Monday, February 15, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 12 (2/15) -- Ex Machina, Vol. 8 by Vaughan and Harris

The continuous forward motion of time can be unexpectedly destructive to a monthly comic-book series; the storyline that seemed so fresh and ripped-from-the-headlines in 2004 can become tired and tedious when it's still running in 2010. Ex Machina started off as a very timely series -- edgily political, outspokenly post-9/11, utterly of the moment -- but it's still of that moment as it rattles along its delayed path, with alternate-timeline clues littering its path as it dithers around and tells sidebar stories.

Dirty Tricks, the eighth collection of the series, tells entirely sidebar stories. They're entertaining sidebar stories, and they'd be worth telling if Ex Machina were less time-bound than it is, but they're just running the clock up and getting Ex Machina further and further away from the historical moment it was about. I'm beginning to think that this should have been a thirty-issue series, published monthly, focused entirely on the main story -- boom boom boom, starting in August 2004 and done by early 2007. (Looking back at my review of the last collection -- over a year ago -- I'm reminded that was sidebar as well, and so Ex Machina has been spinning its wheels for about two years now.)

As it is, we're in for two more collections of about this length to get us to the series ending in issue #50, which should come around the middle of this year. It's a shame, since Brian K. Vaughan (the writer) and Tony Harris (the artist) are still working as well as they were back in 2004 when the series started. The real problem is that it's not 2004 anymore, and it never will be again. And spending a three-issue storyline about a busty blonde who idolizes/stalks/fetishizes supernatural NYC mayor Mitchell Hundred only gets us further and further from 2004.

I gather that the ongoing series is now in the middle of the big climactic storyline, though on what looks like a bi-monthly basis. And I expect to catch up with Ex Machina for volumes 9 and 10, whenever they manage to come out. But I can't help thinking of this as a lost opportunity, and yet another example of the old truism that mainstream comics just have no clue how to stick the landing. Nothing is ever allowed to end, so no one has an experience getting to the end of a story. I hope I'm wrong, and that Ex Machina has a strong, real ending. But I'll have to wait a while to find out...and that's the problem.

(And, on a side note, can somebody buy DC Comics a decent ONIX feed? Or is the problem with their online covers -- which are far too often wrong, old, preliminary and without type -- something more systemic?)

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: Yael Naïm - Endless Song Of Happiness
via FoxyTunes

1 comment:

The Brillig Blogger said...

Compared to the way Y: The Last Man meandered about for years before coming to what I thought was a very disappointing conclusion (critical consensus not with me on that, I will admit), Ex Machina is powering to its finish. I'll be sad to see this end come issue #50, and Y, I wanted to euthanize a good year before it ended of its own accord.

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