EX MACHINA Hits Number 1

At the top of the  NYT Graphic Books Paperback Best Seller list this week is one of the few comics series that I buy as it comes out: Ex Machina by Brian K. Vaughan. Mitchell Hundred was just a civil engineer who, through the time-honored tradition of being too near alien technology when it exploded, discovered he has the ability to command any machine or mechanical device. At first that may not seem so useful — so he can turn on his TV by talking to it, big whoop — but as a crime-fighter, he can tell guns not to fire, wipe out communications, and tell a bomb timer not to go off. He used his powers for good, not always with grace but well intentioned, and managed to become a superhero known as The Great Machine. When on 9/11 The Great Machine was able to stop one plane from hitting the Twin Towers but not two, Hundred decides he’d do more good as a politician than a superhero, and runs to become the Mayor of New York City.

Ex Machina has a lot going for it as a series: it’s a superhero tale, yes, but it’s also a sharp political drama and promises ultimately to be a critical portrait of a man’s struggle to be a hero in political terms rather than as a super powered vigilante. Writer Brian K. Vaughan has foreshadowed from the beginning that Mitchell Hundred’s tale is a tragic one, but one that is full of humor, surprises, and pathos. Starting in 2001, the series is a period piece looking at a slightly alternate history of the country and NYC as Mayor Hundred struggles with a number of issues: freedom of speech, gay marriage, anti-war demonstrations, possible terrorist attacks, and public speculation about his own sexuality. At the same time, because he was once a superhero, his past frequently rears up to complicate his current position, from repercussions of his less than spectacular days as a superhero to his own staff being in danger from old enemies. Tony Harris, a strong artist known for creating much of his work from friends and family in reference photos, does a stellar job capturing the rapid pace of the day-to-day job and the contemplative moments alike. Ex Machina is finishing in the next collection, volume ten, and if libraries don’t already own the series, now is a good time to pick it up in paperback trades or in hardcover deluxe editions. In my library, this remains one of our top-circulating titles.

Brian K. Vaughan is a writer that every library collecting graphic novels should know. He’s the kind of author, like Stephen King, who always brings entertaining and thoughtful speculative visions to his work. He has a smart sense of both dialogue and over-arching plot. His series benefit from a strong structure and a set plot, and his mixture of humor with dramatic challenges make his titles appealing to a wide range of readers of both genders, from comics fans to literary buffs. He writes for teens (Runaways) or adults (Y the Last Man, Ex Machina) and everyone in between (Pride of Baghdad), and has even jumped to other formats (as a writer for ABC’s Lost) and his titles are deservedly popular. He has not announced any new projects as of yet, promising that nothing new will start until Ex Machina is finished, but his name is a strong indication that a series outside the established universes of DC or Marvel will be a hit.

Ex Machina, Book 1 (Deluxe Edition)
Brian Vaughan
Retail Price: $29.99
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: WildStorm – (2008-07-15)
ISBN / EAN: 1401218148 / 9781401218140


Runaways, Vol. 1
Brian K. Vaughan
Retail Price: $34.99
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Marvel Comics – (2006-01-18)
ISBN / EAN: 0785118764 / 9780785118763


Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1 (Deluxe Edition)
Brian K. Vaughan
Retail Price: $29.99
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Vertigo – (2008-10-28)
ISBN / EAN: 1401219217 / 9781401219215


Pride of Baghdad
Brian K. Vaughan
Retail Price: $12.99
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: Vertigo – (2008-01-02)
ISBN / EAN: 1401203159 / 9781401203153

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