Sunday, December 15, 2019

Comics Lust 12/12/2019

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/holiday cookie hoarder Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). It’s been a crazy week for work holiday parties and get-togethers, and the same is true of my puppy executive team and me. We too had a Donist World shindig of a holiday party where we listened to Prince songs between Christmas classics and sipped on mint-tinged hot chocolate with marshmallows and enjoyed frosted cookies after some carnitas tacos; it was all rather lovely. For those concerned, Tulip and Reverse Obie did not have any of the hot chocolate (you know, poison to dogs and all) but instead, each dog had mugs of beef bone broth topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with lamb-flavored kibble. Ghastly, I know, I tried it after they dared me to take a sip. Let’s just say I’ll stick to hot chocolate. Anyhow, take a breath, the end of the holidays is nigh, let your shoulders relax, grab some hot chocolate (add a shot of somethin’-somethin’ to it if that’s your thing), buy and hoard as many boxes of Trader Joe's “Dark Chocolate and Mint Stars” cookies as you can fit into your house, sit back, and afterward check out some great comics. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magics mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.

Comics Lust

Bingemode (Part 2)

For the “Bingemode” series of posts, I’ve been thinking of what constitutes binging a comic book series: how many issues qualify a comic as being a binge read, do I binge a specific title or does a binge reading cover a character across multiple titles, can a title/character cover multiple publishers, or can a binge cover multiple works by a particular creator. Now, I’ve pretty much been reading large-run, single series over the past year, but here’s what I’m thinking:
  • Binging a comic has to be greater than 12 issues (sorry, Squadron Supreme by Mark Gruenwald and Bob Hall)
  • But, if I toss in the related Squadron Supreme Death of a Universe graphic novel, then that puts it in the running. (Dang, now I can’t wait to read those)
  • Some creators have a large body of work in shorter form factors. I’m thinking Jeff Lemire, or a bunch of Alan Moore stories, or whatever, just so long as those works exceed the equivalent of 12 issues
  • It probably won’t be a series you can read in a single weekend…unless you get sick or commit to doing nothing but hammering through a grip of comics
  • Heck, it can even be theme-based or something. Perhaps something like reading every comic book in existence that had an ostrich as the main character and I’m gonna tell y’all about it
Those are some basic rules that I will pretty much stick to. So, by all means, let’s proceed with “Bingemode”!

Ex Machina

(Written by Brian K. Vaughan, mostly illustrated by Tony Harris; inked by Tom Feister, colored mostly by JD Mettler; lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, published by Wildstorm Productions, a DC Comics imprint)
Almost exactly nine years ago I talked about the release of the tenth and final volume of the amazing—and sadly all too politically relevant in today’s world—Ex Machina. I had started Donist World in March of 2010 and I reviewed Ex Machina, Volume 10: Term Limits by the end of that year. I had been reading the series in trade form since the release of the first volume back in 2005, and I loved each installment when it dropped. I remember the ache of the long wait between releases, and my satisfaction at reading that final page before sliding the book alongside its brothers and sisters on the bookshelf stashed away in the “Closet of Doom.” And there it sat for eight and a half years until we moved this past summer.
After packing and moving a ton of books (literally?) and organizing my trades onto some new shelves that were not situated in a scary, hidden, dark cave of a closet but were now situated in plain view, I knew Vaughan and Harris’s compelling series was at the top of my reread pile. So, with a beer in hand, a patio lounge chair, and a large umbrella to break up the heat, I settled in for what ended up being a two-week journey.
Ex Machina is the story of Mitchell Hundred, a civil engineer in New York who is lead to a mysterious, green, glowing artifact affixed underwater to the Brooklyn Bridge. The item explodes, tearing away Hundred’s left ear and scarring much of the left side of his face. But the horror doesn’t stop there. Hundred immediately begins to hear the machines of the city talking to him and overwhelmed by trauma and the mechanical voices, he screams for them to stop, which they do as the entire city goes dark. Fast forward a little while later, Hundred has recovered from his injuries and after some plastic surgery is made to appear somewhat normal aside from a few strands a glowing, green circuitry clinging to the side of his head. Together with his friend Bradbury (the harbor patrolman who brought Hundred to the artifact) and his childhood father figure “Kremlin” (a surly, Russian immigrant and friend of the family who encourages Hundred’s use of his newfound abilities), he decides to become “The Great Machine,” a costumed superhero devoted to keeping the city safe for all. Unfortunately, superheroing is much more difficult than he ever could have imagined; he kind of sucks at it. Despite his troubles in the field, Hundred creates some truly spectacular sci-fi gadgets that come to him in his dreams but even having those at his disposal barely manages to keep him alive when bank robbers shoot his flight pack, or he tries to fly while carrying someone, or just straight misreads a tense situation. But everything changes after Hundred manages to save one of the twin towers after the 9/11 attack and he decides to run as an independent for mayor, which he wins. He trades in the helmet, leather, and flight pack for a suit and tie and a staff of aides as he combats union strikes, freedom of speech at an art exhibit, clashes with political opponents, attempts to calm panic over a killer roaming the streets, and everything else that might keep an elected official (at least the good ones) awake at night. Unfortunately, Hundred’s old life keeps calling as bizarre threats come out of the woodwork and attempt to claw him back into the quagmire.
Although I remembered very little about this phenomenal series, picking it up and reading the first volume instantly reminded me of what a fantastic series this is. Much like he had done with Y the Last Man (definitely a future “Bingemode” installment), Vaughan instantly pulls you into the characters of the series and makes you love them, even when they make shockingly bad decisions or they fall victim to the whims of madmen. You feel the pain of not just an interesting character’s death, but the pain of those who loved that character; you know their loss. By the time you reach the final page of the final issue, it is safe to say you will gasp at the revelations as certain character arcs come to an end and you realize it was all rather inevitable as much as it all hurts. Harris’s photo referenced art (despite some of his questionable actions over the past few years) on both the interiors and covers is stunning and provides life and drama to this political thriller.
I will say that binging this phenomenal series is the way to go as it keeps the narrative rolling and the intense and complicated situations top of mind as opposed to reading with lengthy gaps between releases. It also helps in that I did not want to put the book down to go to work or go to sleep or what have you. If I could have managed it, I would have read all ten volumes in one sitting, it just wasn’t physically possible. Given the dastardly turn of US and world politics, binging Ex Machina was an easy thing to do and had me shaking my head in disgust at some of the topics and subject matter that Vaughan thankfully does not shy away from.
Now, to read this fine, must-read series you have quite a few options:


Hardcover Collections

Trade Paperback Collections

And there you have it, Denizens. Ex Machina not only stood up to the test of time, it greatly surpassed my expectations and is one I want Amy the Intern (my wife) to read so we can talk about it. Touching upon racism, gay marriage, abortion, sexism, and many other important topics, it is a superhero comic that greatly downplays the superhero aspects for that of a man trying to make the world a better place while trying not to sell his soul to obtain that which is greater than his ability to talk to machines: political power. For those who frequently utter the phrase why’d he have to go and make this political, this book is not for you…actually, very few of the best comic book series are. But for those with the intelligence (mental and emotional), the patience, and the love of a brilliant political drama, then Ex Machina is one you are going to want to own, place upon your favorite bookshelf, and return to often over the years. You simply must read this damn fine series.

See you next time.


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