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Ex Machina #8

Posted: Tuesday, March 1, 2005
By: Jason Cornwell



"Tag, Chapter Three"

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artists: Tony Harris (p), Tom Feister (i), J.D. Mettler (colors)

Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm


Plot: After opening a couple weeks before September 11th, where Hundred has put his super-hero past behind him and is fully committed to running for public office, his FBI handler isn't fully convinced. Jumping to the present day, the issue shows Mayor Hundred is about to start off a media firestorm by presiding over a same sex marriage, but his attention is quickly drawn to the situation in the subway tunnels when he discovers that his former FBI handler's family is linked to the most recent discovery that has been uncovered in the tunnels.

Comments: This book continues to impress as Brian K. Vaughan has got about half a dozen plots running through this book, and he also likes to make use of the occasional flashback to fill in the character's back-story. In spite of this rather frantic pace, there's never a single moment where I find myself unable to follow the action. I mean this is one of the smartest books on the stands, and frankly it's a little scary that Brian K. Vaughan is able to make it seem so easy, as he's got half a dozen balls in the air, and he doesn't even look nervous. I also love that this book is able to tackle some hot button topics, such as gay marriage and the post 9/11 climate, and that the writing never feels like it's pushing an agenda on its readers as it takes the time to look at both sides of the argument. I mean I like that the writing has acknowledged that Hundred's willingness to leap headfirst into controversy is likely to have come back at him, and that his advisors aren't shy about pointing out how such a public stance is going to play with Joe and Jane Public. However, this book isn't all about political wheeling and dealing, as it also offers up some pretty intense action, as the opening flashback manages to show that Hundred has developed an important relationship that is seemingly ripped apart in the present day as we learn that the disembowelled dog from the previous issue was far more important than it initially appeared. The attack in the subway is also a surprisingly brutal display of violence, and if nothing else it serves to make the final page reveal all the more frightening. There's also a number of little moments of intrigue, like the mystery observer in the park, and I must confess I completely fell for the Nirvana story.

Tony Harris is one of the main reasons why this book is able to sell the illusion that this book is set in the real world, as there's a very human looking quality to his work and even the more intense moments of the issue have that extra level of gravity to them as they maintain the sense that this book is not playing out in some fantasy realm. I mean how can one not love to look of absolute delight on the face of Jackson's wife in the opening sequence, as the art so clearly sells the idea that she really is delighted to meet Hundred? I also loved the skyward look on Todd's face when his better half explains why he's a Republican. However, the most impressive and visually disturbing section of the issue would have to be the absolutely vicious baseball attack that the art delivers in the final pages, as that has to be one of the most frightening visual introductions I've ever seen a villain receive.



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