Tuesday, June 13, 2006

God is good but didn’t do it for me

Tantalizing title, I know but shockingly this isn’t about religion or belief systems. It’s about why I stopped reading Ex Machina. It’s meant to be a bit of a pun on “God in the machine” that isn’t all that great of a pun.

I started out really liking this series but it sort of sputtered out for me. I was hearing good things and reading some good reviews online so I picked up The First Hundred Days and was frankly, blown away at the premise. It managed to straddle the worlds of superheroics and topical politics while simultaneously straddling realism with fantasy in its execution.

And Vaughn set up a premise that would allow him to tackle issues from whichever point of view he wanted to. Having Mitchel Hundred elected as an independent allows the writer to tackle issues from his own point of view which may not tow a party line. I don’t think this is a bad thing at all since nothing is as cut and dry as a two party system wants things to be. Having the present intercut with the past also works well giving a bit of backstory simultaneous to the current plot. And mixing action with intrigue is never a bad thing with me.

Now, I really liked the first trade. It was one of the first new things I bought coming back to comics and it really impressed me for how simply different and brave the whole premise was. Then it kind of lost its luster for me in almost the same way Jonah Hex did. I really like both of them but I don’t buy either series anymore in the same way I don’t buy Sloan albums anymore. I’ve got some albums I really like and it all kind of starts to sound the same after a while. Not that it’s bad, but I already have enough and I want some more diversity no matter how good it is. Sounds insane right? But it’s how I roll. If I get it, I want more, not more of the same. Plus the violence just started to get a bit much for me. I’m not advocating against graphic violence I think taking a fairly realistic approach to violence is better than making it sensational but after a while I started to think okay, setup, flashback, something eviscerated, to be continued - every time I picked up Ex Machina.

Basically I felt that The First Hundred Days was a great setup but Vaughn never got around to pulling the trigger on the series. It’s like watching someone set up this fantastic set of dominoes but then they shut out the lights and say come back next month to see them fall, only next month they set up more dominoes. Kind of like Marvel taking a middle path in Civil War I started to feel like Mitchel Hundred was sort of talking about politics but without ever really getting all that political. Quite simply it didn’t really hold my attention anymore but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad book by any means, in fact it’s quite good.

I feel like I’m taking a Mitchel Hundred position on this book. Yes it’s good, but I don’t buy it anymore. I do think it can work as a gateway comic for some people who haven’t read comics in a while but can’t think of comics as anything other than superheroes and don’t want to see anything too far away from superheroes – or for political junkies. I kind of think of Ex Machina to be The Rolling Stones – you should probably buy at least one volume (but not a best of the Stones those are generally boring – get Exile on Main Street or Black and Blue or something). Same goes for this book – you should buy some but you don’t need to own it all. If you’re flagging for something interesting to read and haven’t checked it out yet, Ex Machina is a great book to check out. It’ll hold your attention for a while but it didn’t keep me on for the long haul although the series I have I have re-read.

I guess I’m saying I get it and I don’t feel the need to continue the journey of the characters in much the same way as Y: The Last Man which has an obviously plot direction and a mapped out journey for the characters. Ex Machina is topical and you can jump on and off when you like and if you don’t like something they’re tackling you can wait for the next storyline. Someday I may buy this again but until then I’m happy with what I have and will be looking to expand my reading collection beyond what is already there.


Chris said...

My first and only exposure to Ex Machina was the First Hundred Days trade.

I liked it (I think), but not enough to ever read another issue.

To this day, I have absolutely no explanation for that.

joncormier said...

Hey you just read me struggling with it. I do think it's a good series that got me interested in more comics and I think it can do the same for others. But I get the point now so I sort of don't feel like I need to buy any more. It was buying the floppies that stopped my interest - it reads much better collected.