Ex Machina: The Deluxe Edition Book 1
Welcome to Part 1 of the Renegade Cinema look at the amazing Ex Machina series, from start to finish. Instead of looking at each graphic novel in the series, we will be looking at the deluxe editions, which have two graphic novels in each book. This means there will be five parts to this series of books.
Ex Machina was created by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris, created by Wildstorm, which is a DC Comics imprint. According to Vaughan, this was his chance to explore real world politics but was more of a chance for him to express his anger for the politics in the country.
With that said, Ex Machina…
For people who watch television shows, the format of Ex Machina is similar to the show Lost. The book bounces around from the future to the present to the past. This allows the books to tell the full history of Mitch Hundred and how he went from a superhero to the major of New York City. It also works well because it allows his current actions as mayor to tie into things that he experienced as a superhero, both thematically and as a direct cause.
From the start, we see Hundred sitting down to tell his story and then flash back to his childhood enthusiasm with comic books and then flash forward to an assassination attempt where we learn that Mitch’s superpowers involves him being able to talk to and control machinery, in the first case him forcing a gun to jam. From this point, we meet the supporting characters including his bodyguard Bradbury, an old mentor named Kremlin, his Deputy Mayor Wylie and a police commissioner named Angotti.
We also see how he gets his powers after a freak explosion.
Up front, here is what this first book told me. I really don’t like the character of Police Commissioner Angotti. She is way too antagonistic in almost all situations and seems to want someone else to do her work for her, while also threatening anyone who helps her. She is very much an unlikeable character, making her more of an antagonist rather than a partner for Mayor Hundred. On the other hand, Wylie is very likeable even though he does not agree with Hundred on many things. He is much more level headed than Angotti and is a good sounding board where the controversial political ideas can see both sides of the political line.
From the beginning, Kremlin is set up as the antagonist, but the truth is that he is a character that the reader can completely understand where he is coming from. He wants Mayor Hundred to be a superhero – the Great Machine – because he feels he can do more good as a hero than as a politician. This entire series is about whether or not that is true.
It is also important to point out that this is a parallel world to our own because the final major act that The Great Machine took on before he unmasked and went into politics was saving the second Twin Tower by stopping that plane. He became a national hero. Ex Machina is a book series that looks to show how even the best of heroes can be torn down by the people that they want to protect.
The politics in the first book are not as hardcore as they can become later down the line. Honestly, I hate politics and was worried that reading this series would be a chore because of the political nature of the stories. There are later issues where some of the politics get in the way of my enjoyment, but the writing is so good that I can overlook those moments. The politics here sees Mayor Hundred trying to figure out what to do when a racially insensitive work of art ends up in the city financed art museum and an assassin is killing city workers during a blizzard. During this, the flashback scenes show that – even when he was a superhero – no one really wanted his help.
The story then moved on to his working with the NSA, who wanted to understand the symbol that was found where the accident took place at. This all took place in flashbacks. This ties into a present day mystery where someone is killing numerous people underground with the same symbol showing up where the murders take place at. We also learn here that, for some reason, Germany wants Mayor Hundred dead because they think he poses a threat to their country.
The politics on the line this time includes school vouchers as well as gay marriage when Wylie mentions that his brother, a heroic firefighter from 9/11, wants to marry his boyfriend and Mayor Hundred agrees. Another assassination attempt is pulled off, the FBI shows up asking for help, and Mitch realizes that the same things that caused his powers might be driving other people to murder.
Overall, it was an amazing start to the Ex Machina comic book line. You don’t have to like politics to enjoy the stories, although they do work to bring up some heated and controversial topics. What it best to take out of this is that, when a hero tries to really start to make changes, he makes a lot of enemies. This story is told expertly, rarely offends but always makes you think. The art work by Tony Harris is also top of the line.
Next Week’s Preview
Book 2 sees Mayor Hundred get called in for jury duty just as someone gains powers of their own from the same items that gave Mitch his powers. It is in this book that we meet the man that Kremlin calls Mitch’s arch nemesis.
As always, if you have any ideas for books you want to see reviewed in the Renegade Rack or you are an independent comic book creator with a book you would like considered, feel free to get in touch with me either in the comments or drop me an email.
Until next week, keep reading.