divine #44 especially in regards to Luci and Laura and Baal and Inanna. But it is one of the most life-affirming comics I’ve ever read, and I’m glad that we (hopefully) get to see a peek of the lives of Laura and company in the final issue of the series. (That final cover reveal, y’all!!)

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie 
Colors: Matthew Wilson Letters: Clayton Cowles
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Godscast Issue 13 Meet Tara, Goddess of God-knows

Hosted by Steven Attewell and Chris Holcomb, Godscast takes you issues by issue through the hit comic series The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. This issue features art by Tula Lotay!

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. Welcome to The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

In The Wicked + The Divine #13, there’s one god missing in our story. It’s time to finally meet Tara, Goddess of God-knows.

Steven writes about the intersection of history, politics, and pop culture in “The People’s History of the Marvel Universe” for Graphic Policy. In his day job, He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne.

Chris Holcomb podcasts about pop culture and where we went wrong in the 90s. You can listen to him at Unspoiled Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Godscast Issue 12 Commercial Suicide

Hosted by Steven Attewell and Chris Holcomb, Godscast takes you issues by issue through the hit comic series The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. This issue features art by Kate Brown!

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. Welcome to The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

In The Wicked + The Divine #12, the aftershocks from the Fandemonium apocalypse are tearing the gods apart. The issue kicks off a new arc!

Steven writes about the intersection of history, politics, and pop culture in “The People’s History of the Marvel Universe” for Graphic Policy. In his day job, He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne.

Chris Holcomb podcasts about pop culture and where we went wrong in the 90s. You can listen to him at Unspoiled Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Godscast Issue 11 Fandemonium

Hosted by Steven Attewell and Chris Holcomb, Godscast takes you issues by issue through the hit comic series The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. Welcome to The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

In The Wicked + The Divine #11, the end of Fandemonium. The end of Ragnarock. The end of the arc. The start of something else. Everything’s going to be okay.

Steven writes about the intersection of history, politics, and pop culture in “The People’s History of the Marvel Universe” for Graphic Policy. In his day job, He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne.

Chris Holcomb podcasts about pop culture and where we went wrong in the 90s. You can listen to him at Unspoiled Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Godscast Issue 10 Are You Ready to Ragnarock!?

Hosted by Steven Attewell and Chris Holcomb, Godscast takes you issues by issue through the hit comic series The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. Welcome to The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

In The Wicked + The Divine #10, Ragnarock is finally here. The show to end all shows promises to be a lovely experience for all the gods…wait. Oh noes! Jamie and Matt have drawn Baphomet drenched in blood on the cover. What a hilarious internal communication error.

Steven writes about the intersection of history, politics, and pop culture in “The People’s History of the Marvel Universe” for Graphic Policy. In his day job, He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne.

Chris Holcomb podcasts about pop culture and where we went wrong in the 90s. You can listen to him at Unspoiled Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Godscast Issue 9 A Private Audience with Anake

Hosted by Steven Attewell and Chris Holcomb, Godscast takes you issues by issue through the hit comic series The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. Welcome to The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

In The Wicked + The Divine #9, it’s time for a private audience with Anake, she who has protected and judged the Pantheon for thousands of years. Yes, it’s time for an interview… with an umpire. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Also: Baphomet being all goth and having a nice little mope.

Steven writes about the intersection of history, politics, and pop culture in The People’s History of the Marvel Universe for Graphic Policy. In his day job, He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne.

Chris Holcomb podcasts about pop culture and where we went wrong in the 90s. You can listen to him at Unspoiled Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Review: The Wicked + the Divine #43

Writer Kieron Gillen alluded to this on Twitter, but there is very much an Avengers Endgame feeling of one last adventure before calling an era of generation, or at least this reviewer, shaping storytelling quits to WicDiv #43. The remaining Pantheon members and a de-divinitied Laura confront Minerva/Ananke, and Gillen, artist Jamie McKelvie, and colorist Matthew Wilson lay out the real source of their powers and the origin of 12 teenagers in a more resonant flashback than anything in “Mothering Invention”. There are lots of big ideas on the board in this issue like mortality, belief, and storytelling, and belief leading to physical powers and general coolness gives this issue a real Grant Morrison vibe in a similar way to WicDiv #1 quoting Invisibles #1.

But, before characters get confessional about their status as gods in anti-Pantheon transformation sequence, Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson whip together a big action scene. And Laura’s perceptive narration shows that it’s meant to illustrate the emptiness of such scenes and scuffles even though McKelvie and Wilson outdo themselves with giant Tara punching a Valkyrie and various streams of energy and poses. It’s a single page, gets the point across, and leads to another great Dionysus character beat as he uses his second chance at life for good and to free the fans/Valkyries from Minerva’s control. We get some infrared colors from Wilson and a burst of flame, and yeah, no one wants to have anything to do with mind control machine using, strangely young looking immortals.

WicDiv #43 is all about stripping down, breaking up, and breaking free, and none of these things in a romantic context. But, first, there must be a narrative or ritual to be liberated from like an underlying mechanism or a plot in a story to get meta. (And Gillen does.) We see the first “Kllk” as Ananke and her sister create fire, and then their powers get more complex with the creation of the ideas of godhood and its manifestations starting with green tendrils. Ananke plays on each Pantheon’s flaws and pride to end in their deaths and sacrifice as evidenced in the main series and the historical specials.

It’s primal storytelling from Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson with flat colors and fantastic character acting to go with the dark, tendril-y panel borders that represent the mind meld between Minerva and Persephone. The flashback (Which functions better than a wall of exposition)gives the characters of WicDiv a peek behind the curtain and their own powers. They have to interrogate why they want to be gods, and this is the powerful last act of the comic before a devilish cliffhanger.

And this interrogation leads to liberation beginning with the aforementioned Valkyrie/fan flight. Owing to their gentler, more symbiotic relationship, Gillen and McKelvie have Urdr wrap up her time with the other Norns with a kiss and a promise that they’ll live. These plot beats are a prelude to the Pantheon members following Laura’s lead in the previous issue and renouncing their godhood in rhythmic, almost liturgical six panel grids from McKelvie. They realize that they were pawns in a millennia long story and now seek to erase themselves from the narrative in a positive way.

But WicDiv #43 isn’t the final or even the penultimate issue of the series so it’s not that easy, and the final page is dynamic and a reminder of with whom and why I fell in love with the series five years ago as I took a leap of faith and signed up for that John Milton elective class.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9.6 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Wicked + the Divine #42

The Wicked + the Divine #42

*This review contains spoilers for WicDiv #42*

The Wicked + the Divine #42 goes all out with great reveals and brilliant character moments as Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson craft a sweet sacrifice of a comic book. (This is a very poor choice of words.) And the book starts to take flight around page three with a moment that ties in the specials to the main series as Woden of 1831 is more alike to the “Woden” of 2015 than we think, and Gillen and McKelvie put their own unique mark on the Frankenstein mythos like they did on the Lucifer one. This is only the tip of the iceberg of a comic filled with pathos, action, beautiful and cunning speeches, and another heart getting ripped out ending that won’t be alluded to in this review because it’s that good.

Before getting into the squishy character/feels of it all, WicDiv #42 is another masterpiece in craft from Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson. The fragile status quo of the series is dismantled, but it all makes sense in the light of the 6,000 year game that Ananke has been playing. She has to get heads to keep her immortality, and there’s nothing like some unmentionable evil to freak out impressionable youngsters, get them to die, and ensure the next Recurrence happens.

In recent issues, Baal’s own proclivity for sacrifice has popped up ranging from children to a whole stadium, and it shows how much of a master manipulator Ananke is. She can get others (See Woden throughout the series.) to play a smaller version of her game and have them destroyed for it. Baal and Inanna reunite in this issue, but it’s one of the saddest pages of the series. McKelvie gives Inanna a sick, half-dead look on his face as he realizes that Valentine Campbell is the god of fire and child sacrifice, Baal Hammon. Wilson nails the idea of fiery vengeance in his colors on the last panel of that page as he just wants to take Ananke/Minerva/who gives a fuck out because she put his family at risk. His motivation have become very primal

Sacrifice and ritual has been a series throughline in WicDiv’s first scene and has been turned up to eleven in “Okay” beginning with Baal’s ill-fated O2 gig. We get a three dimensional view of the concept in WicDiv #42 as choices have consequences, unexpected heroes rise, and one pesky misogynist meets a gory, pop art inflected end with McKelvie’s smooth style taking a back seat to bludgeoning and ultraviolence. Woden’s last scene feels like the third act of an exploitation film where the women he thinks that are under his thrall kick the shit out of him. Death Proof has nothing on the Valkyries. But due to Ananke ordering the aforementioned kicking and more cool plot throwbacks from Gillen, this moment of catharsis spoils very quickly.

Another highlight of WicDiv #42 is the tension in Laura’s narration. Although she can’t scry like Urdr, she knows what’s going on most of the time, including dark secrets like Baal’s penchant for child sacrifice. Her experiences throughout the series have made her calm and collected, but she’s also freaking out inside and feels a little like Ananke with some knowledge (Like the child sacrifice.) being doled out on a need to know basis. You can definitely see a bit of the game player that has been squaring up against Ananke for millennia like in “Mothering Invention”, and this issue only raises my anticipation for their final duel. Plus there’s that whole layer of caring about fangirl-turned-goddess/destroyed-turned mortal, and Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s wonderful character development and facial expression work makes the surprises and plot beats even more compelling.

WicDiv #42 made me yelp in an emotional manner. Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson have turned in stunning bits of plot structure, character arcs, visuals, and palette (Baal vs the Valkyries is a true symphony of color.) in this comic.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9.8 Art: 9.8 Overall: 9.8  Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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