cover #1Ex Machina Special

(2006 - two issues, published by Wildstorm/DC)

Script: Brian K. Vaughan. Art: Chris Sprouse, Karl Story..

Ex Machina is the comics series about an ex-super hero who has become Mayor of New York -- the story arcs usually mixing elements of municipal politics, with some crime elements, spruced up with some flashbacks to hero, Mitchell Hundred's, pre-political super hero exploits.

This two part micro-series reverses that formula. Although framed by a sequence of Mitchell as mayor, the body of the story is the flashback to Mitchell's uncertain efforts as a super hero as he beards a man who, in some ways, is his opposite number. Mitchell's power is that he can control and communicate with machines using his voice...his adversary here is a mad animal rights activist who can control and communicate with animals.

I ended up picking up a few Ex Machina issues in the cheap boxes, wanting to give the series a try (my reviews of the first three TPB collections being here) and just never really found the series worked for me, to my way of thinking the series just isn't half as clever as it thinks it is...or it needs to be. Still, I thought it might be interesting to read a more "conventional" super hero style adventure of The Great Machine.

And it still just left me kind of blah.

As a straight ahead adventure-thriller, it never really manages to excite, the overall feel too glib. As an attempt to tackle deeper political and social issues, it seemed kind of awkward (the flashback is framed by a radio interview in which Mayor Hundred is asked his opinion on capital punishment...but even though the story builds to a kill-or-be-killed showdown...I still didn't really feel the story logically served as a response to the question). Likewise, Vaughan's treatment of "issues" often runs more to dropping a few talking point statistics rather than shaping it into a textured human drama. Which also relates to his characterization in the series, which can tend to be a bit callow and superficial. You can get far more insight into the "Human Condition" reading an old Fantastic Four comic.

Still, for those as likes the monthly series, it's perfectly consistent with the monthly series, while probably being a nice chance to see The Great Machine in action in more than just a few isolated flashback scenes. And guest artist Chris Sprouse affects a realist style that is easily evocative of the series' regular penciller, Tony Harris (and colourist JD Mettler continues his/her use of kind of washed out hues that actually bleed some of the realism from the images the series is going for).

Ex Machina is a critically well regarded series, and has picked up a few comic book awards, and I'm not really writing this to try and convince anyone of the rightness of my view (or the wrongness of theirs). If you like the series -- great. Me? I'm just not "getting" it.