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What on Infinite Earths is: Ex Machina

G D Penman By G D Penman Published on February 14, 2016

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Buckle up folks because this is a weird one. Ex Machina is a superhero comic, a political drama in the style of the West Wing, an alternate history and a science fiction story. All of these separate elements weave in and out as the plot progresses and from page to page you are not sure which is going to be centre stage or how the separate parts of Mitchell Hundred’s life are going to overlap next. Aided and abetted by the constant flashbacks to earlier points in his life to help better explain the current event. Usually all of these elements crammed into a book together would be chaotic but in Ex Machina the plot flows smoothly, there is clearly a progression in what information is exposed to us and the way that we see characters from scene to scene is coloured by which particular part of history we saw last.

Mitchell Hundred is the mayor of New York city when the comic begins, having run as an independent candidate in the most notorious two party system in the world and won. So far, so suspicious. We eventually find out the reason for Mayor Hundred’s unexpected success. After an accident involving an unknown, possibly alien piece of technology he was infused with the ability to communicate with machines, he used this ability as the basis for a brief and extremely unsuccessful career as a superhero that culminated in the terrorist attacks of September the 11th where he managed to stop one of the planes from hitting the World Trade Centre. He promptly retired and parleyed his unprecedented popularity and celebrity into votes.

The day to day running of the city forms the backbone of the plot but the major mystery of the story is inevitably tied to the source of Hundred’s powers. As time goes by more and more of that mystery is revealed, generally at a rate of about one answer for every three new questions. Mitchell Hundred remains a fairly heroic character throughout the arc, his political influences throughout the story are made obvious and the inspiration to become a superhero is very cleanly described in those few flashbacks to his early youth, loitering around a comic book store with his elderly father figure.

The politician and the vigilante are treated as two opposing paths for Hundred. He wants to make changes to the world and to do good in the traditional way, rather than by invoking powers that he doesn’t truly understand. Meanwhile problems keep on arising that it seems can only be dealt with by his heroic alter-ego. Add to the mix the threat of his arrest if he resumes his vigilante activities and the inevitable end to his political career it is easy to see where his internal conflict lies. In fact it is only at the very end of the story that his true nature is revealed and the dichotomy of his personal powers and political powers merge. I won’t spoil that dramatic reveal for you, whether he is a politician or a hero by the end of the story is for you to discover and it is well worth the investment of time for you to do so. 

G.D. Penman writes about queer monsters for a living. He is the author of Call Your Steel, The Year of the Knife, Heart of Winter, Apocrypha and many other books. He is also a full-time freelance ... Show More

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