Tomato here, filling in for RacattackForce, because I owe him ten bucks or something. (Seriously, why do I do this for you people?) Anyway, I’m a self-identified nerd, and proud of it. For me, nerdiness has always been a sort of mantle, a badge of honor to proudly wear. You’ve got comic nerds, gaming nerds, cartoon nerds, math nerds, RPG nerds, and, my biggest category, book nerds. My point is, nerds accept everybody. If you’ve got a passion that you’re willing to share with people, there’s a place in the cosmos of geekdom for you.
Unless you’re a political nerd. In that case, you’re positively screwed. Sorry, but if you’ve got an ear for debate, and yet aren’t old enough to drive, you’d be lucky to find two people who wouldn’t call you a mental patient. Political nerds are a dying breed. But, I’m pretty sure that two graphic geniuses, Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris, have just given the community a kick in the pants. A kick in the pants that happens to be called Ex Machina.
Ex Machina starts out in an unforgettable way. We’re in an office, observing a conversation between a very famous, but VERY drunk Mitchell Hundred, mayor of New York, recounting his term to another person, “from 2002 through God-forsaken 2005”. The other person asks why he couldn’t handle it: he does, in fact, have superpowers. Mitchell’s response? “My life may look like a comic, but it’s really a tragedy.”
From there, Mitchell flashes back to various points in his life, as we uncover what led the superhero known as The Great Machine to not only gain his powers, but run for Mayor of New York, win, and end up wasted and depressed only three years later. We’re witnessing the rise and fall of a superhero. And every second of it is pure comic gold.
Mitchell, a lifetime comic book fanatic turned civil engineer, is called down to inspect a mysterious glowing object beneath a bridge. Clearly, he hadn’t read enough comics, because he’s completely surprised when the mysterious glowing gadget blows half of his face off. He’s even MORE surprised, however, when microwaves, airplanes, guns, and other machines start talking to him. So, naturally, with the help of a crazy Russian family friend named Kremlin and his loyal bodyguard, Bradbury, he decides to become New York’s first superhero. It doesn’t go over well. He’s treated as a madcap vigilante by nearly ever citizen of New York, and is nearly arrested by the NYPD. That is, until he saves the South Tower on the morning of September 11, 2001. Naturally, he hangs up the jet-pack afterward, and trades it for a seat Gracie Mansion, where he becomes mayor of New York, publicly outing himself as a superhero. But, as you find out within the first two issues of Ex Machina, that’s the least of the worries that Hundred and his staff have to face.
Yes, I am implying that, in this comic, political issues are addressed. I can practically feel the hairs on a good chuck of our readers’ necks stand up, but I swear to Fos that this comic is exciting. Don’t mistake it for Meet The Press: The Graphic Novel, because it’s not. There is a plot, and it’s not just debate after debate. Nor does Brian use this comic as his own personal political soap-box, with the deftness of a jackhammer. (I’m looking at you, Bill Willingham!) The politics never impede the plot, and Vaughan knows how not to bore you.
And what a plot it is. By telling the narrative backward, you constantly get a better understanding of who Hundred is, and it never even seems tacked on for shock value. Vaughan is always, ALWAYS building toward that first moment, and I’m certain he knows where he’s going. Add in some GREAT spit-take one-liners, a great supporting cast, and a villain that could make Hitler crap bricks, and you’ve got some great writing.
But that’s not the biggest reason why you should read this comic. No, the biggest reason can be summed up in three words: TONY. EFFING. HARRIS.
Tony Harris is nothing less than an artistic genius. For fifty straight issues, EVERY panel of Ex Machina has been traced from an actual photo that Harris stages and takes himself, using actual actors with props. This results in art that will literally make you gasp in shock. Every page deserves at least ten minutes of vapid and unblinking stares. There’s THAT much detail in the art. Not to downplay the masterful writing by Vaughan, but you could take all of the dialogue out of this comic, and it;d still be worth every penny.
Overall, Ex Machina is a great comic, a love-letter to people who love to think while they read, and not be spoon-fed every plot point. It’s a love-letter to comics fans, a love-letter to political nerds, and, most of all, a love-letter to every person, and every hero, who still is a proud New Yorker, in triumph and tragedy. The first volume is called The First Hundred Days, and it’s available wherever books and comics are sold. So, if you’ve got some time, you’ve got no excuse not to become a cog in this awesome comic machine.
See you next week!
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