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Ex Machina #35

Posted: Monday, March 24, 2008
By: Jon Judy

Brian K. Vaughn
Tony Harris & Jim Clark
Wildstorm
“The Race”

I’m just not on a roll lately.

There are so many comic books I’ve been looking forward to recently, only to have been let down once I got them. For example, I never would have imagined that I’d be disappointed by a comic book featuring the Blue and Gold in action once again, and yet that has been the case these past few months.

And then I got my assignment this week from The Powers That Be at ComicsBulletin: review Ex Machina #35.

That was a big deal to me, because I love this book but I’ve never gotten the chance to review it. So naturally I was excited. This was my chance to do some little thing – beyond plunking down my $2.99 every month – to repay Vaughn, Harris and company for three-plus years of terrific reading. If I could manage a magnificent display of effusion – my apologies to Captain Spaulding for borrowing that phrase – perhaps I could sway some unenlightened fanboy or two to add this terrific title to their monthly reading list.

Then I read this issue, and I couldn’t do that. Not without being dishonest, anyway.

Judged solely on its own merits, this is an above-average comic book. Harris’ art is, as always, a pleasure. Each panel is a work of art on its own merits, and they all function together beautifully to tell the story. And Harris’ facial expressions and body language may be the best in comics – I can’t think of anyone better off the top of my head, anyway.

And Vaughn’s story compliments Harris art as well as you’d expect from a writer of his skill. His dialogue is crisp and funny and the scenes flow seamless into one another so that this reads like one cohesive story rather than like a series of vignettes.

So an above-average comic book overall, but woefully below average given the level of quality one has come to expect from Ex Machina.

First off, this issue is structured in a way that should be familiar to Ex Machina readers – current events trigger a flashback that reveals details about the past of one or more of the characters. This flashback adds an extra layer of depth to the characters and their pasts and it parallels the present, offering insights into the characters’ thoughts and feelings while functioning as a commentary on the current story.

But Vaughn has used this structure so frequently that it has become more repetitive than effective. Furthermore, the flashback in this issue is contrived, awkward, and forced. It is handled in a clunky fashion, strains believability, and reminds us yet again that the Great Machine was greatly incompetent. As a result, this issue seems more like a parody of Ex Machina than an issue of Ex Machina.

So I just can’t give this issue the wholehearted, slobbering recommendation I’d like to. If you’re already a convert, don’t pass it up. It’s hardly so bad that you’d regret the loss of your $2.99 more than you’d regret the hole in your collection. On the other hand, if you haven’t read Ex Machina yet, don’t start here. Instead, plant yourself in Border’s for an hour or so and check out the first trade. If you have tried Ex Machina before and didn’t care for it, I don’t know what to tell you. I have every reason to hope that the next issue will be better, but there is no hope for you.



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