Saturday, March 19, 2011

Review: Ex Machina v3 Fact v. Fiction

The third installment in what has been a solid series thus far, Ex Machina: Fact v. Fiction gains some ground in the character development department, but in terms of story fails to live up to the two previous volumes.

Mitchell Hundred, once the world's first super hero, has already proven himself to be unlike the typical American citizen, but he proves himself to be even more of an oddball when he goes against all convention and participates in jury duty.  While the mayor is tied up with his civic duties, his police and security team are busy trying to catch a Great Machine copy-cat type vigilante calling himself the Automaton.   However, jury duty is proving to be a bigger event than Hundred could have anticipated.  During the deliberation portion of the trial, Hundred finds himself right smack in the middle of a tense hostage situation.  Though the hero "The Great Machine" has retired, you could use that same term to describe the workings of a big city like New York, and Hundred has to hope that all the parts of his new "Great Machine" are working together so that these unrelated crises get resolved.

There's a third story thread involved in this volume as well, but talking about it too much would spoil other aspects of the book, so I'll simply say that this bit of the graphic novel delivers some interesting character development.

Like I said earlier, I felt like the story being told in this third volume wasn't as strong as those of the previous two volumes.  Maybe it's just me, but the conflicts in this volume just didn't strike me as all that interesting or inventive compared to the others in this series.  Sure, the writing is still strong, and the characters are still compelling, but I sort of got the feeling that this story arc was a bit of a stop-gap to bigger things down the road.

On the artistic front, Tony Harris' work continues to be pretty amazing.  Harris can draw facial expression and body language better than any other comic artist I've experienced so far, and that ability lends a very realist air to the characters he draws.  I can really get a good sense for their tone of voice and inflection thanks to his skill.  Ex Machina is a very good example of the writing and art in a comic working extremely well together.

So, the weakest installment thus far, but still of a pretty high quality, and by far a better "Super Hero" book than any other out there.  There is definitely a downward trend happening here with this series, but I have high hopes that it'll pick back up.  I have the next four volumes waiting on my shelf, so I'll be getting around to them sooner than later.

Grade: C+

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