“…When we reflect how difficult it is to move or inflect the great machine of society, how impossible to advance the notions of a whole people suddenly to ideal right, we see the wisdom of Solon’s remark that no more good must be attempted than the nation can
bear.“- Thomas Jefferson, 1802.
Cousin Franz: Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Bastards” has an unforgettable moment in which it untethers itself from reality to give its viewers something they had unwittingly wanted to see for decades. The sub-genre of cathartic historical corrections may be small, but it includes a brilliant graphic novel, Brian K. Vaughan’s and Tony Harris’ “Ex Machina,” which imagines a September 11, 2001 in which only one of the World Trade Center Towers fell, thanks to the heroic efforts of an otherwise fumbling hero called the Great Machine. The Great Machine is Mitchell Hundred, who, after a shocking encounter with what may be alien technology, develops the power to command machines around him, (from mobiles to guns to planes). The extent of those powers, and what constitutes a “machine,” and the way Hundred takes advantage of them, is never fully explored. That’s fine, because “Ex Machina” is not really a superhero comic: it concerns Hundred’s “retirement” from his adventures, and subsequent political career. How does a well-meaning, progressive mayor of New York City deal with overbearing press, with anti-war protests, with changing marijuana laws, with gay marriage, with outrage over state-funded works of art that court controversy? Vaughan could have avoided all superhero trappings and done a dry political comic; but few creators are as good at understanding that thoughtful polemics and thrilling entertainment don’t have to exist in mutual segregation.
Hank: Believe it or not, there were some episodes of “The West Wing” where Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue got too pretentious for my taste, (fancy talker, with his Syracuse degree!) So when things at the White House got too dull, I would have no choice but to entertain myself by pretending that President Emilio Estevez’ Daddy was secretly “The Greatest American Hero.” “Ex Machina” made all my daydreams come true!
Beatricia: “Ex Machina” is about an NYC mayor who… “talks to machines”… and is convinced the machines “talk back.” What a compassionate, intimate look at Rudy Giuliani’s decaying mental health! Cherry!
Trent: “Ex Machina” looks like it’s going to be about jet-rockets and crime-fighting fun- and then it turns out to be a bunch of heated discussions on… taxation reform? School zoning? Renewal of fortune-telling licenses? Good spots for hosting the GOP convention? This is why I don’t vote.
Tracey: Mainstream comics usually shy away from politics, so I have to commend Brian K. Vaughan for having attempted this. But for all his efforts, “Ex Machina” is still about a vanilla male politician in an impeccable suit who nimbly avoids taking any serious political stances by making noises about his bi-partisanship. Mitchell Hundred is every glad-handing, baby-kissing, election-seeking automaton that currently short-circuits our democratic system. It’s a shame, because there’s a diverse secondary cast backing our generically handsome white guy.
Grandpa Felicius: “Ex.” “Machina.” He used to be a “Machine.” He retired. That’s why he’s an “Ex” “Machina.” It took me nearly 50 issues of this pseudo-Socialist pamphlet to catch on to THAT! The mere fact that the protagonist’s mentor and inspiration is nicknamed “Kremlin” should have warned me away from this Red agitpropping. Who knew that the heathen Russkies would wait until AFTER the Cold War to turn our politicians into obedient, robotic puppets?
Blurbarella: “Great Machine– Not a Machine At All.– Instead, He Tells Machines What To Do.– Typical Flesh-Covered Male.”
3 out of 6 Cherries