Graphic Novel Review 74/365: Ex Machina – Brian K. Vaughan Week!

Please keep up with all of my old Graphic Novel Reviews here as I quest for 365 in 365 days!

Brian K. Vaughan Week continues with another book that I’ve been meaning to read for some time: Ex Machina.

Title: Ex Machina 

Author(s): Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris, Tom Feister, and JD Mettler

Publisher: Wildstorm (2004)

Age Rating: 17+

Ex Machina is one of the oldest books that I have reviewed thus far in my journey.  Originally published in 2004 by Wildstorm, Ex Machina tells the tale of a man, given the power to speak with technology through a fluke accident (or at least we think so after book one), that leaves him attempting to act the role of super-hero.  He eventually decides that his influence would be better served as the mayor of New York City, so that’s what he becomes, but in doing so, he must relinquish his secret identity and not use his powers again.  He has two men that help him on his quests, and both of them have the ability to shut down his powers with the literal push of a button.

Sounds cool, huh?  It is.  And that’s the power of BKV.  The art is fairly straight-forward, but the script is not, filled with political discussions and intrigue, this book is a complex read.  And the back-matter is cool because it gives us the actual photographs of the people that were used as models and stand-ins for the actual sketches that turned into the actual pages of the actual Ex Machina.  As an exploration of craft, inspiring graphic novelists can take this concept and apply it to their own work.

Almost fifteen years old, this book supports the idea that political climates do not change much.  Many of the issues discussed in the novel are issues that are being explored on Twitter as I write this.  And the exploration of good and evil in politics is always going to be a hot button topic.  I don’t see these discussions happening in many classrooms though; there is some nudity, so that might keep this book out of the hands of kids, but the themes are excellent, and I might use this book next week as we really get into some political debate in my graphic novel class.  One of the plot points places a large portrait of Abe Lincoln, in an art gallery, with the word “nigger” painted across it.  The book does a nice job of discussing all sides of this insanity, including both political sides of taking it down from the museum walls, but the situation certainly lends itself to discussion and debate in the high school classroom.  There’s one thing to reading about an image like that in a traditional book, but SEEING the image of Lincoln like that is different, and I feel, one of more guttural emotion.

Yes, there is a little of the typical super-hero book in this, but it’s not a super-hero book.  It’s a book about right and wrong.  It’s a book about decisions.

Check it out, and let me know what you think.

Happy reading!

Eric

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