Archive for January, 2009


Ex Machina #40

Script by Brian K. Vaughan Pencils by Tony Harris

The fact that Ex Machina has a mere ten issues and one special left to it’s run makes me nervous on a monthly basis. In a medium where we know the JLA will never really be killed off or end a finite series seems so alien. As Vaughan’s previous series, Y The Last Man, was winding down readers all over the country were slowly forced to confront the hard truth: the book is going to end and it’s going to end on Vaughan’s preplanned terms. Much like Y, Ex Machina is a work of staggering genius, a work that builds upon the propensity of Alan Moore and the character work of Harvey Pekar while maintaining a real sense of early 1960’s Marvel mythology. I haven’t read anything about Stan Lee reading the series but I could only imagine that he’d enjoy it thoroughly.

The concept of Ex Machina is fairly simple; it’s about New York and anything Brian K. Vaughan sees as New Yorkish. It becomes more complicated from there. Mitchell Hundred, a civil engineer, has half of his face blown off by a strange glowing device near the Brooklyn Bridge and upon regaining consciousness, can talk to and control every machine he is in a close vicinity to. He becomes the world’s first superhero, inspired by DC heroes and Superman. He later retires from being a superhero, realizing he’s changing nothing, runs for mayor of New York City and wins.

By making comic heroes a very real fiction in Ex Machina BKV has begun a dialogue in the book about comics themselves, which is what this stand alone issue is all about. Thus far the only single issue story among tightly-plotted five issue story arcs counting down to the 50th issue, this issue seems immediately special and it certainly is. In the issue Mitchell Hundred decides he wants to make a memoir in the form of a graphic novel and two of the people who audition for him are Brian K. Vaughan and, yes, Tony Harris. The portrayal of Vaughan is especially interesting in this issue as a kind of frightened, neurotic writer who is scared of looking like an idiot while the very laid back and impressive Harris hits on secretaries and generally enjoys himself while in Gracie Mansion. Vaughan’s interview in the comic is an interesting one, a dissection of his loyalty to New York, how he hasn’t been able to leave it since September 11th, an event that has been integral to both the plot of Ex Machina and the life of Mitch Hundred and his former alter ego, The Great Machine. This issue appears to be very much about Vaughan and New York, though it’s not done in a way where Vaughan is celebrating himself, instead he seems to be celebrating his faults and weaknesses. And his love of NYC.

The idea of meta-fiction isn’t new by any means, during the second year of Fantastic Four Jack Kirby and Stan Lee has the FF meet them in their studio and it’s not nearly as subtle or meaningful. Reading it last year in the great Fantastic Four Omnibus Volume 1 was a fantastic treat but it borders on crass and is a definite walk into the jokey and goofy world of Lee’s absolutely non-serious writing. Vaughan does a much better of walking that fine line between telling a story about the characters that are based on you and telling a story celebrating you by showing just how great you think you are. But of course, there’s that whole bit about standing on the shoulders of giants. Because of his love


Batman #684

If you were on the fence about buying this issue of Batman after two years of non-stop LSD-induced Grant Morrison fun, just take a look at the cover, enjoy it and buy something else. It’s not really worth reading this last part of a two part story trying to wrap things up while extending them at the same time.

Dennis O’Neil was the editor of Batman for something like 15 years through the eighties and nineties(in fact the batman trade I’m reading right now is edited by him) and did a good amount of work writing the book back in the 1970’s before Frank Miller showed up and turned everything on it’s head. I’ve found his 70’s work, which is being reprinted in full this winter in hardcover, to be okay. Not good, not bad, but just…that’ll do, pig. This time around it’s just a step down. Nothing horrible but certainly not really worth your 15 minutes either.

There’s apparently an alternative cover. I liked it more just for the great Nightwing thinks Batman is dead shot.

I can’t decide if it’s O’Neil’s fault or not. The basic idea is to make everyone real sad because post RIP batman might be dead or he might not be. But everyone is sad and lonely and kind of afraid of the future. So in this issue you get the cops being bummed out that they actually have to do their jobs and you get nightwing sulking around, which is a shame because lately I think I’m the only person who sees the amazing potential in Nightwing becoming an astounding interesting character. I think we have one issue of Batman left before all of the bat books go on hiatus until battle for the cowl(which I am very doubtful of) begins. Then we’ll get Andy Kubert and Neil Gaiman on a two part Batman story ripping the title off of an Alan Moore Superman story from the 80’s. I’ll keep buying Batman because I love the character and I’m excited about reading “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader” and seeing Gaiman write something that isn’t a derivative children’s book that’s actually for high school goth girls.


Green Lantern #36

Sometimes I think about quitting superhero comics and just reading good indie stuff and human interest stuff and focusing more on reading traditional novels, devouring some classics in my spare time. Then I see things like this:

and I say, “ah, fuck it. Tolstoy can wait”

The complete mindfuck of the green lantern books has been that a year ago after the epic that was essentially empire strikes back of Geoff Johns’ GL trilogy ended, the final page basically said “oh, in 2009 the dead will rise, create their own army and go to war with all of the living. your loved ones are not safe.”

and so it goes on and on and the different corps are established and armies are built, strongholds are made, the book of Oa is rewritten and slowly and surely with major character development and fantastic art and action, we get to march towards mount fucking doom with Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis.

If you aren’t reading green lantern you are fucking with destiny.

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