It’s been a good long while since I’ve mentioned comic books, hasn’t it? I keep making this mistake and I apologize. The biggest problem is, the best comic books and graphic novels I read tend to be, well, less than child friendly. But, in the interest of giving honest recommendations, I have one of my favorite comic series for the Comic Book Club. Hang on ‘cause I’m gonna recommend Ex Machina today.
Not All Heroes Need Be Great
A little bit of trivia about me will reveal that Brian K. Vaughan is one of my favorite comic writers at the moment. Of the things he’s written, Ex Machina tends to be my favorite, beating out what may be his more popular series, Y: The Last Man. My reasoning behind the love is Vaughan’s dialogue. I’m huge on dialogue, so when a writer does it well, by which I mean characters exchange what seems like natural and interesting conversations without feeling too wordy, then I’m happy. And Tony Harris’ artwork only helps translate Vaughan’s script to the page, making him a great artist to check out.
The central story of Ex Machina follows Mitchell Hundred as mayor of New York City. The story is told in constant flashbacks to before he was mayor and while he is currently mayor. What makes him special is that he was briefly a super hero called the Great Machine and can talk to machines of all sorts after getting caught in some freak explosion. Hundred’s origins are interesting without seeming stupid, and as a character he’s vastly deeper than the usual hero you encounter. Hundred tries to be a hero and fails miserably since, well, super heroes don’t really exist. Instead he runs for mayor and wins because in this history, the Great Machine stops the second plane from hitting the towers. I wish I could find that panel and post the image, but just trust me, it’s pretty sweet. Definitely one of the most powerful images I’ve seen in a comic book.
So because of this huge popularity boost, Hundred becomes the new mayor and so most of the plot arcs contain both something supernatural as well as him just dealing with mayoral business. Surprisingly, the political situations are vastly more interesting to me and I have no idea why. Probably because Mayor Hundred acts like we’d all hope we would as a mayor: Snarky, intelligent, and rational. Totally unbelievable, but fun to read.
I will say that the real downside to this, as with most of Vaughan’s writing, is the characters tend to be written a bit too clever. What do I mean by that? I mean that one character will make some extremely obscure reference to something that few other people would really appreciate, yet whoever he’s talking to will perfectly understand the reference. That’s like me assuming that everyone would get the joke if I told them to go to HFIL. The only problem is that in Vaughan’s world, all his characters are as clever as he is, and it’s just not believable.
Despite the idealized nature of the dialogue, all the characters are interesting. You’ll find yourself caring what happens to these people and the situations they find themselves in, and even more you’ll find yourself enjoying the plots and the resolutions. But Ex Machina is currently in 10 parts with the final volume not yet released (November is when it’s expected out). Because of this I go crazy since I need a story to have utter closure before I can move on. When you read Ex Machina, you’ll certainly need to trek through the volumes in order and immediately following on another. Reading something in between may cause you to forget critical plot elements that you’ll need when continuing on.
And that’s really the only thing I worry about when recommending Ex Machina. It’s a fantastic series, but if you read the first volume and like it, as I suspect will be the case, you better be ready to read the next nine to resolve everything. That’s why I strongly recommend making a trip to our local library, otherwise check out the first volume and never look back. You’ll most likely thank me.