I figured that at this point in the Ex Machina series, people are either all aboard because they love what the series has to offer, or not reading the comics anymore, thus making my reviews of the latter part of series sort of an exercise in futility. However, I want to do justice to what I feel is a great comic series, so I'll share my thoughts about the final 4 trades in shorter chunks and double up the reviews by doing two at a time.
Ex Cathedra: In this 7th volume, Mayor Mitchell Hundred wakes up one morning at 5 am to find his intern at his bedside delivering him hot coffee, and his chief of staff awaiting him downstairs. Clearly, there's some news to deliver. It turns out that the Pope has requested a private audience with Hundred, so the Mayor who, thanks to his powers isn't usually allowed outside of the US, hops on a plane for his first ever travel abroad.
A meet and greet with the Pope seems simple enough, but Hundred's life is ever the complicated one. An assassin, with access to some crazy remote-controlled-cyborg-rat technology has plans on making Hundred's visit with the Pope a deadly one. This mad-science style technology uses computer programming to interact with chips placed in the rat's brain to control its movements and actions. When used on Hundred, who already has some strange machinery working in his body, the assassin hopes to remotely manipulate Hundred into being the tool of the Pope's demise.
Now, I'm generally a sucker for some sweet mad science, so Ex Cathedra was particularly exciting for me, but I have a weak spot for some cool, trippy art too, and there is a sweet dream/divine intervention sequence that made this 7th volume all the more awesome. Aside from hitting a couple of Ryan's-favorite-stuff home runs, Ex Cathedra is an important volume in the series, because it provides a clear direction of where the series is headed coming down the stretch, and I like what I see.
In the opening stand-alone, Mayor Hundred is haunted by the ghost of a long dead slave. All while he tries to decide whether or not to let the Ku Klux Klan hold a rally in Central Park. Hundred must find a way to put a soul to rest, and properly deal with a group of assholes.
In the Dirty Tricks story arc, President Bush requests to hold the 2004 Republican National Convention in NYC. Hundred deals with the security issues of hosting such an event, the political ramifications of seeming to support one party over the other as an independent politician, and a Great Machine look-alike/copycat who keeps performing wild, attention grabbing, republican damning stunts that threaten the safety of the convention and certain politicians.
It is amazing how often the ghosts of Hundred's super hero past come back to haunt him in his new life as Mayor. This is a pattern that has held true through out the entire series, yet a couple of the really big ghosts that have been teased and hinted at have yet to come into play, so I wouldn't be surprised to see them popping up in the next two trades.
For my money, Dirty Tricks was somewhat lacking compared with other volumes in this series. There was less character development and story progression happening and it seemed like Vaughn was trying to sexy up the story for some reason by adding a biker chick with some big tits. Little was done to move the overall story ahead, but if the last line of the Dirty Tricks story arc is to believed, hopefully this truly is "where the end begins" and from here on out the story will deliver.
Though this one wasn't up to the standards of many of the other volumes in the Ex Machina series, I have high hopes for the final two trades.