Feb. 6th, 2016

Ex Machina

Feb. 6th, 2016 10:07 pm
raven: subway sign in black and white, text: "Times Square / 42 Street station" (stock - times square)
So today I decided to break my streak of going-into-London-thirteen-days-in-a-row! It was a good choice. I spent some of the day literally lying on the couch with my face in the cushions. But I also wrote a couple of thousand words, and submitted to POC Destroy SF, and read a trade paperback of the Brian Vaughan comic, Ex Machina.

Which I feel weird writing about here, because what the shit do I know about comics, nothing at all, that's what. (Fake geek girl, yep.) But, omg, you guys, I love this so much. I've just finished volume 3 (there are 10 in total, I believe) and I'm just hoping and praying it stays this good because so far it could've been made for me. Basically, the story goes like this. Mitchell Hundred, a working-class boy from Brooklyn, the only child of a single mother, grows up loving superhero comics and machines. Then, in his mid-thirties, as a civil engineer for the city, he has a strange encounter with a mysterious artefact in the water below the Brooklyn Bridge, and when he wakes up he's - changed. He can talk to machines. They do what he tells them to do.

So Mitch becomes the Great Machine, a superhero with a jetpack! With his two closest friends, they fight crime!

...and it's a total disaster. He saves some people. Like, a few. But a lot of people are very angry about it. The police commissioner tries to arrest him a couple of times. Insurance premiums are a problem. The NSA get involved. It's messy as shit. Mitch gives up superheroing and retires, and mopes, and drinks.

Then 9/11 happens.

This is a New York City that has one of the Twin Towers still on the skyline. And in the rush of public acclaim following his very visible rescue of a lot of people, Mitch runs for Mayor of New York City and wins. And that's what the comic is about. The first trade paperback is subtitled "The First Hundred Days", I love it. It doesn't have the straightforward idealism of The West Wing and Parks and Rec - for one thing, Mitch is an independent - but it's warm and loving and very invested in the idea of the city itself as a machine that only works because of the people working every day doing things like cleaning out the sewers or driving the subway trains or ploughing snow. And while there are some superhero comic plots - like the ongoing mystery of just where Mitch's powers came from - there are also complex and delightful political plots. It's the early 2000s, they do a gay marriage plot, obviously, and there's also stuff about Mitch being called for jury service and deciding to Be! An! Example! and it's all just wonderful. And my favourite bits are where the two bits of the story intersect: so there's this bit about how Mitch has a no-cell-phones no-other-technology rule in certain parts of City Hall, because machines talk to him and it's exhausting and this is a reasonable adjustment! And there's also a lurking thread I'm interested in, whereby he clearly has some kind of delayed trauma related to 9/11, but the story is spinning it out slowly.

Of course, as mentioned, I'm only at the end of volume 3 so perhaps this isn't an unqualified rec (also fake geek girl feels, omg). But I'm enjoying the hell out of it.

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