At first, being able to talk to machines may not seem like the most impressive superpower. I mean, so you can tell your washing machine to start. Big whoop. Then think about the fact that you can tell a gun not to fire, or all of the power plants around you to shut down. Not too shabby.

As is the tradition for uncounted superheroes before him, Mitchell Hundred started as just an ordinary civil engineer who, while working on dredging the city’s river is splashed with a mysterious glowing green goo that alters him so that he can hear and communicate with machines. Having grown up with superhero comics, he immediately sees the gift for what it is, and becomes The Great Machine, New York’s latest costumed vigilante fighting the good fight. All too soon, though, he decides that while he’s making a dent here and there, he’s not doing enough for the city he loves by battling mad supervillains and accomplishing daring rescues. He wants to do more, less dynamically and more consistently, and maybe even instigate a sustained change toward the better. So what does he do? He runs for mayor.

The trouble starts when he wins. Facing a bomber who’s decided to take out the city snow plows and anyone who gets in the way and an artist who’s stirred up a political sh*tstorm with a provocative and offensive painting on display with city funding, he’s not starting off with political aplomb and public success. The loyal companions to The Great Machine, the lovable thug of a cop Rick Bradbury and the wiley socialist nicknamed Kremlin, lose their rock solid status as Hundred becomes more suspicious of Kremlin’s increasing insistence he return to the costume. His Police Commissioner thinks he’ll retreat to his vigilante ways. Resident PR staffer Journal is the only person who seems to be on his side, displaying previously untapped political savvy and smarts and turning out to be a greater asset than anyone suspected. The artwork, by the man behind Starman’s long signature look, has the same crisp, heavily lined photo-inspired look and shifts to suit the mood of the story at every turn without losing its cohesion. The writing is top notch, with a keen sense of humor as well as an excellent sense of pacing, political chicanery, and when to pass the story on to the images. There’s a reason this series won an Eisner. The combination of superheroes and politics is not new, but this new spin on it feels fresh and suitably complicated – the continuing story promises to be fascinating.

Ex Machina, vol. 1: the First 100 Days
By Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Tony Harris
ISBN: 9781401206123
DC Comics, 2005

  • Robin B.

    | She/Her Teen Librarian, Public Library of Brookline

    Editor in Chief

    Robin E. Brenner is Teen Librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts. She has chaired the American Library Association Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection List Committee, the Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee, and served on the Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She is currently the President of the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table for ALA. She was a judge for the 2007 Eisner awards, helped judge the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards in 2011, and contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. She regularly gives lectures and workshops on graphic novels, manga, and anime at comics conventions including New York and San Diego Comic-Con and at the American Library Association’s conferences. Her guide, Understanding Manga and Anime (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), was nominated for a 2008 Eisner Award.

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