Sunday, March 20, 2005

EX MACHINA #9

Over in Y - The Last Man, Brian Vaughan has gotten very good at juggling competing storylines and making some very compelling red herrings. That ability is on display here as Mayor Hundred opens a huge can of worms with gay marriage while an unknown savage killer is striking close to home and heart. This is a science fiction story, but Vaughan has done everything in his power to make us forget about that until it becomes an inescapable force that cannot be ignored.

Mitchell Hundred's personal politics are part bleeding heart liberal and part libertarian and, like all good engineers, he works in discrete, practical units that don't factor in anything unquantifiable -- intangibles don't count. His perfectly logical solutions end up sounding wacky and lunatic because he assumes that everyone else can display the same dispassionate reasoning that he does. Reducing the distinction between a civil marriage and a civil union to one of semantics is not as easy as it looks on paper and Hundred, the Great Machine, cannot understand why nobody else can make it compile. It's a sort of charming simplicity -- except to everyone else who has to deal with him, in which case Hundred looks like a sort of high functioning autistic and is unbearably frustrating.

Not surprisingly, Hundred spends pretty much the entire issue getting yelled at by various people over various incidences -- some his fault, some not at all. The continuing saga of Jackson Georges (occasionally reading as Ex Machina's parallel to Y's Hero) goes back and forth; his anguish is heartbreaking even after we already know -- or think we do -- that he has gone dangerously and viciously rogue. Suzanne Padilla's humiliated fury is also strong and true. Bradbury and Hundred's relationship is, as ever, all about the banter. About the only personal moment that really bugged me was Lilith Warren's little confession; it felt gratuitous and unnecessary after the tone was established in the press conference scene and in last month's discussion between the principals.

As ever, Tony Harris's stunning art is worth the price of admission alone.

And, finally, because I get such glee at out-geeking Vaughan (and because I can): Agent Warren should be saying "We now have him cornered in an abandoned stretch of the an old BMT line." The BMT -- Brooklyn Manhattan Transit, formerly BRT (Brooklyn Rapid Transit) -- is one of the three systems that was combined to form the NYC subway system and exists today as about a dozen subway lines (the Sixth Avenue, Broadway, and Nassau Street lines, basically), so Jackson Georges could be tucked anywhere between Columbus Circle and Coney Island or beyond. You can still see signs for the BMT in places like the 14th Street station on the F line. The other two component parts are the IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit) and IND (Independent Subway).

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