Thursday, May 27, 2010

Super-Powered Comics: Ex Machina

The book will soon come to an end with a final issue shipping this July. So I thought it would be great to take a weekly look back at a truly great series Ex Machina.

Created by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris, the series continues Vaughan’s evil knack for taking great concepts that no one thought of before. Well, except for me, of course. I came up with the idea of a story focused around a super-powered mayor just months before Ex Machina first debuted. Yet another reason to kick myself for not being a voice in comics yet, but I digress.

The first five issues collect in to a trade aptly titled “The First Hundred Days”. We focus on the first hundred days of Mitchell Hundred as he takes on the daunting task of mayor of New York City. The independent minded Hundred is surrounded by a strong supporting cast of staff members and friends. But as I mentioned before, Hundred isn’t just a normal guy. He possesses the ability to talk to and control machines thanks to a mysterious bomb that embedded a strange layer of wires beneath parts of his skin. He used these powers to become a rather inefficient hero named the Great Machine, but quickly realized his superhero career would take him nowhere fast. He decided to run for mayor as an indepedent, a proposition that would have taken him nowhere if it wasn't for September 11, 2001. For in the world of Ex Machina, a man able to talk to machines could arrive on the scene fast enough to stop the plane from crashing in to the second tower. With hundreds saved, Mitchell was a shoe in for the office.

His first few days don’t go as easily as he might like, as a controversial art show and a mysterious murder spree put a crink in to his position, all while a terrible snowstorm occurs outside. Vaughan gives us everything we need to know to understand Mitchell as a man and his history as the Great Machine, while also leaving dozens of questions still open. It is much the same tact, he took with the early issues of Y: The Last Man, but the more focused narrative of Ex Machina makes it feel less blatant.

Tony Harris comes from the school of photo-referenced art, but unlike some of the more modern purveyors of such art, he seems to be clearly still putting pencil to paper. While his poses and his motions always show amazing human grace, they never suffer from the photoshopped filtered look of many recent artists. Much like he did a decade before for Starman, Harris sets out to make this book his own. It shows on every page.

If it hasn’t been made clear, I love this series. Great story, great art, and a clever concept all combine to make one of the most compelling comics of the last few years. Give it a try. Highly Recommended.

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