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Ex Machina: Fact v. Fiction by Brian K.…

Ex Machina: Fact v. Fiction

by Brian K. Vaughan

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Having read and loved Brian K. Vaughn’s Y the Last Man series years ago, I was excited to finally get around to Ex Machina. Hoping for the same attention to character and detailed US cultural atmosphere as the dystopian series, Mitchell Hundred and his alter ego The Great Machine did not disappoint. Combining the worlds of preternatural hero and mundane civil governing may not strike one as a recipe for riveting storytelling, but Vaughn delivers a tale that is more human than super.

His strength lies (particularly in the early volumes of the series) in his almost painfully real characters. Reluctant superhero turned mayor of New York City Mitchell Hundred is neither unbelievably altruistic nor abusive of his powers. His love for New York reigns above all else, and there’s a fierce loyalty to his hometown to which many will relate. Oddly for me, he is genuine is such a way as to drain tension from the story. I had no anxiety about where the series was headed, and I even liked the characters I didn’t like- if that makes any sense. I guess I should say that Vaughn outlines motivations of his characters so clearly that even when I’m against the character’s actions, I can’t fault him/her for following that course.

At the same time, the series serves as an interesting snapshot of US political and cultural trends in the early 21st century, exploring everything from taxpayer-funded birth control to political protests to the legalization of marijuana. Most striking perhaps for our nation in 2015 is Hundred officiating a marriage of two men in New York’s city hall. This story arc also showcases Vaughn’s awareness of nuance and his skill in humanizing what some consider more esoteric political battles. In this case, one of the grooms is a firefighter who was a first responder at Ground Zero. Indeed, the terror attacks of September 11th shadow the entire series, and Vaughn makes an honest attempt to explore the reality of New York City in the wake of tragedy.

Unfortunately, the series begins to lose its detail and complexity as it wraps up. Characters and situations grow ever more one-dimensional, and what made the story feel so real in the midst of the incredible disappears under a layer of cynicism and bitterness. I’m not sure what causes this shift, but it transforms a powerful, poignant narrative into something brutal and primitive.

Overall, this series is a must-read for fans of Vaughn, and if you like superheroes, politics, or New York City, you’ll fall in love as well. ( )
  porcupineracetrack | Aug 15, 2015 |
Summary: In Volume 3, we get one issue entitled "Fortune Favor" that has Mayor Hundred and a fortuneteller sharing their guilt that neither of them could stop September 11th. In the main story arc, "Fact v. Fiction", Mayor Hundred volunteers for jury duty, but while he's sequestered, another masked man with a jetpack is terrorizing the city. On the one hand, it's good, since it clearly is not Mayor Hundred (or rather, not his alter ego the Great Machine), but on the other hand, who will stop the newcomer while the mayor's out of commission… and dealing with issues of his own during jury deliberations? And finally, in "Off the Grid", when the mayor receives an unexpected phone call, he has to leave town to deal with the issues of his past.

Review: I enjoyed the shorter stories in Volume 3 more than I did the main arc. They're both dealing with the more emotional and personal side of being an ex-superhero, which I always find more compelling. I also thought that the imposter storyline wasn't given enough oomph or background - we find out who's behind it pretty quickly, but we don't have any real connection to the characters involved, so what is supposed to be a shocking reveal kind of fizzles. I did like the jury duty storyline, though - again, looking at the intersection of the personal with the political. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: While this series is not my favorite of Brian K. Vaughan's work, it's making a story that's largely focused on politics interesting, which says quite a bit in its favor. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Nov 3, 2014 |
Surprisingly funny. The artwork is fantastic. There are some gruesome scenes. ( )
  lesmel | Apr 19, 2013 |
Ex Machina just keeps getting better. I love the whole super hero turned politian. ( )
  andystehr | Sep 21, 2010 |
D: Felt like "filler" episodes. ( )
  bramon | May 10, 2009 |
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Mayor Mitchel Hundred becomes part of a shocking trial complicated by the arrival of a new superhero. Then, he leaves New York for the first time since his election to embark on a strange adventure.

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