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Smallville 9x11/12 - Absolute Justice - I worship at the television altar
tariel22
tariel22
Smallville 9x11/12 - Absolute Justice
I loved Absolute Justice, from start to finish! It was a comic book come to life on my TV screen, a glorious celebration of the world that first gave us our beloved Clark Kent, and I watched the entire episode enthralled, with a big smile on my face. Geoff Johns not only introduced us to the rich mythology of the Justice Society of America, he used their tragic story to hold a mirror up to each of our heroes in turn, giving them new insight into both the risks and rewards of their chosen paths. And while the message Clark received was the most sobering, he did not retreat, but instead showed us the leader he has quietly become, with a confidence and determination that made me proud.

Some people come to Smallville because of the Superman legend, and some in spite of it. Over the years the focus of Clark's story has changed, from the eminently relatable, and very human, struggles of an innocent farmboy simply trying to fit in among his peers, to the impossible choices facing an emerging hero who has been thrust into a world filled with superpowered metahumans and aliens, and been told he is destined to be that world's savior. Those changes have proved too much for some fans, but I've enjoyed every step of Clark's journey, and the recent infusion of characters from the DC Universe has opened up a whole new world for me to explore. I didn't know much about the JSA before this episode, but now I want to.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't want to see an episode steeped in comic book lore every week. What I want to see, first and foremost, is Clark's story, and that is obviously going to be a bit obscured when he shares the screen with a whole host of larger-than-life characters. But the occasional dive into the deep end of the DC pool is a treat, especially when it is Geoff Johns who takes us there. He has this great way of giving us an adventure that is completely accessible, but that is also layered with countless little details that create a feast for hardcore comic book geeks. I have a stack of JSA trades I've just started reading, and I can't wait to go back to Absolute Justice when I'm finished and watch for the Easter eggs I missed the first time around.

Once again this week Clark was told that he is destined for greatness, that the future of the entire planet lies in his hands. I'm sure that's heady news to hear, but it brings with it an enormous burden of responsibility, and we've already seen Clark worry that he will prove unequal to the task. So far his glimpses of the actual future have been far less promising, and he's seen his best efforts end in tragedy when those who should have trusted him most did not. It's no wonder this episode found him quiet and contemplative, even apprehensive, as he absorbed both the destiny Dr. Fate pronounced for him, and the lessons to be learned from the JSA. Still, I was surprised at how little dialogue Clark actually had. The silver lining of that, however, was the joy of watching Tom Welling do so much with so little.

Playing a character with Clark Kent's innate stoicism, Tom long ago became a master of nuance, often speaking volumes with his eyes alone. When Clark uncovered the forgotten history of the JSA, there was no mistaking the range of emotions that played across his face: curiosity, excitement, wonder, empathy, respect, and reverence. Although the scene at the museum was wordless, it touched me more than any other in the episode. And there were other moments where the subtleties of Tom's acting showed us so much more than what we heard in Clark's few words: his fear of the helmet's power; the depth of his compassion; his realization that the life of any hero can include great personal sacrifice, terrible loss, and betrayal from the very people you fight to keep safe.

When Clark did speak, it was to show his strength, his leadership, and his determination to do what's right, always. I so admired how he refused to believe the worst of the JSA based on their arrest records, but rather dug deeper, and came to his own conclusions about their innocence. I liked the humility he showed when he called his team a work in progress, acknowledging not only that they still have work to do, but also that he has a ways to go on his personal journey before he is truly ready to lead. But most of all I loved his Superman moments: reaching out to a grieving Courtney; standing tall and resolute before Hawkman, refusing to be intimidated, baited, or swayed; unequivocally telling Courtney it's wrong to kill. Geoff Johns did right by our boy, and Tom brought his words to life with his usual wonderful performance.

Actually, I enjoyed the way every character was written in Absolute Justice, and the actors were great. Oliver was just the way I like him: he played the hero, both as Green Arrow and himself, with all the charm and humor I love, along with just a touch of temper and snark. Justin Hartley was a delight. Oliver spent a lot of time paired up with Hawkman, and their scenes together supplied the comic relief in a story that was really rather dark. I thought they were alike in many ways, and their banter was hilarious:

Oliver: The winged warrior here threw me through a window.
Hawkman: I hope I didn't make you cry.
Oliver: Drop the mace, Conan.
Hawkman: I will, on your head.
Oliver: Bring it, Big Bird!

Oliver: You know, you really gotta work on your landings.
Hawkman: It would have been a lot smoother if you hadn't thrown up.
Oliver: Send me your dry cleaning bill.
Hawkman: Send me your dinner bill.

Michael Shanks gave us a complicated hero in Hawkman, ruled by anger, bitterness, and sorrow, who had crossed the line more than once in the name of justice. He was a good man, but he was also a cautionary tale for Oliver, who has had similar bouts with ambiguous morality. I especially liked how we saw the leader in Hawkman emerge once more, hopeful for the future, and ready to forge a new generation of the JSA. He talked to Oliver about the price of being a hero, but he saved his most inspirational speech for Clark, recognizing in him the truth of what Dr. Fate saw.

Oliver also spent a lot of time with Chloe. I loved seeing Allison Mack with a significant part to play again this week. Chloe was pretty much her old awesome self, but she has changed. She's nobody's sidekick anymore, with a confidence that borders on arrogance. She still seems annoyed at Clark most of the time, but I guess that's just the relationship they have these days. She doesn't agree with his priorities or his decisions, and it shows. She has more in common with Oliver, and it looks like the close friendship she once shared with Clark now belongs to him. She gives him her sunny smiles, her affectionate tone, and her tender care. They even went scoobying together! I think they make a good team, so I'm enjoying this new development, but I do wonder exactly where the show is going with it.

When Chloe ran into Dr. Fate with Clark at the hospital, he said to her, "You walk the same path I do, Chloe Sullivan." I took that to mean she runs the danger of being consumed by her role as Watchtower, lost in the flood of information she collects. Later Martian Manhunter made the same comparison, but Chloe brushed him off, just as she did Clark last week. Will she ever listen?

Lois, too, had a conversation with Dr. Fate. It was a cute scene, and he seemed captivated by her, although I have no idea what he meant when he called her the key. He told her that her fate was to share a great love with a savior who would heal us all. I don't know how much she believed about the JSA and their powers, but wouldn't that make her wonder about Clark, since she believes he is the one? Maybe Lois really does already know. We also saw Lois in reporter mode, as she followed the trail Amanda Waller laid out for her. I thought Lois should be more wary of an anonymous source, but as Erica Durance herself has said, she's not quite the iconic Lois Lane yet, just like Clark isn't quite Superman. I hope we'll see her become suspicious, and realize she's being played for a pawn. At least she was able to uncover information that was useful to Clark.

Dr. Fate was my favorite of the JSA characters, both in costume and out. The man behind the mask, Kent Nelson, was heartbreakingly lost, but as Fate he had an awesome presence, and fascinating powers. I was devastated to see him sacrifice himself, but how cool was it that he restored Martian Manhunter in the process? Not only did we get to welcome the incomparable Phil Morris back to the show, his character returned in all his former glory! Plus we got to see him in his true form! I think that had to be the second biggest geek out moment of the episode for me. The first was hearing official confirmation that Lex Luthor lives! Yay! We also saw the return of Dr. Emil Hamilton, another favorite of mine. And Stargirl was spunky and sweet.

As for the bad guys, Icicle was sufficiently creepy, and quite the formidable opponent, especially once he harnessed the power of the helmet of Nabu. Pam Grier was thoroughly intimidating as Amanda Waller. The way she dispatched Icicle with a smile of satisfaction on her face was positively chilling, and I'm very much afraid that Lois has made a deal with the devil. And Tess is one of her agents?! What does this mean for Clark and his secret? And where, if anywhere, does Zod fit into all this? In any case, I was just thrilled to have Cassidy Freeman back, especially in a scene between Tess and Clark. I think she has been woefully underutilized this season.

Absolute Justice had two directors, Glen Winter in the first half and Tom Welling in the second, and they both did an amazing job. The episode was visually stunning, with a stylized, vintage look all it's own. The story never dragged, and there were some truly exceptional sequences. My favorites were the fight scene that opened the episode, seen from Chloe's POV inside the dumpster, Hawkman throwing Green Arrow through the Watchtower's stained glass window, Clark's amazing scene of discovery at the museum, and the incredible slo-mo fight sequence against Icicle. Wow. I also loved everything about Lois's scene with Dr. Fate, and the last scene between Clark and Lois at the Daily Planet. As the director, Tom made some wonderful choices there. And Louis Febre's score was outstanding, adding an emotional richness throughout.

Random thoughts: "This is a job for Clark Kent." hee! I liked the shout-out to Green Arrow's iconic relationship with Black Canary. Was that Kent Nelson with his head in a trash can right before Oliver confronted Courtney? Loved the callback to S3's Hereafter with the shot of the cape! How can Lois be so uppity with Tess? Does she count on Oliver to protect her from getting fired, or does she think she's indispensable? That JSA computer was too funny. Did Hawkman really need to break the glass to get inside that display case? Couldn't he just open it? And Tom Welling is hotter than ever, especially in the rain. How does he do that?!

Absolute Justice worked well as a stand-alone episode, perfect for devoted fans and casual viewers alike, but it also set up some intriguing developments for our characters going forward. We have a whole new big bad, and once again Tess Mercer is deeply involved. Martian Manhunter's considerable powers have been restored, and he isn't going anywhere. Oliver's conflicts with Clark seem to have been resolved, but will his growing closeness with Chloe change that? Or will he be the one who can finally make Chloe see the danger of her Big Sister ways? And what about Clark? Will he find a way to fully embrace his destiny and unlock the secret of that last elusive superpower? Will he reconsider his decision to keep Lois in the dark, now that Dr. Fate has revealed they're meant to be together? I'm keeping my fingers crossed for S10, because clearly I'm nowhere near over this show! :)

Both of the directors gave us lots of pretty close-ups of Tom. My top 20 caps from Absolute Justice:




























































Screen caps courtesy of Home of the Nutty, with my thanks!

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Comments
jeannev From: jeannev Date: February 8th, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the pretty pictures :)

And I think thats all I should say LOL ;)
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: February 8th, 2010 10:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
I appreciate the comment, Val. *hugs* I know you didn't like it.

And no matter what else, the pretty is always good. :)
theclexfactor From: theclexfactor Date: February 8th, 2010 10:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
It was an amazing episode(s). I've already watched it 4 times and I'm not ashamed.
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: February 8th, 2010 10:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I think I hit eight times last night! :D And so far I haven't fast-forwarded through anything, which is pretty amazing for me.
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tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: February 8th, 2010 11:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really did like everyone in this episode. Well, except for emo Icicle boy, but I wasn't supposed to like him, I guess. :)

I thought Michael Shanks was awesome. He took himself seriously in the part, and that's why both the humor and the pathos worked so well.

Oliver: God, I hate waiting!
Hawkman: But you love talking. Shut up!

hee! I'm so glad Oliver has gotten over himself, FINALLY. I thought he was perfect in this episode. And so cute when he showed up to ask Chloe to dinner!

Dr. Fate was cool. I loved how personal his connections were to everyone, especially Clark.
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jude_judith82 From: jude_judith82 Date: February 8th, 2010 11:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I loved Absolute Justice, from start to finish!

Psst come here Me too! Heh. At first I was like "Maybe I liked it cause I haven't watched an episode all season." Now I'm glad more people on my f-list liked it. I was such a fangirl the whole time. I was like "OMG!" the whole time. I cannot believe Ma Hunkel got a shout out. That was surprising. I know Clark didn't have a whole lot of dialogue but...my favorite scene didn't have any dialogue. When Clark slowly reveals the things in the Brownstone. My god Welling can act and he is so bloody gorgeous. *sigh*
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: February 8th, 2010 11:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm so glad you liked it!! The response on my flist ran the gamut, but I loved it. I had a lot of OMG moments, too, and I don't even know very much about the JSA! I'm reading all of Geoff Johns' books now, though. :)

That scene in the museum was my favorite as well. It brought tears to my eyes. Since it was almost right in the middle of the episode, I don't know if Tom directed it or Glen did. I'm dying to know.
carolandtom From: carolandtom Date: February 8th, 2010 11:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the beautiful pictures. (I'm channelling Val. lol)

Tom looked beautiful and did a great job acting and directing. That's all I can say and all that mattered to me.
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: February 8th, 2010 11:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Carol, I'm just thrilled to see you here! *hugs*

Tom looked beautiful and did a great job acting and directing. That's all I can say and all that mattered to me.

And that's what matters to me more than anything else. His work on the show never disappoints me.
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tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: February 9th, 2010 12:14 am (UTC) (Link)
I loved the episode, too!

Yay! Certain scenes were just utter perfection, like Clark's scene in the museum, and the sequence with Dr. Fate that started with Clark and ended with Lois. I thought Erica was brilliant there, and I loved the way Tom blocked and shot the scene. And that final scene between Clark and Lois at the DP makes me smile every time. Erica looked especially lovely in that one, I thought, and actually, so did Tom.

Both of them are a heck of a lot mouthier to their boss than most people would be. *g*

Oh, absolutely! I was shocked by what he said, too! :) But I think she'll let Clark get away with just about anything. She's way too fascinated to ever push him away. Even when he manhandles her, any pain and/or fear she feels seems to be tempered by the thrill of seeing him display his powers.
whimsywinx From: whimsywinx Date: February 9th, 2010 12:50 am (UTC) (Link)
I LOVED THIS EP!! I got to watch while IMing with ophelia77, too, which was awesome in itself. I'd like to see more of the JSA on an occasional basis.
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: February 9th, 2010 01:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Yay! That's cool that you two got to watch together, I can't do that the first time I see an episode. I need to sit in the dark and let it wash over me without any distractions. God help the hubby if he tries to talk or ask questions! :)
jlvsclrk From: jlvsclrk Date: February 9th, 2010 03:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Loved the review! Loved the episode! I should be packing so that's all I can say! Talk to you again in a few weeks!
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: February 9th, 2010 03:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for taking the time to comment! Have fun at the Olympics!! Remember to keep an eye out for Tom! Or maybe Michael at the hockey games? ;)
tasabian From: tasabian Date: February 9th, 2010 03:12 am (UTC) (Link)
This one pleased me quite a bit, the emphasis being on plot, rather than 'ship.

Dr. Fate was my favorite of the JSA characters, both in costume and out. The man behind the mask, Kent Nelson, was heartbreakingly lost, but as Fate he had an awesome presence, and fascinating powers. I was devastated to see him sacrifice himself, but how cool was it that he restored Martian Manhunter in the process?
Really nice performance from Dr. Fate - I hope the actor lurked online & saw the love he was getting! It's quite something to have made such an impression in a single episode that fans mourn your character.

I love getting a glimpse of J'onn's true form.

I loved his Superman moments: reaching out to a grieving Courtney; standing tall and resolute before Hawkman, refusing to be intimidated, baited, or swayed; unequivocally telling Courtney it's wrong to kill.
I did love that bit and Tom's delivery, so much, though I did not love the threat to Tess, nor the callback to the times he's been violent towards her.

Loving the sexy Clark-stubble in those 'caps!
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: February 9th, 2010 03:54 am (UTC) (Link)
This one pleased me quite a bit, the emphasis being on plot, rather than 'ship.

I've enjoyed adorable, flirty Clark, but it was nice to take a break from the romance. That last scene with the sharing of sexy glances was perfect. I actually saw someone complain that Clark and Lois didn't have any physical contact during the episode. It made me think of the couples in high school who had regularly scheduled PDA performances in the hallways, with a minimum daily requirement of groping and tongue baths! :D

Really nice performance from Dr. Fate - I hope the actor lurked online & saw the love he was getting! It's quite something to have made such an impression in a single episode that fans mourn your character.

It all came together so beautifully: his performance, the costume, the sacrifices Kent made to fight the good fight, the message he had for Clark. And there was such warmth behind that golden mask. He was so interested in MM, so charming with Lois. He touched my heart.

I did love that bit and Tom's delivery, so much, though I did not love the threat to Tess, nor the callback to the times he's been violent towards her.

Clark has the oddest relationship with Tess, doesn't he? He's so hostile! I know she's done some terrible things, and given him twice the harassment he got from Lex, with none of the love, but still, I don't get it.

Loving the sexy Clark-stubble in those 'caps!

I'm glad they don't have to try to hide it anymore. I love the scruff!
silverscreengal From: silverscreengal Date: February 9th, 2010 04:50 am (UTC) (Link)


Don't take this the wrong way, but .... I LOVE YOU!!! Your reviews bring out the best in a show I have loved for so long and am so committed to. You make it fun and I don't have a lot of people in my internet life that make it fun anymore. SO THANKS!!!

There are so many squee! moments in the show and in your review I want to point out, but due to my lack of time, I want to focus on just one.

Your comment:
"Some people come to Smallville because of the Superman legend, and some in spite of it. Over the years the focus of Clark's story has changed, from the eminently relatable, and very human, struggles of an innocent farmboy simply trying to fit in among his peers, to the impossible choices facing an emerging hero who has been thrust into a world filled with superpowered metahumans and aliens, and been told he is destined to be that world's savior. Those changes have proved too much for some fans, but I've enjoyed every step of Clark's journey, and the recent infusion of characters from the DC Universe has opened up a whole new world for me to explore."

almost brought tears to my eyes. You so beautifully said what I feel. I just don't have the skills to say it the way you do. So when I find a quote that rings true to me, I just get so moved.

Your insight into the show just elevates SV to a new level for me.

xoxo

P.S. Your Tom pics.....*sigh*

tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: February 9th, 2010 10:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow, I think this is the most amazing comment I've ever received! *hugs* And I can't tell you how much your words mean to me, truly. Lately I've been feeling a bit isolated in the Smallville fandom, like I'm the only one who feels about the show the way I do. Thank you so much for reaching out to let me know you feel the same! I know Smallville is far from perfect, and I've certainly been known to rant about it when it's not, but I still love this show beyond all reason. ♥

I can never seem to keep the caps to just ten anymore. There's just too much pretty! :)
From: kates_passion Date: February 9th, 2010 01:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
You are definitely not alone! I feel very much like silverscreengal! Reading your review was like a cool refreshing drink of water to my weary soul. I loved AJ, too, and you have perfectly expressed the reasons why I felt it was a real joy to watch. I also still love the show and actually think the new direction this season is wonderful! The overwhelming negativity being expressed in some parts of the fandom toward the show right now has become oppressive to me. I always know I will find a fair and positive perspective here. Thank you so much!


tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: February 10th, 2010 12:11 am (UTC) (Link)
A kindred spirit! *clings* Thanks so much for sharing that with me, and for your wonderful comment. I totally understand why some people are unhappy with Smallville right now, and of course I don't have a problem with that, but sometimes I just want to celebrate my show, y'know? It feels so good to hear I'm not the only one.

And I still love that icon. :D
el_elle_8 From: el_elle_8 Date: February 9th, 2010 03:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
You pretty much summed up how I feel about this episode in your review. I enjoyed it from start to finish although I would have liked to see more Clark dialogue. I find that Geoff Johns writes for everyone but Clark so what we saw was pretty much what I expected from Johns. Having said that, I did like how Johns introduced the JSA and how he handled the other SV characters.

A few thought: my favourite scenes were Clark at the museum uncovering the JSA, the Dr. Fate & Clark scene and the final fight. Dr. Fate was my favourite JSA character because of how he was written and acted. I loved what Tom did with the final fight scene...it is even better when watched in slow motion!

Thank you for the pretty screen caps. The upside of little Clark dialogue...I could just stare at Tom and not have to concentrate on what he was saying ;)

One final note in regards to your comment: "Lately I've been feeling a bit isolated in the Smallville fandom, like I'm the only one who feels about the show the way I do." You are not alone...I am with you too :D
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: February 10th, 2010 01:24 am (UTC) (Link)
The upside of little Clark dialogue...I could just stare at Tom and not have to concentrate on what he was saying

LOL! I did that, too, especially after watching the episode multiple times. And not just for the pretty. ;) Even when he had long stretches with no dialogue, he was totally engaged. I love Tom's reaction shots.

You are not alone...I am with you too

Awww, that's so good to hear, thanks! The best squee is always a shared one. :)
serenography From: serenography Date: February 9th, 2010 05:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love that your reviews come up on my google alerts. :)

Wonderful and insightful comments as usual. You have such an innate talent for writing and I'm glad you use it to spread the love for this show (and Tom!).

I really enjoyed this episode as well, but have only had the chance to watch it once. My son still hasn't seen it though, so perhaps I'll get a second viewing in tonight with him. There is so much to take in that I know I missed the first time around. I almost always enjoy episodes more on the second or third viewing, even ones I may not have liked very much on the first.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't want to see an episode steeped in comic book lore every week. What I want to see, first and foremost, is Clark's story, and that is obviously going to be a bit obscured when he shares the screen with a whole host of larger-than-life characters. But the occasional dive into the deep end of the DC pool is a treat, especially when it is Geoff Johns who takes us there.

This is a really great point. As much as I did feel a loss of Clark-focus, it was okay for this episode since it was balanced out by so much else. And having Geoff Johns as an affiliate has been one of the very best moves this show has ever made.



Edited at 2010-02-09 05:18 pm (UTC)
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: February 11th, 2010 01:52 am (UTC) (Link)
It always kind of freaks me out when I see my posts come up on my own Google alerts. :) Thank you so much for your lovely comment, it means the world to me, especially coming from you!

I almost always enjoy episodes more on the second or third viewing, even ones I may not have liked very much on the first.

This is true for me as well. I notice nuances and details that I missed the first time, and lots of times I think I gain a better understanding of the underlying themes. Smallville is one of those rare shows that I can watch over and over; I often find myself slipping in a DVD to watch a favorite episode, even over some other show that's new.

As much as I did feel a loss of Clark-focus, it was okay for this episode since it was balanced out by so much else.

This was an ambitious episode, and I'm so glad they expanded it to two hours, and gave Tom the opportunity to direct. I'm thankful that what we saw of Clark was so consistently wonderful, and I'm hopeful we'll see him refer back to his interactions with the JSA as the season goes on.

And having Geoff Johns as an affiliate has been one of the very best moves this show has ever made.

I had never heard of him when they announced he would be writing an episode for S8 at Comic-Con. On a personal level, his involvement with the show has opened up a whole new world for me. And I love the way he writes Clark/Superman.
tjw_jaypat From: tjw_jaypat Date: February 9th, 2010 05:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, I´m afraid I must side with Valerie´s criitical view here. :)

I would probably be OK if this were just another episode written by Johns. So the side-lining of Clark could be somehow excused in an odd episode. But I cannot excuse it in such a much-hyped special movie event. I am really mad at Johns for side-lining Clark at the expense of way too much excess guest start baggage. I am so mad in fact that I hope Johns will never write another episode of Smallville - unless he learns to properly incorporate Clark and do the character justice.

Sorry for disagreeing with you today! :)
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: February 11th, 2010 02:13 am (UTC) (Link)
You never have to apologize for disagreeing with me! :)

I think the thing with Geoff Johns is, he sees Smallville as an opportunity to introduce people to characters from the DC Universe that they don't already know, and everybody knows Superman. His episodes focus on the characters he wants to feature, and the show is happy to have them because they're something new and shiny, that might even bring new viewers to the show. Plus he has said in interviews that he prefers to write for lesser know characters, like Green Lantern and Green Arrow, over the superstars like Superman and Batman. But I completely understand your disappointment, of course.
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