Thursday, August 18, 2011

Review: Ex Machina v9 Ring Out the Old...AND Ex Machina v10 Term Limits

One of the most difficult challenges for any writer of a serialized story is ending the damn thing, and ending it well.

I've been slowly plugging away at the Ex Machina series since last December and though I've enjoyed the series, it has had some ups and downs.  That being said, the events of the 7th and 8th trades gave me high hopes that the ending to the series would be one that did justice to the overall story of Mitchell Hundred, that man who can talk to machines.

Sadly, the ending did not come anywhere near my expectations.  Instead of an ending that tied up main plot lines, brought in those hinted at elements that were seemingly critical to the main plot, and wrapped things up nice and clean, the ending was disjointed, sported some jarring plot gaps, and left me confused, and very dissatisfied.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the lack-luster ending was that the book shifted from what had been mostly a political drama with bits of super-hero stuff mixed in, to being almost completely about Hundred's powers and his masked the point that he was not handling political crises, but crises that a costumed hero would face in a typical capes and tights story.

My first reaction to the ending was "Huh?" followed by a reread of the bits that left me confused.  I thought for sure I had missed something crucial that would make the end satisfying, but there was none to be found.

During my next stop at the comic shop, I discussed the end of Ex Machina with the owner, and some well-read customers and they all confirmed that I hadn't missed anything, the ending was just weak, and that they'd had similar disappointed reactions with the ending.

It wasn't just the writing that left more to be desired though.  For the first time all series, I was underwhelmed by Tony Harris' art.  His usual quality stood firm in Ring Out the Old but his art in the finale, Term Limits, appeared to be "mailed in" at times.  What was most annoying though, was that one page would look like an amateur version of Tony Harris had handled the art, then the very next page would look like classic Tony Harris.  The inconsistency of the art was frustrating to say the least, but also disappointing.  Believe me, once you've seen what Harris is capable of, anything less than the best is just not enough.

What makes the weak ending to Ex Machina so sad and disappointing is that I know what the creative team of Vaughan and Harris are capable of, and these last two trades just weren't it.  Overall, this is still a pretty solid series, but the ending doesn't do justice to what at times was an amazing comic.

In the end I would say yes, I recommend this series, especially if you are a super-hero comic reader looking to get into the non-mainstream stuff.  Ex Machina would serve as a pretty solid go-between.  In many ways, Ex Machina has done the same for me, but in reverse, as I'll be subscribing to some super-hero comics for the first time this September with the new DC relaunch.  And yes, I would still recommend it to most any other comic reader as well, because there is a lot to love about the entire series, but I recommend it with the caveat that you'll likely be disappointed with the ending.  I know I was.

On to better (hopefully!) things...

Grade Ring Out the Old: C

          Term Limits: D-

Overall Series Grade: C+

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