Author: Brian K. Vaughn, Tony Harris et al
Genre: graphic novel
Length: each volume is approx 160 pages
Where Bethany’s copies came from: Indianapolis Public Library
Plot Basics: Mitchell Hundred, a civil engineer in New York City has an accident that leaves him with the ability to talk to machines. He becomes The Great Machine, debated as a superhero or a vigilante and then after 9/11 become mayor of NYC. He tries to navigate the political currents of the city, including gay marriage, abortion rights and more, even as his past threatens and the reality of terrorism hangs over the city.
Banter Points: After finishing Vaughn’s Y The Last Man series early in 2013, I started right in on Ex Machina. Just like with Y, the story isn’t as simple as it sounds… ex superhero becomes mayor. The plot jumps back and forth throughout Hundred’s history as the Great Machine, his work on 9/11 and his time as mayor.
The story raises interesting questions about the political establishment and the true ability of an outside to change the way business is done and how political capital is best spent. Hundred has a lot of goodwill because of what he did as The Great Machine, but it also leads to quite a lot of antagonism from others, such as the police commissioner.
Bummer Points: As cool as the flashbacks were, over ten volumes, read over as many months, I would occasionally lose the sequence of what happened when.
Also, in vol. 9, Vaughn breaks the “fourth wall” by having Hundred hire him and artist Tony Harris to do Hundred’s memoirs as a comic book (Hundred loves comics). Vaughn and Harris write/draw themselves into the story. While much of the story tackles current political issue and the modern reality of terrorism, it was a jarring choice to me a reader instead of being clever.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Through these graphic novels, Vaughn takes on issues just as any novelist does, the books just also happen to have pictures. Ex Machina is definitely for grown-up readers… there is quite a bit of violence, a good deal of swearing and some sex. Still, if you’re thinking about giving a graphic novel a go, these are good choices.