Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Ex Machina #6 - A Review

Written by: Brian K. Vaughn
Penciled by: Tony Harris
Inked by: Tom Feister
Colored by: JD Mettler
Lettered by: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Ben Abernathy
Publisher: Wildstorm Comics

Okay. You have no excuse not to read this book now. Yes, I’m talking to you.

I know, I know. I’ve said before that “Ex Machina” is the greatest thing since sliced bread and you should be reading it. So you tried picking up issue 4 or 5 and it didn’t make a lick of sense. And you thought I was being an elitist snob having fun at your expense, recommending some trendy arthouse book that just went over your head.

Well, we all make mistakes. And I can cop to mine. See, I’ve been reading this book since issue one and I’m a big fan of the work of Brian K. Vaughn (Y: The Last Man, Ultimate X-Men) and Tony Harris (Starman, JSA: The Liberty File). I’ll admit my jonesing over two of my favorites working together did blind me to the fact that there’s some stuff you miss unless you’ve been reading since issue one. This is a great book but it is somewhat difficult to just pick up and read. Throw in the fact that the first five-issue arc was something of a mystery and that there’s a lot of flashbacks to a past that we know little about… and I can see why you got frustrated with this title.

But it’s different now. This one, Number Six, starts a WHOLE new story arc. Nothing you need to know going in, except perhaps the basic premise of the series. And that, I can give you for free.

Mitchell Hundred was raised by a single mother who was something of a political activist. One of his babysitters was a Russian tinker who he called Kremlin. Mitchell grew up to become an engineer working for the city of New York. He would be called out to investigate a bomb threat under the Brooklyn Bridge, only to be caught in the explosion of a strange device that did not hurt the bridge, but left Mitchell changed forever.

Somehow, Mitchell gained the ability to speak to machines and control them. Any type of machine, clockwork or electronic, is his to command. He can command guns not to fire, answer his phone without the touch of a button and even set off the airbags in a car before impact. He tried to use his powers as a superhero called The Great Machine with only Kremlin (who built several crime-fighting devices as well as a jet-pack for Mitchell) and Bradbury (a Harbor Patrol cop who was on the scene when Mitchell got his powers) aware of his secret. Mitchell accomplishes quite a bit, much to the chagrin of the Police Commissioner, who isn’t crazy about a vigilante working in her city.

Still, Mitchell decides to give up the superhero act, reveals his identity to the world and parlays the instant celebrity into a bid for Mayor of New York City. A bid that becomes a sure thing when he puts his costume on for the last time, in order to save the second World Trade Center Tower on 9/11/2001. It is now March 2002, Bradbury is now his security head, Kremlin is now estranged from them both and Mitchell is slowly learning the ropes of how to run the biggest city in the world. It is a daunting task his superpowers can’t begin to help him with. Rounding out the cast of regulars is Suzzane Padilla, a reporter who makes Lois Lane seem demure; Dave Wylie, Mitchell’s deputy mayor and intern/special advisor Journal Moore.

As far as the artwork goes, it’s about damn time we got Tony Harris on a regular monthly title again. He hasn’t had one since Starman and he’s been sorely missed since he left about halfway through that also long-missed series. He’s had a few projects since then, the JSA books and a lot of covers at Marvel among them, but nothing steady until now. And boy does every panel of this book make me realize how much we’ve been missing out on.

Whether you are, like me, a brazen fanboy of these two great masters or a total newbie to the world of comics and the work of Brian K. Vaughn and Tony Harris, you should be reading this book. Even if you know their work and, for some reason I can’t begin to conceive, didn’t like it… you should read this book. It is unlike anything that has ever been done before and, I think, anything we will ever see again.

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