Friday, January 14, 2011

Review: Ex Machina V2: Tag

It seems crazy that in 2011 folks all over are still fighting for same-sex marriage rights.  I feel like the things I read most often: fantasy and comics, with the occasional exception, often value escapism over dealing with contemporary issues such as gay rights.  Well, given that Ex Machina is a modern story about a mayor in the city of New York, it is only fitting that the series covers some hot/controversial topics.

In the second volume of this engaging series, Mayor Hundred makes the most controversial decision of his political career, which is sort of saying a lot given his past political dramas.  Thanks to that decision, (legalizing same-sex marriage) Hundred is forced to face tough questions about his own sexual preferences, all while dealing with a strange, possibly supernatural power that plagues the subways.

Someone has been putting up mysterious tags in the subway tunnels that sort of resemble Chinese script.  Mutilated bodies of humans and animals have been found near these tags, and they seem to be somehow connected to the source of Hundred's power, and his past days of heroic adventures.

Once again, Ex Machina features a nice blend of super powered action and political wheeling and dealing.  While that stuff is certainly at the center of this volume, this volume also provides a nice glimpse at the man himself, Mitchel Hundred.  If there is ever a politician I can relate to, it is Hundred.  He truly is a regular guy who simply wanted to do good, and through supernatural forces found himself in the position to actually do some good and make positive changes.  Hundred's approach to politicking resembles his status as a normal person.  He doesn't really follow any party lines, but still plays the political game quite well, and he seems to enjoy his wild card  status.  His mayor gig seems to be a 24/7 type thing, but Hundred does manage squeeze in the time to date a pretty reporter lady; simultaneously pursuing a lady he is interested in while quelling questions about his sexual preferences.  The date scene is quite good as it builds up Hundred's character a bit more, and fleshes out his personality.  It also ends hilariously. 

This volume also provides some more back story, adding in some of Hundred's adventures as the Great Machine, and his early relationship with the American government. I was definitely a little bit confused by the mystery glyphs, and how they connect to Hundred's powers, and his past.  I get the feeling that all that information is going to slowly get leaked over the course of this series.  Due to the slow unraveling of important plot points Ex Machina  is definitely a comic that demands full attention.  Sometimes it can be hard to keep all the flashbacks straight while maintaining a proper time line in my head.  I had to reference the first volume a couple of times to make sure I was getting it all.

Ex Machina is unlike most other comics out there.  It features a nice blend of heroics and political wrangling, but also demands your full attention, all while covering interesting topics that are pertinent to the modern world.  Add to that the fact that this comic is very well written, filled with fantastic characters and absolutely beautiful to look at.  Truly a great piece of engaging, fun, and compelling artistry.

Grade: B+

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