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Ex Machina, Vol. 1: The First Hundred Days Paperback – February 1, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Set somewhere between The West Wing and an alternative future, this taleasks the question: What if the mayor of New York was a superhero? Vaughan (Y: The Last Man) and Harris (Starman) answer with intelligence and dash. In classic superhero origin, Mitchell Hundred is just another civil engineer until an encounter with a glowing light under the Brooklyn Bridge gives him the power to talk to machines. Fast forward three years: after a famed stint as a superhero, Hundred has just been elected mayor of New York and must deal with not only the colorful cast of characters that make up his staff but also a host of crises: a PR disaster set off by an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum; a crippling blizzard; and, most worryingly, a serial killer who's bumping off the city's snow plow drivers. Vaughan cleverly adapts real news stories—New York mayoral politics, the Sensations art scandal—and plausibly fits them into a world where superheroes exist, but are forbidden by the NSA to talk about their powers, while adding surprising twists and turns. Harris's gritty, charismatic characters give the story further appeal. This vastly entertaining first collection should have readers eager to read future volumes. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"If millionaire playboys and nerdy highschoolers can be superheroes, why not the mayor of New York? ... Terrifically intriguing."
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This volume: Collects Issues 1-5
This volume sets up the basic premises of the series and introduces most of the main and supporting characters.
Bradbury, who used to help Mitch during his Great Machine career, is now his head of security.
Kremlin, another part of the Great Machine's team, thinks Mitch should quit being mayor and go back to being the Great Machine. He feels VERY strongly about this.
Dave Wylie - the black deputy mayor of New York - gives Mitch someone to debate isssues with.
Suzanne Padilla - a journalist.
Journal Moore - an intern.
Commissioner Angotti - head of the NYPD. She's grateful Mitch saved the Tower, but insists that he never becomes the Great Machine again.
Amidst the flashbacks, the two main plot lines of the current day are 1) how Mitch deals with a piece of offensive (and tax-supported) art hanging in a local museum, and 2) someone is killing snow plow drivers.
It's only fair to warn you that this series as a whole doesn't have a happy ending, but don't let that stop you from reading one of the best written and drawn series...ever!
The series contains the odd panel of nudity and gore (not so much in this particular volume), violence, and -worst of all- politics, so "suggested for mature readers" fits.
I will leave the detailed reviews of the storyline, concept, and artwork to others, though I will note that I found Ex Machina to be *an order of magnitude* above average in all three areas.
Instead let me offer a more rarified observation potential readers may find interesting, possibly even helpful.
The protagonist of Ex Machina, Mitch Hundred, the Mayor of NYC, as a character is a superhero version of a politician who is a mix of 2 real NYC politicians important at the time of the comic's creation: 1) the former Speaker of the NYC Council, Gifford Miller, who was favored to win the Democratic nomination (but didn't) in 2005 and 2) Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Mayor Hundred seems quite a bit like, and *looks* A LOT like Gifford Miller. I have a difficult time imagining that this was accidental.
Like Miller, Mayor Hundred is remarkably young for a NYC pol, handsome but in a somewhat boyish way, and politically progressive--at least on social issues. (Without giving away too much of the book's plot, let me simply point out that Giff Miller was a huge champion of the City's gay citizens, and this is not to suggest that the superhero-Mayor Hundred is gay; you will have to read the tale yourself for the answer to that ultimately, cosmically and mind-numbingly irrelevant question.)
However, Miller is married with kids, and it's no spoiler to reveal that our super-hero Mayor is single, and the City's most eligible bachelor. Well...so is real-life Mayor Michael Bloomberg (a political outsider like superhero-Mayor Hundred), whose administration's relative non-partisanship, corporation-style, and slightly-left-of-center stances (with a dash of "because it's good for you" paternalism, a la the smoking ban) are basically the same sort of characteristics of the administration of superhero-Mayor Hundred.
Of course, the originality of Hundred far outweighs his similarities to Miller or to "Bloomy." His relationship with a Russian immigrant, his totally middle-class mindset, and other aspects of Hundred have no correlation in the lives of Miller or Bloomberg. And ultimately, what is interesting about the politics seen in Ex Machina is not its similarities with real-life, but its differences . . . . how it basically offers an alternative history to City politics in the wake of 9/11 (the "day-of" events of which do not, thankfully, take up much of the narrative). Since 9/11, so much has been mishandled by so many politicians, that in Ex Machina there is for any reader--conservative or liberal--an interesting "what if" commentary (and good story) not afraid to imagine a far more satisfying post-9/11 country; but, with the story also being placed right off the bat (in the title itself!) into the context of the ancient Greek tradition of "God from a machine," it simultaneously demands that the reader realize that the post-9/11 world of Ex Machina is un-realistic, even purposely somewhat unsatisfying, and if a better post-9/11 NYC or America is going to emerge, it is going to be up to *us*--not some superhero (or divine) solution--and dependant upon our *vision,* not our fears.
I think the creators of Ex Machina created something unusually interesting. I recommend Ex Machina. And if you happen to work for NYC government or are involved in the city's political scene, it really is a MUST-READ for its sheer entertainment value. In fact, I'm a bit surprised that Ex Machina is not a cult classic among the City's political types already.
Also there's a few cool extras at the end which show 4 stages of the creation of the art from reference photos the finished product.