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So does this make it metafiction?
Jason Schachat's
Occasional Breakdown
11/28/05, part 2
part 1 here

Now, I’d usually wager a lot that Ex Machina is worth the money every time, but Ex Machina #16 tests us a little with the true story of how Mitchell Hundred’s father died at the hands of his own mother. Unfortunately, the story isn’t much more detailed than that. Poppa was drunk one night back in 1969, and went a bit homicidal when he found out Hundred’s mom had been attending protests and “free love” rallies. In self defense, she whacked him over the head with a fire poker, and the rest is history.

The story also gives us the traditional run-in with a local trailer-trash bad guy and his unwashed goons, but that only feels like a too-long path to an important bit of information about Hundred’s superpowers. For the most part, the “Off the Grid” arc just adds a new character to the cast.

What makes it worth buying is the art by Tony Harris and co. Even though it usually feels like he’s re-using the same pair of models for a good number of his character designs, the work is rich, expressive, and gorgeous. Tom Feisters’ inks give the lines just enough weight, and JD Mettler’s colors bring to life expansive deserts, claustrophobic trailers, and that warm yet chilling night in December when Hundred lost his father.

This may not be the best place for new readers to start, but they’re quickly running out of excuses for not reading Ex Machina. An addictive mixture of Starman and The West Wing, this book continues to reinvent the superhero from the ground up without clutter or cliche. Get into it soon.

And PLEASE give She-Hulk #2 a gander. Undoubtedly one of the smartest books Marvel’s produced in years, the new volume continues to maintain intellectual supremacy after the House of M by doing what no other book has done in years: making us like Hawkeye.

Okay, I’ll admit that’s not such an amazing feat, but it’s a hell of a lot more impressive than killing him off or using a re-boot to bring him back again.

After the last issue prompted She-Hulk to grab an amazing opportunity to bring Marvel’s favorite bowman back to the land of the living through an unorthodox form of jury duty, we now find ourselves swept up in the time travel trial of tomorrow... or two weeks ago, depending on how you look at it...

The story starts us following Hawkeye on a crime-fighting spree throughout New York, surprised at how surprised everyone is to see him. She-Hulk then has an intimate moment with her boyfriend, trying to get past the mental blocks that make her transformations so difficult to achieve. *insert lewd comment here*

She then goes about crafting her nefarious scheme to keep Hawkeye from getting his purple butt blown up while trying to figure out how to defend the time traveling professor who killed the man he was told would kill him if he didn’t kill him before he traveled through time to kill– you get the picture.

Things actually go surprisingly smoothly until the giant robot shows up...

The first issue of the new She-Hulk had me a little worried. Last time around, Dan Slott and Juan Bobillo gave us quick stories, tight issues, and lots of witty jabs at comics, superheroes, and continuity or the general lack thereof. This relaunch seems to be taking its time with the plot and gave us more exposition in one episode than we got in the first arc last time around.

Now, my fears are quelled. We’re still dealing with the same wickedly irreverent cast and creators, but the last thing they want to do is repeat themselves. She-Hulk learned to accept Jen, but now Jen needs to learn to accept She-Hulk.

Oh, and then there’s her poor roommate Pug, who we were led to believe had wound up living happily ever after with Jen... but it’s more like he ended up living with Jen and her boyfriend John Jameson.

If you’ve had enough of confusing mutant soap opera, this is the book for you. If you can’t get enough of the dust-covered encyclopedias of Marvel Universe history, this is the book for you. If you have half a brain – well, in that case, you might want to see a doctor... but buy She-Hulk on the way to the hospital.

Angry but stupid.
Never having been a huge fan of Geoff Johns’ run, Flash #228 has me wondering if his recent departure from the title was a bigger loss than originally imagined...

Following a run in with a creepy cult of born-again children (of the corn) who turned out to be a delegation from another reality (it could happen), Wally takes it upon himself to retrieve an item they desperately need to save a sick friend. Along the way, our hero suffers a few hallucinations that all foreshadow bad things to come for his newborn children.

Then he teams up with Nightwing and gets a good talking to while they search for the super magical doowacky that’ll do something, something...

Let’s do a little test, shall we?

You step into a room filled with super-powered people who immediately scream “It’s the Flash! We must destroy him!”, but, after demonstrating what a nice guy you are, they instead ask for you to give them an extremely dangerous item called “The Summoner”. Do you:

A. Beat the living snot out of them and save the day.
B. Retrieve “The Summoner” and let them beat the snot out of you.
C. Retrieve “The Summoner” and use it to save the day (somehow).
D. Australia.

If you answered “B”, your name is probably Wally West (though “D” would also have been acceptable).

So, yeah, this issue is pretty damn confusing. Wally’s about as gullible as you can get and displays some of the jittery ADD we haven’t seen from him since his early days in the big red tights, but he also has a new family to take care of, identity and infinite crises that should wisen him up, and Nightwing to... brood and generally be smarter than him.

On the other hand, this story gives us a nice return to the character development of Wally, and it’s good to see the focus returning to the legacy of the speedsters which made Mark Waid’s run the glory days of the franchise, but... but Wally’s just so dumb here.

It’ll take some time to see what direction this story’s zipping off in, but the momentum from “Rogue War” is fading fast. This issue’s pretty forgettable, but a few more like it will bring Flash to a screeching halt.

Jason Schachat

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