The Beginning of a Political Fall

"Ex Machina" #45 from Wildstorm (an imprint of DC Comics)

(I haven't read more than a random smattering of issues of this series and the previous one, #44.)

This is the first issue of the last story-arc of Brian K. Vaughan's "Ex Machina". The series that presented a superhero stopping one of the planes that struck the Twin Towers on September 11th 2001, the series that has an ex-superhero mayor of New York City, the series that showed a fictional mayor choose to legalize same-sex marriage in the five burroughs of NYC, is coming to a close in four months.

How will this beautifully ordered insanity end? Reporter Suzanne Padilla was imbued with the third formerly unknown 'superpower' in the last issue: Mayor Mitchell Hundred the 'superhero' can psychically control machines, Phearson the 'supervillain' could psychically control animals (before his death), and now we have a new wrinkle in the form of Ms. Padilla now being able to control people. Scary.

Honestly, not much happens in this issue. It's mostly set-up and drum-beating. Mayor Hundred and his main aide Dave speak about abortion and whether or not a government has the right to openly support any form of birth control. Tony Harris's art isn't at its best in these pages. His figures look stiff and his scenery blurry. The flashback? An especially brilliant one. 'The Great Machine', Hundred's nom-de-tights from his short time as a crime-fighter, flies out to the Roosevelt Island tram-car stuck over the river and discovers... a woman about to give birth! Trapped on the Roosevelt Island tram, how will the Great Machine get out of this one? As always the flashback story could be a great story all by itself, but is made relevant when tied-in with the main storyline. The art is also really solid in these pages.

In the middle, a conversation between Mayor Hundred and the Police Commissioner of NYC about the (very, VERY) unusual activity of last issue. Read my review to get a better idea.

Suzanne Padilla then shows herself and when asked: "The Mayor. You're... you're gonna kill him, aren't you?" she replies "Don't be ridiculous. I'm going to kill everyone on the planet."

Then we see the title of this final arc of the series: "Pro-Life" Part One. Is Brian K. Vaughan a smart wanker or what? Just look at his smug little smile. He knows it. In the physical comic, this statement is immediately followed by the preview pages for Wildtorm's upcoming "Planetary" #27, that series' final issue. What more could you want?

(Brian K. Vaughan and his little smile.)

Well, a bit more story to begin with. I never realized until reading this how badly Vaughan is guilty of 'writing for the trade' as they call it. I have no doubt that by the end of this arc everything will be wrapped up pretty well. But as someone coming off of the crazy action conclusion of an arc and to find myself thrown into the slow-moving nothingness of a beginning of an arc... You have to understand. I HAD TO DIG JUST TO HAVE SPECIFIC EVENTS TO WRITE ABOUT FOR MY REVIEW. Last month I could barely contain all the information I had to give you. This is a problem in my mind. If you want to tell 150-page-sized stories. Do that. Write a series of small "Ex Machina" graphic novels. GO STRAIGHT TO THE 'TRADE'! I'll read them if they're good! Don't split a big story into little parts with a huge imbalance of story elements. Judd Winick does this too, only worse. An issue of meat- followed by an issue of fluff- followed by an issue of meat. An issue of character work- followed by an issue of action- followed by an issue of character work. Is it so hard to build your plot with multiple spikes of rising action? Jeez.

And Harris needs to be more careful. His style leans toward stiffness in the way the characters stand. They need to have a flowing dynamic pose (like he usually does) to look alive.

THE LONG AND SHORTBOX OF IT? This is pretty good, slightly uneven material. I hope BKV has the plan to carry this out smart and exciting and Harris's work will be fluid and striking, like most of "Ex Machina" has been! I'll be reading and reviewing the last four issues here.

UPDATE: 9/20/2oo9

I bought a copy of "Ex Machina" #34 on the street the other day and read it on the train. It is an excellently constructed issue giving us a quick version of the life story of the very interesting character, Commissioner Amy Angotti. And I only paid a buck for it! That is perhaps the single best thing about living in New York. Comic-books sold on the sidewalk. Amazing.

Oh, more importantly, it gives great illumination to me about the scene in which Hundred talks with her. I now see that some long-term threads were added to there, and I enjoyed it more. It made the whole issue feel less... empty.

So my ignorance shouldn't account for the quality of this issue. This is the final story-arc of a four or five year-old series. Not everything is going to make perfect sense to me since I haven't read every issue of the series. I revise my statement to "very good, if slightly uneven material".

That is all.

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