Ex Machina #50, September 2010
Y the Last Man introduced many readers – including me – to writer Brian K. Vaughn. His current ongoing, Saga, is a sweeping space opera with some of the most beautiful art his words have ever been paired with.
But Ex Machina, his post-9/11 story about a superpowered New York City mayor, is his most grounded tale and my personal favorite. It also has my favorite ending of any series I’ve read.
Don’t worry, if you haven’t read it, I won’t spoil it for you. Suffice it to say, in the beginning of the issue, protagonist Mitchell Hundred is sitting on a step, beer in hand, soliloquizing about how superhero comics never have the tragic conclusions that are the logical end of every other kind of storytelling, a powerful statement from a superhero about to see his own story wrapped up. “Happy endings are bulls---,” he says. “There are only happy pauses.” Which sums things up as vaguely as possible.
Through a series of flash forwards, we see how things pan out for Hundred, his deputy David Wylie, chief of security Bradbury, mentor Kremlin and the book’s other supporting players. As in any political race, there are winners and losers.
One of the things I love about Ex Machina is how it twists then-recent history to meet the rules of its world, from 9/11 to Iraq to a certain issue of Amazing Spider-Man. And the book’s final historical twist is every bit as powerful as its first one.