“March To War” Chapter 1
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artists: Tony Harris (p), Tom Feister (i)
Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm
Vaughan has kept the cogs turning at a nice pace for most of his excellent Ex Machina, and the latest issue is no exception. And it seems that things are really starting to liven up as we are thrust into another political hot-topic: The war in Iraq. In this issue, Mayor Hundred deals with both sides of the political debate and to Vaughan's credit, it's handled with tact, grace and humility. The war in Iraq has been one of the most talked about events of our new century, touching everybody of all races, age and cultures. Everybody has an opinion (Lord knows I do) and it would have been easy to turn this book into simply a way to express his own views. Thankfully, this is not the case and both sides of the political debate are handled on a very intimate level. Father Zee's conservative ideals run parallel to Journal's liberal view and all the while, Mayor Hundred is in the middle struggling to stay neutral. What's great about these characters is that they both provide the human side to the debate. Instead of the usual rants, very personal reasons for the characters' beliefs are presented. Both sides have their merits, and thus are equally valid.
Vaughan also keeps the book grounded and has not lost sight of what makes his series great. We still see the usual pressures of Mayor Hundred's professions, be it in his awkward relationship with the reporter Mrs Padilla or his own Commissioner Angotti going over his head. Each allows for some of their own development and of course each packs Vaughan's usual flair for interesting dialogue. All at the same time a warm introduction to the main political theme in this book is provided.
Everthing has been said about Harris's art (it's still great), but I must congratulate him on the first five pages of the book. He provides a graphic death, a statue of Saddam and a hilarious political newspaper cartoon all in quick succession and each brilliant in its own way. The cover too looks solid, resembling some of the classic covers we first got in the stories but still reflecting the nature of the current book inside. Allow me to criticize one minor aspect of the cover: Up the top we can see some advertising for the new Wildstorm title The American Way. While I am all for DC promoting their new series in their established books, I don't like how much real estate it has taken up on the front page. It most certainly detracts from the artwork. It's small but a nuisance none the less.
A lot of people argue that politics have no place in Superhero comics; this book is a shining example of it working. Perfectly. Vaughan has taken on a massive task in this new story and so far handled it with his usual style and finesse. This can only lead to more great highs for the Great Machine and for those who may be thinking this book is getting a little bland, don't jump ship yet. It looks like the best is yet to come.
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