I don’t know that there’s another comic like “Ex Machina” being published today.
Sure, Vertigo has plenty of adult-oriented series with a sprinkling of the bizarre and/or the supernatural. Sure, lots of other publishers have moody and/or strange long form narratives about people with powers. But when you sit down to read “Ex Machina” — surely one of the most consistent comics, in terms of approach and production, ever published — you’re in it’s own unique and peculiar world where a guy who can talk to machines stopped the second tower from falling and now has to worry as much about a budget crisis as he does some old nemesis as the city’s mayor.
What makes it so particular and peculiar, above all, is its pacing. As opposed to comics that move at the kind of clip where every issue feels like, perhaps, a single episode contributing to an overall season, an issue of “Ex Machina” always feels like exactly the right space between commercial breaks.
This isn’t a slight in the least. It’s another one of those items of consistency in the book, where everything feels even and equal. It gives the series a special kind of intimacy. Even the largest set pieces, like the opening sequence from 9/11 in this issue, focus with a laser-like intensity on one or two characters, tops.
As I said, it’s a unique comic in that way.
It’s one of Vaughan’s strengths that he can keep such a small scale focus consistently engrossing over the course of almost forty issues now. There are rarely huge, status quo shattering twists or turns, just political drama and awkward past transgressions. Tony Harris is just as consistent as the rest of the book around him. His style is well suited to both the book’s moody strangeness and its interpersonal focus.
This issue is the conclusion of a storyline that brings Mayor Mitchell Hundred in conflict with a prankster named Trouble looking to disrupt the Republican Convention in New York City. (Remember that? It happened. I remember spending the week in Georgia to avoid the hassle.) The resolution to that little tete-a-tete isn’t very large scale, either. A talk, a kiss, and a punch to the face. More interestingly, the dual threads of Mayor Hundred’s future as a Presidential Candidate and Hundred’s old friend Kremlin’s ongoing emergence as an antagonist both take very interesting and potentially intersecting turns.
An issue of “Ex Machina” is rarely the kind of book that you throw down at the finish, completely taken aback by the shocking denouement, but that doesn’t make it any less of a strong book every month, and one can only imagine how well it will read as an ultimately finished product.