Friday, November 3, 2006

Favorite Panel Friday: A well-oiled machine

When Ex Machina first came out a couple of years ago, I'd tell anyone who'd listen (and anyone I could pin to the ground and force to listen) that it was one of the best comics out there. I even said more than once that it was the best new comic of that year.

Two years later, and it's still pretty damn good.

Explaining Ex Machina is a little tricky, but basically it's this: In a world without superheroes, a civil engineer with socialist leanings gains the ability to communicate with machines after a mysterious device he's investigating blows up in his face. With the help of a couple of friends and some gadgets of his own invention, Mitchell Hundred becomes the Great Machine, a superhero who manages to keep the second tower of the World Trade Center from being hit on Sept. 11. Shortly after, Hundred goes public, gives up his role as the Great Machine and is elected mayor of New York City.

Whew! Believe it or not, that's just the back story. Ex Machina tells the story of Mayor Hundred, and while the story lines refer or are impacted by the Great Machine's past exploits, the series is as much a political drama as it is a heroic thriller, if not more. You'd think this would be dull as dirt, but often the ins and outs of the mayor's office is what keeps everything chugging along.

And poor Mitch - he's been through a lot, and it's starting to show. Brian K. Vaughn is everywhere, but this is his tightest work - if I had to guess, I'd say this title is his baby. And artist Tony Harris has thankfully been with it since the beginning, giving Ex Machina a distinct feel and a life of it's own. Sure, the people tend to look suspiciously alike sometimes (especially the women), but not to the point of the aggravating Dillon or Quitely. You can almost start to believe these people exist out there, tromping around New York and trying to get about the business of living their lives.

Who hasn't felt that weariness, the kind that makes you close your eyes and push your hair back, wishing for just a quiet second of peace? That single panel says a lot - about the character, about the situation and about the creators' understanding of their readers.

It may not be the best comic of the year, but it's still pretty damn good.

Ex Machina #24: Writer, Brian K. Vaughn; Artist, Tony Harris

No comments: