Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Review - Ex Machina Vol.8: Dirty Tricks TPB

Earlier this year, I struck comic book gold when, over a period of several weeks, I managed to find rather a lot of comics and graphic novels in charity shops in one particular high street in Kent. I can never resist looking in charity shops when I walk past them but very rarely find any comics or graphic novels. If I do ever find any comics or graphic novels in charity shops, they are usually either very tatty copies or else overpriced (like most of the non-comic-buying public, even the people who run charity shops seem to think that all comics are worth a fortune, based on one or two news stories about comics like Action Comics #1 selling for thousands of pounds). This time, though, I got lucky, and found loads of (mostly) reasonably priced comics and graphic novels spread over a few charity shops. One particular charity shop looked like it had been reopened as a comic shop, with a window display full of graphic novels and boxed action figures. I nearly pushed over an old man as I rushed to get inside and spent over £100 in that shop alone.

I kept back some stuff for myself and flogged off most of the rest of it on eBay for a small profit, making this one of the best finds of my comic buying career (the very best find I ever had was when I managed to pick up copies of Amazing Spider-Man issues 2 and 3, X-Men #2, and a whole bunch of other Silver Age comics for £5.00 each, but that’s another story). I shall henceforth refer to this find as ‘the great charity shop haul of 2010’, unless I get really lucky and find even more stuff in charity shops before the end of the year, but this seems unlikely.

One item from this ‘haul’ was this eighth volume in the Ex Machina series, ‘Dirty Tricks’, which cost me £2.99. I have read all of the previous volumes in this series but don’t own any of them – I borrowed all the earlier volumes from my local library – although I suspect that this is something I would buy, possibly in some fancy format, if I were rich. It’s quite a good series, even if I can’t quite remember what happened in the previous volume now, and it’s probably something I’d like to re-read at some point. Ex Machina tells the story of Mitchell Hundred, formally a superhero known as ‘the Great Machine’, who is elected mayor of New York after preventing the second jet from flying into the World Trade Center on 9/11 (in this New York, the south tower is still standing). It’s a great concept, well written by the always reliable Brian K. Vaughan and very nicely illustrated by Tony Harris, who does an amazing job of keeping the art interesting considering how many panels of people just talking he is asked to draw. It is not the most exciting series ever made – as I said, I can’t remember what happened in the previous volume now and I suspect that this volume will fade from my memory pretty quickly, too – but it is a good series.

This particular volume collects Ex Machina issues 35-39, by the usual creative team, and Ex Machina Special #3, illustrated by John Paul Leon. In Ex Machina #35, Mitchell encourages his black deputy, Mr. Wylie, to run for mayor after he steps down to run for President, and gives peace to the ghost of one of the many black slaves who helped construct New York. Then, in a four part story that runs through Ex Machina issues 36-39, one of the Great Machine’s biggest fans starts causing trouble just as George W. Bush is due to visit the city and Mitchell’s old pal Kremlin, who wants him to go back to being a superhero, digs up some dirt that could cost Mitchell the Presidency in future volumes. It’s a good story with some funny moments but I think I preferred Ex Machina #35, which was more interesting (prior to reading that issue, I had no idea that slaves had been used in the construction of New York). I also preferred the last comic collected here, Ex Machina Special #3, a Halloween tale all about masks and those who choose to hide behind them, which is mainly set just after Mitchell got his powers (he can communicate with machines), and also had a few interesting facts in it (I like facts!). I liked John Paul Leon’s art – which I always get confused with the art of Tommy lee Edwards – a lot, too, even if it is quite different in style to Tony Harris’s art.

Overall, this was a good book in a good series, which I always enjoy reading but can never get that excited about. There are only two volumes left to go in the series, they are not that expensive and I want to read them, but for some reason I haven’t bought them. I guess I will get them at some point, though, and if I ever see them in a charity shop for £2.99, you’d better get out of my way, because I’m like a bull when I see a bargain in front of me.


  1. "the very best find I ever had was when I managed to pick up copies of Amazing Spider-Man issues 2 and 3, X-Men #2, and a whole bunch of other Silver Age comics for £5.00 each, but that’s another story"

    Please tell that story so I can seethe with jealousy some more.

  2. Sorry for the slow reply. I am currently on holiday and this is the first time I have been able to access the internet in a week. It's been hell! Basically, about ten years ago, I answered an advert in a local paper offering 'boxing magazines and comics' for five pounds each. I wasn't expecting much but when I turned up I discovered a pile of old silver age comics, which included Amazing Spider-Man issues 2 and 3, X-Men issue 2, Tales of Suspense issue 10, and more. Most of them were very tatty but I still managed to sell all the stuff I bought (for 80 pounds) for about 600 pounds. I really regret selling the issues of ASM now, though. I have answered dozens of newspaper ads since then but have never found another bargain like that one. Bizarrely, the bloke I bought those comics from had never even heard of Spider-Man!