Pick of the Week

December 17, 2008 – Ex Machina #40

What did the
community think?

Avg Rating: 4.6
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 33.6%
Users who pulled this comic:

Size: pages
Price: 2.99

I quickly glanced at the cover of this book before I started reading it, and almost imperceptibly thought, “hey, that guy on the cover looks like Brian K. Vaughan.” It didn’t really register as conscious thought, until I got to the first page, and thought, “Is that Kremlin? Wait, no. That looks just like Tony Harris.” Of course, I flipped back to the cover, and there was Tony Harris clearly sitting next to Brian K. Vaughan. At this point I figured we were due for a strange, and unwanted diversionary issue. Things like this never turn out well.

However, as I kept reading it, I was quickly swayed, and started having a lot of fun. For one thing, Tony Harris is quite a character, and by page 3, I was totally charmed by the depiction of him and Vaughan, both from a writing and artistic standpoint. My fear that this was going to be self-indulgence turned into joy at a funny self-portrait. But that alone is not enough to make a comic book a complete experience. I really enjoyed the craft involved when Harris met with January, and Hundred met with Vaughan. There was a very interesting status shift, where Vaughan, who created the fiction character Mitchell Hundred, was actually intimidated by him. If you look at the pages, we’re always looking down on Vaughan, and Hundred is always in a position above him. Further, there’s such a different characterization going on in all the characters in this story, yet the “real” people seem less so than the fictional ones. It illustrated to me how well characterized Mitchell Hundred really is.

When Vaughan brought what I assume his real experience with September 11 into the story, I was quite touched, and it reminded me about the moment that I fell in love with this series in the first place, at the end of issue #1, which was my Pick of the Week way back in 2004. Vaughan has a way of expressing the sometimes neurotic thoughts we all have, but don’t articulate very well, like the fact that everyone has their personal 9/11 story, but since we all have them, they’re not necessarily special. Of course, he shows how that is really just neurosis, and as long as your experience is genuine, it can be valid. The whole thing just felt very personal, but the reason that it worked was because it just fit in this world of Ex Machina, because it doesn’t feel like Vaughan is that far away from his subjects, and this issue proves it. Had the whole book just been a bunch of inside jokes, winking at fans and other creators with no substance, I wouldn’t have been as impressed, but there was weight between the jokes, and it just worked.

Tony Harris is a genius, as expressed by the Vaughan in the story. But on this issue, I think he showed it more than usual. It’s no secret that he uses a lot of photos from which he creates the faces and figures on the pages. Sometimes I notice it, and other times I don’t. In this issue, which was challenging from the standpoint of just being two people talking on most of the pages, he pulled it off. The characters didn’t look like photograph tracings, and the panels were laid out in such a way as to still come off as dynamic and interesting, despite the complete lack of action. He nailed Vaughan’s nervous body language, as well as his own unique mannerisms, and mixed them with the calm self-assurance of Mayor Hundred. The pages were clean and actually felt a bit more alive than they have in the last few issues. Also, the cover was a real standout for me as well, where he worked in a different style that looks like ink wash to me. Overall, there was energy and fun on the pages, and it seemed like Harris was having a really good time making them.

Finally, there’s a great gag on the last couple pages, and it was easily my favorite Jim Lee work ever.

It was a great single issue, and despite the fact that I’m completely over nod-and-a-wink self-referential, post-modern jokes, I enjoyed the whole thing, and I can only credit that to the immense talent of the creators involved. I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it: I miss Brian K. Vaughan’s involvement in comics so very much. Comics were just better when he made more of them.

Josh Flanagan
We’re interviewing for a job, not getting gay married.


  1. Your tag line on this review summed up exactly how I felt about it — it shouldn’t have worked, I didn’t even really *want* it to work.  But it just made me smile, I can’t put it any better than that.


  2. Great pick! I was wondering how this would turn out when I read the solicitation, however I read Ex-Machina in trade so I knew it would be a while before I found out. 

    I didn’t have a lot of great books, but I really liked Terra #4 (of 4) it really sets up the character to have some future involvement with the DCU, as well as being a great springboard for the Power Girl series coming out next year from the same creative team.  

  3. @Nate – do yourself a favor, and pick up the issue.  There’s no continuity to be spoiled, as it’s just a one shot.

    Or have patience and wait, and be pleasantly surprised.  I’m not here to dictate.

  4. I read this first, and I knew it was my pick as soon as I finished it. This was a phenomenal issue. I miss BKV as well, Josh. I think I remember him saying something about pitching a new series soon, to take the place of Ex Machina when it end in 10 months. Hopefully we’ll be hearing more about that soon.

  5. I totally missed this at the shop.  I pulled it on the site even though I read the series in trade.  I’ll have to remember to look for it next week.  

    My pick was, to no surprise, Conan #6.  Richard Corben threw down some sublime and otherworldly visuals, and we even got to meet Conan’s mom!   

  6. I read this in trades, so I’ll wait it out.  Ex Machina is one of my favorite series though.  I love it!

    I bucked the trend and made Supergirl my POW.  At the end of the day, with the five books I had its the one that I most enjoyed reading.   

  7. Fear Agent, Walking Dead, Fables, and Ex Machina all came out this week. I didn’t buy any of them. I did, however, buy a s***load of books that are "to be continued" in separate titles, many of which I don’t currently buy.

    What I need to do is take the books I read in issues, and take the books I read in trades, and completely reverse those lists. Think of what a different week I’d have had.

  8. Great pick/article, josh!

    I haven’t read all my comics yet, but i doubt that any of them will be as good as this. I’m almost certain this will be my POW.

  9. Hellblazer #250 seemed like a sure bet, both as my personal pick and Josh’s, but I couldn’t agree more about this issue coming from out of nowhere and stealing John’s thunder. Fantastic despite itself and constantly teasing the reader with what seemed like a seemingly inevitable self-indulgent collapse that never came. This issue actually got me excited for the last year of Ex Machina, a series I’ve been buying based solely on muscle memory for a good long while (though the recently announced special drawn by Jean Paul Leon did it’s fair share of making this title relevant for me again as well).

    Hellblazer #250 was pretty great as well though and after reading his short story, I feel confident that we’ll be getting good Peter Milligan during his upcoming run (or arch?).

  10. Wonderful article and pick josh.

    I wish I could’ve read Ex Machina in issues, but I’m gonna go out for the trades when it’s all over. But if you say this issue really isnt in continuity then maybe buying this issue wouldnt be too bad. Hearing about the ending of this book made me laugh, though I wont spoil it for others, it really is a great way to end the issue.

    Pick of the Week for me though? Deadpool!!! 🙂

  11. But the real question is: Did Garth Ennis write the last couple of pages?  I mean, it’s obvious that Jim Lee drew it, but since Mr. Ennis is credited with writing the autobiography, it stands to reason he may have written those panels.

  12. I bet it was Ennis.  Hard to say though.

  13. I got confirmation from DC that it was in fact Ennis who wrote those 2 pages.

  14. Great review, Josh — definitely the pick of the week

  15. Yay, I finally have the same POTW as you did!!!  Such a great issue, and great review.  You mentioned everything that was great about this issue.  Thanks for pointing out that we are always looking down at BKV, I missed that the first time around.

    P.S. When Mayor Hundred first said "Brian Bendis?" I totally expected to see  Bendis in the shot as well.  This was such a blast!  Can’t recommend it highly enough

  16. Hear hear Josh (or is it "here here")! Great review and a great PotW!

  17. Pardon my ignorance, but have Ennis and Lee ever worked on a book together before? Because I would probably have to buy it after those last two pages. And as for the book, I just have to wonder, how ‘meta’ is it exactly to have yourself say that you don’t like ‘meta’ books in a book which you’re currently writing. I think my head nearly exploded at that line.

  18. "We’re interviewing for a job, not getting gay married."



  19. Best single issue of the year.  Hands down.

  20. I’ve switched over the the HCs on this book, despite being totally up-to-date on it.  Definitely grabbing this issue however, sounds great.

  21. @SunnyvaleTrash-You won’t regret it, its awesome.  Also, was it you that they were talking about in the latest episode of 11 o’clock comics????

  22. @JumpingJupiter – You don’t read the book, you don’t get the jokes.

  23. Sign fine! fine! i pick it up in trades why do read these things it just makes me spend money

    Thanks again for encouraging me to pick up what will probably end up being one my fave books. After all my I kiii giants fetish all ifanboys fault 

  24. interesting….


    nice review, joshua 

  25. Doesn’t everyone miss Brian K. Vaughan?  RUNAWAYS was totally his title.

  26. Great selection Josh! The story was great and while I am not a fan of Runaways, I love BKV’s Y the Last Man completely.  tony was fleshed out as a real fun artist guy, and having met a few that is a rarity!  But the Jm Lee thing?  I didn’t get it, and it shows the main reason why I dislike him, why is he content to "grace" us with a cover here or a two page thing there, yet continuosly plaster his mug over the Wilsdtorm upcoming books page? I get the impression that he is more about the "celebrity" than doing good art.  If he wants to draw I am pretty sure that he can get any book that he wants, I see him at conventions and thinks he is the greatest thing since fire and still thinks its 1994 and Image was running things.  Well they aint, and if they were, he sold out anyway!  The guy really believes his own press and that inclusion in this issue, to me, wasn’t that big of a deal.  But Josh put it best when he said that it was his best work ever.  If Lee would put his art first maybe he won;t continue to live off headlines from over a dozen years ago.

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