Current Reviews


Ex Machina #3

Posted: Monday, August 23, 2004
By: Dave Wallace

Writer: Brian K Vaughan
Artists: Tony Harris (p), Tom Feister (i)

Publisher: DC/Wildstorm Signature Imprint

After a dense first couple of issues, Vaughan slows the pace up this issue to let us get a little more used to the support team of New York Mayor Mitchell Hundred, formerly the technologically super-aware hero “The Great Machine”. The title continues to be fairly original in its field, giving us a lot more talk than action, thriving more on ideas and relationships than dressing up in a costume and fighting bad guys. Indeed, we get to see less of Mitchell as a superhero than in either of the first two issues, perhaps in the hope that less is more – and in order to make the likely return of “The Great Machine” a more significant moment. However, there’s easily enough going on in this issue to excuse the lack of any real action, with most of the story examining Mitch’s life and responsibilities as a politician.

The political angle is too flip to be the West Wing and there are not quite enough gags to call it Spin City, but the tone of the title falls somewhere between the two. There’s more humour coming out of the supporting characters - with Deputy Mayor Dave Wylie ranking as one of my favourites of the moment - than the political situation, which this issue flits between Hundred having to deal with a piece of racially provocative artwork and the mystery snowplough murders which we caught a glimpse of last issue. It’s difficult to see how the two plotlines will intersect - if they will at all – but it’s a neat way of demonstrating the divide that comes from Hundred being a politician on one hand and a superhero on the other. In addition to the major story points, more character tics are revealed to us this issue. We get an inkling that a possible ‘arch-nemesis’ may return from The Great Machine’s past and a look in on a strange meditation ritual which seems to allow Hundred to connect with his memories as well as a wealth of machinery. This sequence, as well as the conversation with Kremlin, throws up a few clues as to elements of Mitchell’s past that we can expect to become significant in future issues – and having already been told that there’s tragedy to come, readers are going to be looking for pointers like these.

There’s a lot to enjoy from the writing in this issue: a shame, then, that things don’t really advance in terms of plot as much as we could have hoped this time round. Whilst important character development occurs and we get a lot of insight into how Hundred relates to many of the other characters in the book (Candy’s personality is nicely established in the opening pages, before a nice exchange between Mitch and his intern, Journal, which is followed by a fun back-and-forth with Wylie, before introducing Kremlin into the contemporary timeline, and so on…) it means that the action and plot has to take something of a backseat. It’s only really the final pages which give artist Harris a chance to show off some excellent large-scale comic book visuals which jolt us out of the comfort of his clean, simple but effective character work of the rest of the issue. It demonstrates that he’s a great choice for this title, and I look forward to seeing more of his work next issue.

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