It’s time to be super self-referential here; my instant reaction after reading Ex Machina #42 has to be re-said here:
The problem with Ex Machina from @WildStorm is when it’s on my pile, it ruins every other book in its wake of awesomeness. So. Damn. Good.
I think that’s the best 140 character sum up of the experience of reading this book I could come up with. The true measure of greatness that Vaughan, Harris, Clark, and Mettler have achieved is that this story is perfect as a comic book. It could be told through another medium, but it wouldn’t be told as well.
The art in #42 has to be mentioned first. I’ve always been a fan of Harris’s art, but the way he has grown in his storytelling over the course of 42 issues has been incredible. In this issue, there are 8 pages of conversation with no real action. The story, thanks to both the great flow of the actual words and primarily the story telling in the art. The first half takes place in a dark underground room, and most of the conversation features the two characters’ hands and their shadows. It’s such a brilliant device and it made the whole thing that much more exciting. There is some action in this story, however, and while it is a little more static that some artists’ work, that is actually the preferred style here. The snapshot style of his art serves the building tension beautifully. The last three pages were especially gloriously creepy, and while the reveal at the end was expected, it was still exciting to see. Clark and Mettler know exactly how to bring out the best in Harris, and these three should work together for the rest of time.
Brian K. Vaughan continues to top my favorite writer on a regular basis: himself. While Y: The Last Man has been my favorite comic for quite some time, the final year of Ex Machina may change my mind. This issue is remarkable in that it tells a solid story on its own, it fits into the current story arc nicely, revealing just enough about the past and present to keep it going, and fits in the overall 42 issue so far story, building on what has come before and setting up the future. This is comic book writing at its absolute finest. It proves that characterization is just as important as high action, and the balance between the two that should be reached in any story. Vaughan definitely rewards longtime readers, showing that he’s had an overall story in mind for Mitchell Hundred since the very beginning.
I can’t wait for more Ex Machina, and oddly, thought it is one of my favorite reads, I can’t wait for it to end. All that means is I’ll get to enjoy it all over again, and more easily share the whole story with others.
So if you’re not reading this, I’d like to know why. The book has something for political fans, superhero fans, fans of deep characterization, fans of conversation, fans of writing taking the forefront, fans of art driving the story. This. Is. Comics.