Ex Machina #23


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Ex Machina #23


  • Words: Brian K. Vaughan
  • Art: Tony Harris
  • Inks: Tom Feister
  • Colors: J.D. Mettler
  • Story Title: Smoke Smoke: Chapter 3
  • Publisher: DC Comics/WildStorm
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Sep 13, 2006

A string of violent break-ins has New York citizens on edge and Mayor Hundred once again forced to look into his past as the Great Machine.

The wonderful (and sometimes confusing) thing about this title is that it not only contains some of the richest characterizations of primary and secondary characters in all mainstream comics, but that it is basically running two separate yet entwined plots spaced several years apart. As Ex Machina shows month in and month out, the following Nietzsche quote rings so very true: "Man cannot learn to forget, but hangs on the past: however far or fast he runs, that chain runs with him." Mayor Hundred may have spent little time as the Great Machine before turning to politics, but during that superhero tenure he came across dozens of criminals who would love nothing better than to make his current profession a living hell. Such seems to be the case when a thief begins dressing as a city firefighter and preying on the trust of innocent civilians.

Vaughan is working his magic again here. Though I still get a little peeved about the writer’s tendency to give his artist(s) too little work to do (ironically, something Vaughan brought up in the most recent Escapists) with no more than four panels on any single page in this issue, he still manages to pack plenty of story in. Readers aren’t treated to much of the wit that Vaughan typically showcases, but the use of interesting "useless" facts still comes into play. There is also one trippy scene between Hundred and a dog that is strange and alluring. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a quality BKV issue if there wasn’t some sort of astonishing and/or enigmatic cliffhanger, and this one gives plenty of the latter.

Tony Harris seems to get better with each issue. Maybe I feel that way because the title is on a one issue/five week release schedule and I just miss Harris’s industry-leading ability to draw realism in human emotion (Seriously, does anyone do the sarcastic eye roll better?). Or maybe it’s because Harris, Feister and Mettler have become so in tune that they’ve been able to refine the look of this book to lifelike form. Whatever it is, this book is a visual treat from the gorgeous cover to the teasing final splash page.

Part of me wants to start reading Ex Machina in trades because of Vaughan’s methodical periodization. But then I see it sitting there on the shelf every fifth week, and I realize that it’s one of those books that is just too good to wait a half year or more to read and wonder at its pretty interiors.

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