Thursday, December 23, 2010

Review: Ex Machina v1 The Frist Hundred Days

Michael Hundred was once a civil engineer, but a strange accident near the Brooklyn Bridge gifts him with some amazing powers: the ability to talk to machines and mechanical items. Hundred used these powers to become the world's first, and only, real-deal super hero. However, he eventually tires of doing nothing more than maintaining the status quo, so he gave up the crime-fighting gig, and turned to, what else? Politics. Cashing in on his celebrity status, Hundred wins the NYC mayor election in a landslide, kicking off a political career full of drama.

Hundred has his work cut out for him as he must deal with his eccentric staff, assassination attempts, a PR disaster thanks to a controversial exhibit at an art museum, a crippling blizzard, and a crazed serial killer who's topping the city's snow plow drivers.

I know the plot synopsis I just gave doesn't do justice, but let it be said that Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days is a truly special comic. There are multiple layers at work here; the politics, the characters, and the super hero stuff, all work together to make this really special. First off, you have the characters, who are incredibly fleshed out and nuanced. Comic characters can sometimes come off as over the top, but writer Brian K. Vaughn avoids that easily and creates a unique cast that not only stand out, but stand on their own as interesting individuals.

Obviously, politics play a major role in Ex Machina, so if you aren't into that sort of thing, well, go read Spiderman or something. Guess what though? A comic about politics isn't boring as shit! As a nice touch, Vaughn ties in a few real life news items, like the painting of Lincoln with the "N" word written across it, to add some flesh to the political turmoil plaguing Hundred's life. Aside from the major news worthy stuff, Vaughn mixes in lots of the nuts and bolts daily bullshit that a mayor would have to deal with which made me feel like Hundred actually was the mayor.

Maybe I shouldn't have scared off the Spiderman fans so soon, because there's some super hero action in Ex Machina as well. Vaughn layers in a bunch of flashbacks to Hundred's old super hero days which craftily gives you his back story, and sets up the pertinent history for the series. These scenes are all well done, and play an important role in the overall tapestry of the story. I get the feeling that if a regular guy actually ever did gain some super powers, his crime fighting days might look a lot like Hundred's sloppy, trial and error, fly by the seat of your pants crime fighting style.

Not only does The First Hundred Days feature some top-shelf writing, but the art is equally amazing. Tony Harris was more or less an unknown to me before I read this, I knew he had an epic run on Starman, but I'd never read a book with his work. Simply said, he is amazing. Every single aspect of this book looks stunning, but Harris shines when drawing the people that populate this book. I haven't seen any artist nail facial or body expression like Harris. Yeeeeah, there are a few times that the facial expressions look overdone, and the body language is too much, but most of the time it is spot on, and amazing. Harris' skill at capturing facial and body expression/language adds another layer to the already great characters.

Overall this is a fantastic comic. You have a creative team that is on their A game working on a great title. Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days is definitely one of the best graphic novels I've read this year. Without a doubt I am sucked into this series, and it looks like I'll be spending more time with Mitchell Hundred, and his political staff in the future. Definitely worth a read. This one easily gets the Battle Hymns seal of awesomeness.

Grade: A+

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