Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The end of Ex Machina

I've been meaning for several days now to write about the 50th and final issue of Ex Machina, which came out last week, and every time I sit down to do it I find myself drawing a blank. I have a feeling that Ex Machina is a series that will be more impressive when read all in one sitting, although I have no idea if or when I'll get around to doing that. I generally love the work of Brian K. Vaughan, and I was riveted all the way through the end of Y: The Last Man and his stint on Runaways. And a lot of times I was riveted with Ex Machina, too, but this last issue feels like sort of a letdown, and it's left me less enthused about commenting on it. The previous issue, 49, in which main character Mitchell Hundred essentially defeats the bad guys and saves the day, was a more satisfying ending, even if the whole idea of the 50th issue is pointing out how false endings like that are.

The problem is that Vaughan rushes through what could have been years of additional plot points without giving them their proper consideration, and then just kind of ends things without exploring the ideas he's just introduced. I'm all for ambiguous endings and leaving some things unexplained, but it seems like Vaughan is deliberately introducing tons of new developments here with the express purpose of then not exploring them. Like the last issue of Y, this issue jumps ahead in time to show what happened to the main character years after the primary events of the series, but unlike the lovely epilogue of Y's final issue, the end of Ex Machina doesn't provide extra emotional resonance or a sense of possibilities for the unseen future.

That's not to say it's terrible, of course. Vaughan is still great at writing dialogue, and he created distinctive enough characters over the previous 49 issues that they easily still hold your interest even as they head off in weird, unexpected directions. And the art by Tony Harris is typically excellent, especially on a two-page spread showing all the alternate versions of Mitchell Hundred over various timelines. One thing I liked about the series overall was that its mythology turned out to be relatively simple and was revealed in a fairly straightforward way, and Vaughan was as interested in political nuances as he was in grand sci-fi concepts. Here, the mythology becomes a sort of grandiose monster, and the politics do too, in a way, and neither one really fits. As a whole, Ex Machina was a solid, enjoyable series that started more slowly than some of Vaughan's other work but maintained a consistent tone and pace. That the ending turned out to be disappointing doesn't make me any less eager to read what Vaughan writes next (whenever that is).

No comments: