Not all angst, plus a free comic
Ex Machina has as its protagonist Mitchell Hundred, an ex-superhero complete with powers acquired in the traditional superhero manner — an accident. Hundred's gift is the ability to communicate with machines and tell them what to do. Oh, and he gets himself elected mayor of New York City after using his power to save one of the World Trade Center towers from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. And he loves comic books.
Such angst as there is takes the form of Hundred's forswearing his powers, but being compelled to use them in crises, and of occasionally melodramatic interludes. In one such, he rescues his mother from a gang of thugs in trailer park, in part by using his powers to start the engine of one thug's truck — a humorous way of telling the thug to take a hike.
But the series' real energy comes from its exciting dramatizations of practical political problems: the mayor vs. the police commissioner, the mayor vs. a persistent reporter, the mayor offering pragmatic criticism of political dogma, and often with a humorous touch.
This livelier touch may be due simply to writer Brian K. Vaughan's own temperament and inclinations. But maybe the series, which began in 2004 and whose first thirty-four issues have been collected in seven bound volumes, marks a stage in the evolution of superheroes from the angst-and-shadows tales of 1986 and after. Readers more knowledgeable than I about comics, feel free to weigh in.
And click here for a free download of Ex Machina, issue No. 1.
© Peter Rozovsky 2009