"Not in this world." But in others?

"Ex Machina" #47 from Wildstorm Productions (an imprint of DC Comics)

The noir drama Sci-Fi superhero action political thriller's last arc continues! It's noir in style, but thriller in pace. Political, Sci-Fi, and superhero in genre. Action in content. Drama by definition.

Another great issue on the heels of the last month's! If you're not reading this, you're silly.

Tony Harris' work on this issue has a much more fleshed-out (and much appreciated) 3D look to it, because cross-hatched shadows give his thick line-work more definition and volume, a bit more weight, while losing none of the pop and drama he'd regained in the previous issue.

Vaughan brings the Sci-Fi element (established in issue #44) of the source of his main character Mayor Mitchell Hundred's powers being potentially extra-dimensional back to the fore in this issue by making reference to yet another element of DC Comics lore that a comic-book fan like Mitchell Hundred would know all about: the infinite Earths of the Multiverse!

The issue opens with Mitchell at twelve years old debating about DC Comics character's different incarnations from different Earths with his friend Max. Upon the moment Kremlin says to Mitchel's mother "Not in this world" we cut to a hallucination in the present in which Mayor Mitchel Hundred sees an alternate Earth and meets an alternate version of himself. He comes to (after last month's first cliffhanger) thanks to loyal bodyguard Bradbury giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. This is followed by a great joke reminding us of the Mayor's successful effort of many, many issues ago to legalize gay marriage in New York!

Soon we learn of Mitchell's real reason for squashing the 'abortion pill' suggestion of his closest aide in issue #45 during a conversation with Mitch's lawyer, the grown-up Max. (Who looks strangely like comic-book character Clark Kent...) There's an amazing and really fucked-up scene referencing the surprise ending of the first issue. The new 'villain' of the series Suzanne Padilla floating next to the single standing tower of the World Trade Center complex. Terrifying. Almost as terrifying as the moment of sudden shocking bloody gore Padilla perpetrates later in the issue. (Which was, I thought, a bit tasteless and off-tone for the series.) After the moment at the left, seeing her own reflection in a pool of blood, Suzanne says: "I'm... I'm doing the right thing." "Right?"

As the series gets closer and closer to concluding, I'm reminded of the opening Brian K. Vaughan wrote of the first issue. It depicted Hundred after all the chaos of his mayoral term broken and miserable, but willing to tell the story to... someone? Us? How close to that moment is Vaughan going to go, I wonder?

Most comic-books don't touch this stuff. Not in OUR world. And I don't mean the gore. The cohesive superhero universes that have been slowly built since the Thirties are too sensitive and too corporate-controlled. Not that superhero characters don't run for office. Captain America tried it once and I believe Green Arrow not only ran, but won the office of mayor of Star City in fairly recent years. But any stories wouldn't have had the latitude to tackle issues like emergency contraception and gay marriage even if they were in that position. Even most indie and underground comics are tame in their political stances compared to this. DC Comics (and its imprints) HAS been pushing these boundaries for years and years. (See: "Watchmen".) Is "Ex Machina" closer to our universe (i.e., the quote-unquote real world) or closer to the worlds of superhero fantasy presented by parent publisher DC Comics? It's up to Brian K. Vaughan. That is the beauty of all fiction.

"Not in this world", they can say.
But in others?, we reply.

This stuff is great because it is art that explores the worlds of possibility like Sci-Fi, while maintaining a real connection to the topical horrors of our world through political comment like CNN. A potent mixture on an increasingly epic scale. That's good fiction.

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