Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Comic: Mr Machine

Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days collecting issues #1-5, Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris, and Tom Feister. Wildstorm Productions, 2004, $9.95

I mentioned that the downside of small press comics is that you don't always find them in the stores, so you may buy an issue or two, then find that they vanish mysteriously. This is the case with small-run comics within the big lines as well. Wildstorm is owned by DC, but after picking up issues 1 and 2 of Ex Machina on the stands, it vanished for me - more people came in to pick up issues 3 and 4 than were issues available, and so I never saw them. So a collection is a fine idea, particularly at a low cost. Its a good way to get to get into the series, and it is a series worth getting into.

Here's the skinny: Mitchell Hundred has a close encounter with an alien artifact and gains the ability to talk to and command machines. So he builds a jetpack. puts on a costume,and takes on a career as the Great Machine. Then he stops being a superhero and runs for mayor of New York City. And wins. The story itself flips back and forth between the Before-Eleven world, where he is the Great Machine, and the modern day, where he is dealing with offensive art, a massive snowstorm, and someone shooting plow drivers.

The concept is interesting, and the delivery both entertains and deals with the difficulties of real-life superheroing as well as real-life politics. The support characters are key - Hundred's staff and political opponents, his sidekick/bodyguard Bradbury, and a childhood friend Kremlin. All are nicely rendered as characters. And Hundred's politics are neither red-state or blue-state, but rather those of an engineer looking for the optimal solution to every problem. And, contrary to a lot of superhero books, both he and his supporting cast get things wrong, and have to deal with the fallout from their errors.

The downside to the collection is that, while the two plots resolve within the covers of the book, there are a lot of questions still hanging up in the air. The nature and true origin of the Great Machine's power is still up in the air, as well as much of the journey between the accident that gave him his power and the Mayor's chair. There is the shadow of an archenemy floating out there, but nothing definite. So there are stories to tell, and only the distribution system will determine if they get told. Hope they do.

More later,