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


1 Response to “Ex Machina #40”

  1. 1 Jacalyn
    March 3, 2009 at 2:48 am

    First blog I read after wakeup from sleep today!

    Mind Blowing!

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