Saturday, December 03, 2005

Lies and the Lying Shotguns Who Tell Them

EX MACHINA #16
I love Ex Machina for it's ability to balance real world political discussion with the super hero genre. However, Brian K. Vaughn gets away from what's made the book so great in this conclusion of a two-part story. It's not that this issue is bad, just different.

Mayor Mitch Hundred continues his visit with his mother, who has just revealed his father was not killed in an on-the-job accident as he'd believed all his life. Instead, she'd caved in his skull with a fireplace poker in self-defense as he was choking her for having sex with a hippie at an anti-Vietnam rally.

So Mitch is having a bit of a day.

I often describe Ex Machina as "The West Wing" with Matt Murdock as Martin Sheen (your hero of choice may vary). Fans of the show will understand the following reference. This issue reads a lot like that episode where C.J. went to her high school reunion, spent time with her Alzheimer's-suffering father, and hooked up with Matthew Modine. For those unfamiliar with the show, it wasn't a bad episode, but the West Wing and the goings-on there played little to no role in what was happening. It did set up some storylines to expand C.J.'s character later on, but for the week it aired, you felt like you were being cheated out of an episode of the show you really wanted to watch.

Mitch's mom explains how his father's co-workers, the men who dug the water tunnels beneath New York, helped her fake his death in a cave in, allowing her to cash in his insurance and save her the sticky situation of explaining to her in-laws how she'd brained their son while he was drunkenly attempting to throttle the life from her.

The moment is broken up when some thugs show up to collect money from Mrs. Hundred's boyfriend. Mitch uses his ability to talk to machines to learn the shotguns aren't loaded and steps in to confront the guys, pressing the barrel of one of the guns to his chin and daring the leader of the group to pull the trigger. When he's not taken up on the offer, he snatches one of the guns and turns it on the guys, chasing them off.

Mitch's mom gets upset at her son for doing something so stupid, so he explains how the guns told him they were empty and demonstrates by pulling the trigger.
Mitch can't understand how it could be loaded, but his mother simply explains, using the same reasoning for why she'd never told him the truth about his father's death, "It lied, kid. Sooner or later, everybody does."

The story ends with Mitch's mom agreeing to move back to New York with him and Mitch going into the old water tunnels with a student film crew making a documentary.

This issue set up some minor storylines that might balloon into something bigger later, such as Mitch being raised on ill-gotten money provided by the city of which he is now mayor and the on-going press speculation that he is gay being spurred on by his mother moving into his apartment. In the context of the overall story, it works, but strictly on its own it's not exactly the issue I'd grab to convince someone of how great this series is.

Best Moment: The flashback to Mitch's mom killing his dad. When he looks at the blood on his hands and says, "That a girl," it's downright creepy.

Worst Moment: Mitch's mom questioning his sexuality. If he's gay, fine; if not, fine. I really don't care.

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. Tony Harris is one of the five best artists in comics and his attention to detail is great as always. It's worth checking out this issue just for the tattoos on the extortionists.