Vaughan and Harris Ring In the New!

"Ex Machina" #44 from Wildstorm (an imprint of DC Comics)

I just bought and read the latest "Ex Machina" yesterday. (I forgot it on Wednesday!) And it is excellent.

(I only wish that I had read issues #33-43! For you should be aware of this up-front.)

This series has finally broken through the barrier into a full-fledged Sci-Fi and I couldn't be happier! I'm not going to give away the first clues as to the origins of Mayor Mitchell Hundred's powers revealed in this issue. But be forewarned! They are SCI-FI. With a capital S and F. Unless they merely seem to be. Which is possible. This is not a simple cut-and-dried superhero book. It is a political superhero story about an engineer who suddenly gains the ability to communicate with machines under strange circumstances and becomes a superhero for a year before deciding it was dangerous and stupid and parlays the celebrity into a winning bid for the office of the Mayor of New York.

Weird, yes? Good also!

The first thing we see in issue #44 is Mayor Mitchell Hundred's faithful bodyguard Bradbury in flashback on the eve of Hundred's victory as mayor staring at some off-panel glowing thing and saying: "What the hell is it?" and there are a few times over the issue where the reader is in the same position. But, you know, in an enjoyable way: the head of a mechanical-looking man explodes to reveal a sentient, talking purple box. That kind of Sci-Fi-I-can't-yet-tell-what-is-going-on-but-I-like-it.

The really weird thing is that it involves a color spectrum of super-powers in a similar manner to what Geoff Johns has done with Green Lantern over the past few years. Far be it for me to call a professional out on cribbing from another's work. That IS after all part of how we all get better at what we do. I'm certainly guilty of it. Well...

Tony Harris' art is gorgeous once again. His smooth as liquid line-work gives every page great life and movement while the judicious use of that line allows every shape a weight and realism that escapes most comic-artists. Somehow only drawing the rough outline of lips (and sometimes not a completely enclosed outline) creates a more realistic rendering. Most shading is left up to the colorist, which is a smart technique that the comics industry should have picked up on sooner as quote-unquote 'fine' artists have been making portraits in oil paint that way for centuries.

As always the flashbacks (a hallmark of the series) are smart and fit in perfectly with the rest of the story.

The promise in this issue of a new direction and focus for the book (which coincides with the New Year's celebrations occurring in this issue and implied in the arc's title "Ring Out the Old") has me very excited about "Ex Machina" for the first time in several years!

You can be sure I will be picking up and reviewing this book next month!

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