Brian K. Vaughan – Ex Machina, Vols. 3 & 4
Length: 144 pages each
Genre: Science Fiction
Started/Finished: 23 September 2014 (Vol. 3) and 26 September 2014 (Vol. 4)
Where did they come from? The library.
Why do I have them? Reading through Brian K. Vaughan’s back catalog while I wait for more Saga!
Summary: In Volume 3, we get one issue entitled “Fortune Favor” that has Mayor Hundred and a fortuneteller sharing their guilt that neither of them could stop September 11th. In the main story arc, “Fact v. Fiction”, Mayor Hundred volunteers for jury duty, but while he’s sequestered, another masked man with a jetpack is terrorizing the city. On the one hand, it’s good, since it clearly is not Mayor Hundred (or rather, not his alter ego the Great Machine), but on the other hand, who will stop the newcomer while the mayor’s out of commission… and dealing with issues of his own during jury deliberations? And finally, in “Off the Grid”, when the mayor receives an unexpected phone call, he has to leave town to deal with the issues of his past.
In Volume 4, when an anti-war protest is attacked, most people assume that it was the work of terrorists. But as Mayor Hundred struggles to deal with the aftermath of the attack, how far is he willing to compromise the liberty of his citizens to ensure their safety? And what if the attack was not meant to target New Yorkers in general, but the Mayor in particular? And in the second arc, we meet the Great Machine’s arch-nemesis, someone who shares similar powers – but who talks to animals, not machines.
Review: I enjoyed the shorter stories in Volume 3 more than I did the main arc. They’re both dealing with the more emotional and personal side of being an ex-superhero, which I always find more compelling. I also thought that the imposter storyline wasn’t given enough oomph or background – we find out who’s behind it pretty quickly, but we don’t have any real connection to the characters involved, so what is supposed to be a shocking reveal kind of fizzles. I did like the jury duty storyline, though – again, looking at the intersection of the personal with the political. 4 out of 5 stars.
Volume 4’s main storyline was probably most impressive for how accurately it captured the feeling of early 2003, shortly prior to the US’s declaration of war on Iraq. (I was living in a major US city at the time, and although the anti-war protests didn’t get attacked insofar as I know, I do remember being sent home from work at least once because of an anthrax scare.) The protests and the panic and the reprisals and the tension between personal freedom and the threat of terrorist invasions are all captured remarkably well, as are the frustrations of those in charge who are trying to balance everything as they deal with a city on the edge. The second arc was a little less successful; because of the way this series jumps around in the timeline, it’s difficult placing events in context, but when an arc is clearly set before the “present day”, it becomes more difficult to regard the bad guy as a serious threat. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: While this series is not my favorite of Brian K. Vaughan’s work, it’s making a story that’s largely focused on politics interesting, which says quite a bit in its favor.
Other Reviews: Can’t find any. Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.