Your Guide to Infinite Crisis:

“Adam Strange: Planet Heist” Concludes

Having examined the history of Adam Strange and the first half of his 2004-2005 mini-series, we now turn to the second half of that series, which leads into The Rann-Thanagar War.

Adam Strange #5: “Planet Heist, Part Five”

Andy Diggle story; Pascal Ferry art; Pascal Ferry cover; cover-dated March 2005

As the fifth issue opens, Artin is reading the mystery device’s data logs, which say it’s an Omega Beam device. Adam understands that it’s a more powerful version of the Zeta Beam — orders of magnitude greater and powered by “zero-point energyfueled by the very fabric of spacetime itself.” He explains to Tigorr that, unlike most teleporters which are short-range, the Zeta Beam is inter-galactic in range. The Omega Beam, in theory, could transport a solar system into another universe. If it were configured not to reconstitute what it had converted into energy for transport, it could convert whole galaxies into energy — the most powerful weapon every produced.

Tigorr realizes that this capability was why the station was set to self-destruct, lest the Omega Beam fall into the wrong hands. Just then, a swarm of Spider Guild ships descend upon the station.

Inside the head ship, the Spider Guild commander has arrived in pursuit of Seer, who the Omega Men liberated from the Guild. Noting the absent star of the solar system, he points out that the Omega Men are apparently guilty of stealing the star as well. When a subordinate points out that the star would have gone supernova and cost money, the commander says that’s irrelevant. He orders Seer returned and everyone else on the station captured or killed.

Inside the station, Tigorr wants to detonate the Omega Beam, but Adam wants to use the device’s data logs to find who built the device and what happened to Rann. Artin says he’ll stay too, using his mechanical abilities to scan the logs faster than Adam could. Tigorr starts the self-destruct sequence and tells Broot to get the rest of the Omega Men into the hangar to board their ship, the Omega Wing, which is shaped like the Greek letter omega.

The Guild’s arachnoids swarm the station, penetrating deck after deck. The Omega Men begin to fight them on the way to the hangar. The rocky Broot bashes a few, and the glowing insubstantial ball of light called Elu blocks the arachnoids’ pursuit by extending a force field. As they make it to the hangar, they find arachnoids already there and begin fighting.

With three minutes left on the countdown, Tigorr comes searching for Doc, who we saw about to be eaten by the Durlan assassin last issue. He makes no mention of the incident here, which seems to confirm for readers that he’s been replaced by the shape-changing Durlan. Seer is sedated due to her visions, so Tigorr gives her brandy to revive her. As Tigorr orders Doc to help get Seer to the hangar, we see what looks like the real Doc’s torn body in the dim adjacent room.

Back at the Omega Beam device, Adam determines that it’s only been used twice — first to move the star that substituted for Alpha Centauri and then to move a single person. If Rann got out beforehand, there must be a second device somewhere. Artin points out that Rann could have been destroyed after all, but Adam won’t accept that, nearly breaking from the stress. Artin says he’ll try to locate the destination of the device’s second, single-person use. Adam regains his senses as the arachnoids attack, having made their way to the station’s core.

As the rest of the Omega Men board their ship, Tigorr tells Artin to bring Adam quickly, but Artin says not to wait. With thirty seconds remaining in the countdown, the Omega Wing blasts out of the station.

At the Omega Beam device, Adam and Artin continue to battle arachnoids as Artin continues his attempt to locate the destination of the device’s logged teleportation. An arachnoid slices off Artin’s robotic head, but it still speaks the destination: Maltus. Adam takes the head and triggers his Zeta Beam device just as the station explodes.

Outside, the station’s explosion takes out the Spider Guild fleet, saving the Omega Men from pursuit. Broot mourns for Artin, and Tigorr encourages the team to honor the memory of Artin and Adam. Then Adam materializes with Artin’s head. The two com aboard and Artin, hardly upset, asks for a new body.

The story then cuts to Maltus as the Omega Wing is descending on the technological planet. Maltus is home to L.E.G.I.O.N., the interplanetary organization led by Vril Dox that protects subscribers for a price. Maltus itself is overpopulated and covered with hyper-technological structures.

As the Omega Men arrive, we’re treated to a conversation over video-screens between Vril Dox and an ambassador from the Spider Guild, who says that they should put their past differences behind them. The Guild subscribes to L.E.G.I.O.N. services and demands that the organization pursue the Omega Men, who are wanted for terrorism, and Adam Strange, convicted of genocide on Thanagar and wanted by the Guild for theft of their near-supernova star. The Guild seems to think that the fugitives will come to Maltus, though how the Guild would know this is left unexplained — even if an arachnoid transmitted Artin’s utterance before the station exploded, the Guild ships in the vicinity were destroyed. Vril Dox says that he’s alerted his men and that, if he does capture Adam or the Omega Men on Maltus, he has no duty to hand them over to the Guild. The Guild representative demands that Seer be returned, in any case.

On the streets of Maltus, we see video-screens alerting the citizenry about how Adam and the Omega Men are wanted for “terror and genocide.” Adam Strange, hiding atop a building, is talking to Tigorr through a holographic communications device. The Omega Men are to lay low, having landed using fake docking permits, while Adam tracks the mysterious teleported person by tracking his Zeta radiation.

Adam’s Zeta-tracker gets a lock, and he takes to the air after the flying hover-pod with the Zeta radiation. He flies in front of it, readying his gun and demanding that it stop, but the pod flies off instead, crashing into another flying pod in its wild evasion course. The target hover-pod is soon smoking and out of control, but Adam can’t afford to let the driver die if he wants answers. So he opens the pod’s capsule manually, pulling out the driver as the pod crashes into the streets below.

The driver is wearing a helmet that hides his identity as Adam demands answers. The pilot apologizes, saying “I thought you were one of them,” and removes his helmet. It’s none other than Sardath.

While Sardath may not be the most popular character, this is an important cliffhanger because it’s Adam’s first contact since the series began with someone from the apparently destroyed Rann. After five issues, it would seem as if he’s finally confirmed that Rann survived — and that Sardath, inexplicably, is on Maltus.

Adam Strange #6: “Planet Heist, Part Six”

Andy Diggle story; Pascal Ferry art; Pascal Ferry cover; cover-dated April 2005

Issue #6 begins a bit after the previous issue’s ending as Vril Dox and an associate survey the scene of Adam Strange’s capture of Sardath. Eyewitnesses have made it pretty clear that it was Adam Strange, so Vril Dox seals off a fifty-block radius and orders a sweep, hoping Adam doesn’t have access to a Zeta Beam device.

Elsewhere on Maltus, Tigorr and Broot have left the Omega Wing and met Adam Strange and Sardath. Adam has Sardath tell the others what he’s told Adam since the end of last issue: that he’s not Sardath, but one of a number of clones, and that the real Sardath was behind the Omega Beam and hiding Rann. Apparently, it was this clone’s job to activate the Omega Beam, transport the nearby sun, and set the station to self-destruct. The cowering Sardath clone says that the real Sardath didn’t have time to tell Adam the plan and was worried that Adam was being watched. Then Adam gets what he reallywants from the clone: the coordinates of Rann. Tigorr promises Adam that the Omega Men will come along to see if Rann’s really there.

Then the Durlan posing as Doc all last issue strikes, raising his gun to Adam and demanding the Zeta-Beamer. Tigorr and Broot are confused by Doc’s behavior. The Sardath clone freaks out, saying that he was supposed to die with the station but chickened out, and he now realizes that the whole universe could pay the price for his mistake. The clone darts at the Durlan, still in the form of Doc, and the Durlan fires, killing the clone. Adam begins to beat the Durlan, who they still think is Doc, until the assassin begins to change shape, revealing his true nature.

The Durlan quickly wraps Adam and the Omega Men up in an arm with many tendrils, then swallows all three of them. He approaches the Zeta-Beamer, intending to go to Rann. Then Broot tears himself out of the Durlan from inside. Broot pulls Tigorr free, and Adam flies out with his jetpack, grabbing the Zeta Beam device. The wounded Durlan morphs into a large monster with a cavernous open mouth, ready to eat the three of them, but Adam just teleports the Durlan away — sending him, since he only had time to use a pre-programmed destination, to the Rann supernova.

The group only has a moment to mourn the clone of Sardath and Doc, who they reason must be dead. Tigorr spends only a few words saying that Doc was a soldier and knew the risks. With that, they fly back to the Omega Wing. Adam plans to teleport them all to Rann using his Zeta-Beamer, which pushes the device’s limits but still ought to work.

Suddenly, however, scores of L.E.G.I.O.N. droids materialize from behind holographic shields. They order Adam, Tigorr, and Broot to surrender immediately. Then Vril Dox appears.

We then check in with Wing Commander Valkyr, having not seen her last issue. On her ship in the Polaris system, she gets a report about how the Durlan was defeated and how Adam’s still on Maltus. Apparently, the tracking device she hid in his Zeta-Beamer is still working. She orders her lackey to power up “the Zeta-Beam generator” and prepare “for transport” — implying that she has Zeta technology.

Inside her ship, Valkyr interrupts her strange master, the energy being she calls Lord Luciphage. He’s feeding off the soul of someone Valkyr has fed him with, and he’s quick to complain about this “weak gruel.” She assures him that she and any of her ship’s loyal crew would die for him. He lifts her by her head, questioning whether he should eat a bit of her soul. He decides to wait, however, pointing out that she found him “adrift in the void” as if by fate. And he promises that he will personally end the universe.

While this sequence with Valkyr doesn’t add much, it’s most welcome. The business between Valkyr and Luciphage is pretty much a reprise of their earlier scene together. But it’s important to remind readers of these players who haven’t been seen for a time — and where they stand.

Back on Maltus, Vril Dox assures Tigorr that the L.E.G.I.O.N. droids are programmed to fire if anyone makes a move towards their weapons or the floating Zeta-Beamer. Adam tries to reason with Dox, but Dox isn’t going for it. He sees “a wanted interstellar fugitive– duly convicted of genocide, no less — in league with a notorious terrorist organization, carrying the dead body of what looks suspiciously to me like Rann’s chief scientist.” Dox invites the three to a cell for interrogation and says that the rest of the Omega Men are already waiting there. In the face of Adam’s refusal, he adds that he’s only there in person “as a diplomatic courtesy” to Adam Strange and is not prepared to debate guilt of innocence “right here on this landing platform.”

When Adam refuses again, Dox resigns himself and orders a droid to take the Zeta-Beamer. Adam says that it’s booby-trapped. “How do you think I destroyed the Rann system?” he asks, adding that the device will transmit “a few thousand kilos of anti-matter” into the planet. Dox says he calculates “a ninety-six point seven percent probability that you’re bluffing.” Adam points out that six hundred billion or so live on Maltus, saying it’s Dox’s call.

Before Dox can decide, Adam grabs the Zeta-Beamer. In a moment, Dox has his droids hold their fire and darts towards the three, coming along as they beam away.

As they recover, Tigorr faces off against Dox, now stripped of his droids. But Dox pulls a couple blasters, hitting both Tigorr and Broot. He then holds them on Adam, explaining that they are set to stun and that the two will have “a few extra years” added to their sentence for fleeing arrest. Adam says that Dox can’t get home if he stuns Adam, but Dox is suddenly hit from behind.

Adam turns to see who it is and sees Alanna, who’s holding a blaster and seems as stunned to see Adam as Adam is to see her.

The revelation of Sardath at the end of the previous issue might have proven a misdirection, since he was revealed to be a clone, but now we have the real thing — not only the first Rannian seen to survive but none other than Alanna herself.

Adam Strange #7: “Planet Heist, Part Seven”

Andy Diggle story; Pascal Ferry art; Pascal Ferry cover; cover-dated May 2005

As the penultimate issue opens, Adam awakes, echoing his earlier dream sequence. This time, however, it’s no dream. The beautiful Alanna’s there, apparently just out of the shower, and she tells him that he’s been sleeping for almost twenty hours — through three sunrises. She suggests that he’s tired from sex with her the night before. Emphasizing the parallel with the earlier dream sequence, Adam says that he was afraid that finding her again was just a dream after all he’s been through.

They kiss, and Adam tosses her on the bed, eager to make up for six months of absence. But Aleea runs into the room, bigger than he remembered. She says that her mom always said that he would come back. It’s a great moment. The computer announces that Sardath requests Adam’s presence, but Adam says that Sardath can wait and seems a little perturbed with Sardath. He holds his wife and child tight. “I’m not the Defender of Rann anymore,” he says. “Right now I’m just Dad. I’m just Adam, your husband.”

Elsewhere on Rann, Tigorr chats with Vril Dox about how there are not stars in the sky, suggesting that they’re in a separate universe. Sardath enters the room with Adam and Alanna, and they all sit down together with Broot so that Sardath can explain.

He begins with the end of the universe, mythologized in every race across the cosmos. On Thanagar, the bringer of the end was called the Luciphage. On Rann, he’s called Starbreaker. Starbreaker is a real being, a supposedly unstoppable cosmic super-villain who had destroyed entire clusters of galaxies. The Justice League had stopped him, draining his energy and rendering him incorporeal and “hungeringadrift in the void.”

Starbreaker made his first appearance in Justice League of America #96 (cover-dated February 1972), the first of three issues featuring the villain and collectively known as “The Starbreaker Saga.” The story opened with Starbreaker, “the Cosmic Vampire,” attacking Rann. The Justice League repelled Starbreaker, and he was eventually imprisoned by the Guardians of Oa, creators of the Green Lantern Corps.

He didn’t appear again until two decades later in Justice League America #63-65 (cover-dated June, July, and August 1992), briefly after Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis had departed the title. Scripted by Dan Jurgens, the League at the time consisted of Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Superman (briefly before his death), Maxima, Fire, Ice, Guy Gardner, and Bloodwynd (later revealed to be Martian Manhunter in disguise). In the story, Starbreaker menaced the planet Almerac, League member Maxima’s home planet. Blue Beetle and Booster Gold stopped Starbreaker by discorporating him, exactly as summarized in the flashback in Adam Strange #7.

As Sardath continues his narration, he explains how Sh’ri Valkyr found Starbreaker adrift and incorporeal. As a Thanagarian death cultist, Valkyr saw in Starbreaker the possibility to usher in the end of the universe. Adam’s surprised to learn that Valkyr, who saved his life, is a death cultist. Sardath says that Thanagarian spies had learned of the Omega Beam device. Valkyr wanted to use it to convert all the universe into energy, then — instead of beaming it somewhere else — beam it straight inside Starbreaker himself. The cosmic vampire would consume all life in the universe in one fell swoop. To this end, Valkyr sent two aliens to Rann — the same Adam later killed on Earth — to steal the Omega Beam, but they bungled the job, stealing a traditional Zeta Beam instead. Sardath couldn’t uninvent the Omega Beam, knew that Valkyr would try again, and that neither Rann nor Adam could withstand Starbreaker — apparently, Sardath had somehow learned of Valkyr’s plans.

So Sardath concocted a plan. He would fake Rann’s destruction, using its Omega Beam to teleport Rann and its suns to a parallel universe already otherwise dead from entropy. Moments later, a second Omega device in the Hydra Nebula would beam a star just about to go supernova into the place of Alpha Centauri. The sun would go supernova, appearing to have eradicated Rann, and the station with the second Omega device would self-destruct, eradicating any evidence.

At this, Vril Dox storms off, saying he’s heard enough.

Sardath apologizes for not cluing Adam into the plan earlier, saying that he was worried that Adam was being watched and could do nothing even as Alanna pined. Adam then realizes the horrible truth: that Sh’ri Valkyr must have duped him and must be tracking him.

Just then, Valkyr’s ship arrives in the dead universe via its Zeta Beam device. Speaking to the still ghostly Starbreaker, Valkyr says that Sardath hid Rann in a dead universe — just as Starbreaker had suspected. Because the universe is dead, it has no witnesses. Starbreaker says he’ll devour Rann’s suns and then the planet itself. He exits the ship and heads into one of Rann’s suns. As he does, his flesh begins to rematerialize upon his wraith-like form.

On Rann, Adam, Alanna, Tigorr, and Broot respond to a security alert to find Vril Dox standing by the Omega device, having taken control of its computers. Adam threatens him, but Dox teleports away, wishing Adam luck as he does.

Then Rann’s main sun begins to dim. Sardath realizes that it’s Starbreaker and says the villain will drain all three suns before turning to Rann itself, which by then would already be freezing solid. Just as things couldn’t get any worse, Valkyr’s ship turns towards Rann on an attack trajectory.

Adam wants Sardath to beam Rann back to its own universe, stranding Valkyr and Starbreaker in the dead universe. Sardath points out that Valkyr’s ship has Zeta technology and must be destroyed first in order to prevent it from simply following them back to their own universe. Adam says goodbye to Alanna, then takes a band of Rannians with Tigorr into the air in Sardath’s new combat suits like the one Adam’s been wearing.

As scores of Rannians take to the air with Adam and Tigorr, they find scores of Thanagarians already disembarking from Valkyr’s ship to meet them. The dramatic moment gets a single double-page panel.

Inside, Alanna wants to take a suit herself and join her husband, but Sardath forbids it, saying that they need to recalculate the Omega Beam equations because the planet’s orbit is shifting as Starbreaker eats its sun. First, however, he destroys the tracker that Valkyr hid in Adam’s Zeta-Beamer.

Suddenly, Valkyr herself arrives, greeting Alanna by name. Clearly, the two women in Adam’s life are about to face off…

It’s a dramatic end to an important issue. After seven issues, readers finally have all the answers to the mystery of Rann’s disappearance — and they’re pretty satisfactory ones. Readers also found out that the strange energy being Valkyr worships was none other than Starbreaker, spurring a good deal of internet response as people tried to figure out the villain’s history. Reader response to the issue was overwhelmingly positive, and many expressed that they liked seeing Adam back on Rann with Alanna and Sardath.

Adam Strange #8: “Planet Heist, Part Eight”

Andy Diggle story; Pascal Ferry art; Pascal Ferry cover; cover-dated June 2005

The final issue opens with Starbreaker absorbing Rann’s stars, his newly corporeal body aflame with muscle and energy. As he finishes, he turns his attention to Rann itself.

In orbit over Rann, the armored Rannians are attacking the Thanagarian vessel and taking casualties. Adam takes out one of the ship’s laser turrets along with some Thanagarians in pursuit. Adam, Tigorr, and Broot are considerably better fighters than the Rannians, who want to turn and flee.

Then a L.E.G.I.O.N. assault fleet materializes along with the Omega Wing. Dox acts surprised that Adam didn’t realize he programmed the Omega device to beam him back with reinforcements.

Dox has also brought the last three remaining Darkstars — a now defunct interplanetary peace-keeping force that took the place of the Green Lantern Corps after their destruction in the 1990s. Adam directs these three Darkstars — Ferrin Colos, Munchukk, and Chaser Bron — to hold off Starbreaker while the others take down Valkyr. Dox orders the L.E.G.I.O.N. fleet to help distract Starbreaker.

The rest of the Omega Men are onboard the Omega Wing, and Tigorr wonders if Dox has pardoned them. Dox says that he’s done no such thing.

Adam Strange beams inside the Thanagarian ship, where he materializes by its reactor. He then teleports the reactor core itself up to the ship’s command nest, using his knowledge of Thanagarian ships to figure out how to program the Zeta-Beamer. The ship blows up, and Adam Strange rematerializes back with the other Rannians.

No sooner has he done so, however, than he hears that the Omega lab on Rann has been compromised. There, Valkyr and two Thanagarians are holding Alanna and Sardath hostage. Sardath explains that they can’t stop the countdown and that the Omega Beam is going to teleport Rann back to its universe in less than two minutes.

Valkyr readies her gun to kill Sardath, but Adam teleports in, killing the two Thanagarian goons with two shots and wounding Valkyr with the third. Apparently, there’s a third Thanagarian because Adam has to fight him hand-to-hand. Valkyr’s still alive, though, and takes Alanna prisoner.

Valkyr demands the others throw down their weapons. They know that, if they do, Valkyr will kill them and destroy the universe. But to stop Valkyr, Adam would have to fire through Alanna — something Alanna pleads for him to do, thinking of Aleea.

Starbreaker’s now in Rann orbit, and the three Darkstars aren’t having much luck opposing him. Starbreaker kills Munchukk with a blast. Dox explains that their own blasts are only making the energy vampire stronger and that the two remaining Darkstars should switch the polarity of their weapons and siphon off Starbreaker’s power instead. As the two Darkstars blast Starbreaker with their energy-absorbing weapons, Dox orders the L.E.G.I.O.N. fleet to return to Rann. Chaser Bron’s exo-suit overloads from the power, and he explodes, leaving Ferrin Colos as the last Darkstar.

As Valkyr holds Alanna, she mocks Adam’s resolve, saying that Earthmen would apparently let the universe die “just to spare themselves the emotional anguish of putting down some milk-fed Rannian sow!” Alanna doesn’t like this language, apparently, and headbutts Valkyr. Valkyr knocks Alanna down and moves to the Omega device’s console. She can’t stop the countdown, but she can alter the destination. Adam tells her to step back, and she mocks him as lacking “what it takes to shoot a woman in the back.”

Then she’s shot — by Alanna, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with her father and husband. Valkyr lies before them, her back smoking.

Ferrin Colos, elsewhere, is fighting Starbreaker on his own. He knows his suit is overloading and asks others to remember him and the Darkstars. Then he dies, his energy absorbed by Starbreaker, who now turns to Rann.

With the L.E.G.I.O.N. fleet now on Rann, Adam and Alanna kiss as the Omega Beam takes effect, teleporting the whole planet and leaving Starbreaker screaming in the void.

The series would seem to be over — but the drama isn’t.

Now safe, Sardath vows to destroy the Omega Beam. Adam suggests that Sardath first use it to prevent the supernova where Alpha Centauri used to be from continuing to expand, potentially hitting Earth four years later. As Sardath comes to his senses, checking the computers while feeling self-congratulatory, he notices something horrible: Valkyr succeeded in altering Rann’s destination — to the Polaris system, home of Thanagar.

Adam curses Valkyr, saying that she knew Thanagar would perceive Rann’s presence as an attack. Thanagar has long wanted war with Rann, and this would be just the kind of excuse the Thanagarians were looking for. Then, conveniently, a grenade falls from Valkyr’s dead hand — destroying the Omega device so that they can’t just beam Rann away again.

It’s then that Sardath drops another bombshell: Rann’s gravitational pull is altering Thanagar’s orbit, shifting it towards the sun.

Adam recognizes the irony immediately: Valkyr wanted to destroy Rann and instead has wound up dooming Thanagar. He vows to save as many Thanagarians as he can, and both the Omega Men and L.E.G.I.O.N. vow to pitch in. With Adam staring into space nobly, Alanna and the others by his side, he boldly says that they’ve got a planet to save.

It’s a cool ending to a very cool series. The drama of the last two issues really feels like a successful pay-off for the mystery that dominated the first six issues. The real great character moment, however, is Alanna’s — she might want to suit up and join her husband, but it’s in killing Valkyr that Alanna comes into her own in a big way.

The story doesn’t really have a conclusion in a conventional sense — there’s no status quo that’s returned to. If no story followed the mini-series directly, readers would simply take this as a sign that Adam Strange’s world is one of perpetual action. But, of course, the mini-series is followed by The Rann-Thanagar War. Given the end of the mini-series, we would expect The Rann-Thanagar War to begin with the evacuation of Thanagar. In fact, that second mini-series in fact begins a bit later, feeling a bit less connected to Adam Strangethan one might want.

One thing’s for sure, however. Whether considered a prequel to The Rann-Thanagar War or a story in its own right, Adam Strange: Planet Heist is a fun outer-space romp. It takes in many of DC’s outer-space characters, though not as much as The Rann-Thanagar War. Whereas that mini-series is a war story, Adam Strange is a mystery — and a very fun one at that.

Diggle’s script is tight and Ferry’s artwork is the perfect complement. One only hopes that they will be allowed to produce a sequel — one with Adam on Rann throughout — once Infinite Crisis has calmed down.

Read the Rest

“Your Guide to Infinite Crisis” attempts to spell out and outline the whole of this sprawling, complicated crossover. It has several other installments, organized by the narrative thread under discussion:

The OMAC Project

Day of Vengeance

Villains United

The Rann-Thanagar War

The Return of Donna Troy

Crisis of Conscience

PowerTrip

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

In 1996, while still an undergraduate, Dr. Julian Darius founded what would become Sequart Organization. After graduating magna cum laude from Lawrence University (Appleton, Wisconsin), he obtained his M.A. in English, authoring a thesis on John Milton and utopianism. In 2002, he moved to Waikiki, teaching college while obtaining an M.A. in French (high honors) and a Ph.D. in English. In 2011, he founded Martian Lit, which publishes creative work, including his comic book Martian Comics. He currently lives in Illinois.

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