PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Comics

Ex Machina Special #1-2

Agustin Mojica

If any current comic series is to become a film, Ex Machina should be it.

Ex Machina Special #1-2

Publisher: DC/Wildstorm
Contributors: Chris Sprouse and Karl Story (Artist)
Price: $2.99
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Item Type: Comic
Length: 32
Amazon

If any current comic series is to become a film, Ex Machina should be it. Writer Brian K. Vaughan's heavily-researched style has half the work done for the screenwriters. The concept -- an ex-superhero becomes the mayor of New York City -- strikes a chord with writers, who seem to agree with Vaughan that in the current age of wrestlers and action heroes as gubernatorial candidates (insert Terminator joke here), a real, self-sacrificing vigilante would be a shoo-in for almost any political position. Mayor Hundred is more tangible because we secretly want to give our votes to him and all of his regrettably non-existent kind.

Also, the Wachowski Brothers gave Vaughan's creation their stamp of approval. Those guys still have some Hollywood weight after writing V for Vendetta, right? (Not that comic book fans were very happy about certain risky elements the Brothers pulled from their version, but that would be a different article.)

If any story arc were to be made into a film, it would be Ex Machina Special #1-2, peppered with elements from other issues. These two issues cover the story of the Great Machine's oft-talked about, heretofore never seen arch-enemy Pherson. He's a perfect match for Hundred, the sad avatar of everything the Great Machine fails to see around him, along with having the most creative, halfway believable origin story I've ever read. The Great Machine controls all machinery with a few stern words; the cloaked Pherson, evil parrot on his shoulder, communicates with and controls all animals within an unspecified distance. Both combatants explain their positions between blows, Pherson more clearly and directly than Hundred, giving him the advantage of having a raison d'etre as moving as retribution for hundreds of millions of animal deaths throughout the history of the human race -- the details of which are, as always, evidence that Vaughan spent some time with at his local library. If not that, he had to have consulted Wikipedia for some of these details; a lot of this stuff simply isn't general knowledge.

The Great Machine's trials against massive flocks of crows and marauding lions is book-ended by Mayor Hundred's clash with a radio personality unfamiliar with the phrase "no means no". The parallel is blindingly obvious: performing Herculean tasks as mayor of NYC is akin to perfoming Herculean feats as a superhero.

Complex details aside, the core symbolism of this story could be stuffed down a popcorn-filled throat pretty easily.

Tony Harris' impeccable sense of modern, believable design would be easy on theater-goers' eyes, as well (he didn't draw the Special series, but his design sense still dominates the issues). Some might call the Great Machine's design "retro-futuristic", but I'd settle for simply modern. As inherently ridiculous as a machine-controlling superhero with a jetpack is, Harris' designs ground him in reality. Even in Special, which pits Hundred against a pack of hungry lions atop a speeding train, the Great Machine serves as a weight into reality. There is no cape, but there is a symbol on his chest; no tights but a heavy-looking jetpack. No blinding, dangerous mask or cowl, but a questionable aviator helmet. The only thing Ex Machina was missing for the Hollywood transition was a single nemesis to pin the friction on. Everything else about the series, especially Hundred's involvement in the events of September 11th, fits right in with the trend of heavy-handed action that the public seems to be happy with. America can't get enough of superheroes or 9/11-related antics during films. So why hasn't Ex Machina, especially with the close of the Special arc, been optioned yet? Talent, a far less eloquent (but interesting) series, managed to get optioned by Universal after a single issue. Over two years in, where is the attention Vaughan and Co. deserve, in the form of a franchise that should have begun last summer?

Perhaps the expected controversial conclusion foreshadowed at the beginning of the first issue of the main series will cause Hollywood to wake up, if Special hasn't done the trick. Perhaps it's because Special lays out the extra railwork needed to perfectly round out Vaughan's world, but as a storyline has few tangible consequences in Hundred's current world. It's a nice story, but for all the hype Pherson received, his actual presence was almost too short-lived, especially because he ended up exceeding expectations as a character. With such a good bad guy to play with, Special should have lasted at least another two issues before pulling the curtain. Harris' stand-in was definitely good enough to warrant more time on the Ex Machina cast, even if he didn't stray far from Harris' unique line-work.

But maybe it's not over. A bit of foreshadowing at the end points to the Pherson concept as a future story element, with or without Pherson himself. Vaughan rarely disappoints, so perhaps he'll give this story the satisfying close it deserves.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.