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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 05/17/05
brought to you by Brian's Books of Santa Clara

Each week we look through the upcoming releases to offer our two cents as to what's hot and what's not. You can agree with us or not, but spend your money wisely.

Ex Machina #11
writer: Brian K. Vaughan
artists: Tony Harris, Tom Feister and Karl Story

The first page splashes broken glass and blood, as "The Great Machine" begs flesh and bone to defy gravity. Unfortunately for the hero, his powers only work on the mechanical. Yet his desperate flight continues onto the second page, rushing and praying that he can save a plummeting woman.

Tony Harris' second page pulls back to reveal more falling bodies, and this is no doubt the moment of The Great Machine's greatest triumph and greatest failure. It's a moment that haunts us in the real world, too, for it takes place on September 11, 2001. On that day, Mitchell Hundred prevented the collapse of the second tower. Still, hundreds lost their lives, and that weight follows him with every step of his new life as a politician.

Always portrayed with a faraway look in his eyes, it's hard to tell if his power or his failure keeps him distant from his constituents and co-workers. That dissonance while struggling to be a politician actually true to his beliefs makes the protagonist of Ex Machina compelling month after month. And if you haven't read this book yet, Brian K. Vaughan offers a jumping on point that briefly recaps the driving forces of this book while offering a vignette that only sharpens longtime readers' view of Mitchell Hundred.

Bent on cleaning up the city, but honest about it being a political move, Mayor Hundred targets...what? Hookers? Peep shows? Nope. Hundred takes on the fortune tellers. Opponents argue that they're only fleecing tourists, but the Mayor points out that tourists are what will save New York City's economy.

It may sound like dry stuff to the casual reader, but it's not, because Vaughan does not limit this book to policy debates. Every political issue ends up having an echo in thought-provoking plotting.

Case in point: a low-level City Hall employee has a powerful argument against shutting down the fortune tellers, for one warned her of 9/11. It could be superstitious claptrap, and of course the reader is welcome to think either way. However, a key component of Hundred's character is an insistence on weighing all the evidence for himself, and his personal investigation only leads him to more questions.

Every issue of this book has provided food for thought. Conservative, liberal, somewhere in between - Vaughan invites you all to think. You can agree or disagree, and indeed, sometimes Mayor Hundred is full of crap. But Vaughan also makes it clear why he thinks the way he does, and he also intersperses the poking of your brain with suspense and occasional action.

The central mystery of Hundred's life remains. What actually gave him his powers? Is that something going to create more? Some answers came in the last arc, but it may still be a while before all will be revealed.

Join us in hoping that it's still a good long while.


Hercules #2: Though it may defy a bit of Marvel continuity - but what Marvel book doesn't these days? -- Hercules takes the uneasy mix of demigod and standard superhero fare and points out just how ridiculous it is. Yet as writer Frank Tieri points out, so were the ancient Greek myths. Blending it all together creates a somewhat satirical book that castigates our culture while still defending our need for heroes, even when our hero is an egotistical alcoholic Lion of Olympus.

JLA: Classified #7: The first half is full of the hijinks you've come to expect, and some confusing dialogue from Etrigan. Somehow, the plot is much thicker than the creative team wants to let on, and just as you start pondering that, they throw in devastating heartbreak without it seeming exploitative. It's great to see Kevin Maguire stretching himself with the range of expressiveness in his art; oh, heck, it's just great to see Kevin Maguire working.

Lucifer #62: Even if you haven't been reading all along and understand all the backstory and machinations of Heaven, Hell and the former ruler of the latter, this issue makes for a neat stand-alone story. Be warned, though: this harsh examination of morality may just sucker you into scouring the stands for trades and back issues.

Superman #217: Ed Benes debuts on the Man of Steel, and for those who have been drooling over his work on Birds of Prey, it's about damned time. New writer Mark Verheiden takes a close look at the new Fortress of Solitude, and starts unraveling what makes Superman tick for him.

Young Avengers #4: I could write something really pretentious, but I can't come up with a reason why I like this book any more profound than - it's just fun. Every issue has been fun. Keep it up, Marvel.

Sight Unseen:

Conan #16: Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord start a new arc this issue, and their collaborations so far have made this an incredible book even for those that don't like barbarian books.

Fade From Blue #10: It's been a long time coming, but Second 2 Some Studios' breakthrough title finally reaches the end of its story. It's either a woman's book that guys won't mind reading or a guys' book for women. Split the difference and just buy the danged thing.

The Goon #12: I'm just a-gonna keep recommendin' this title until you chuckleheads start buyin' it.

Hey, write to us and let us know what you think, or talk about it on the forums!

Derek McCaw

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