Become a fan on Facebook and Twitter.
Well, when Wildstorm said Ex Machina #50, the conclusion of the Eisner-nominated series, would be surprising… they weren’t kidding. However, following Mayor Micthell Hundred’s return as The Great Machine to stop an invasion of what seemed to be Hell-incarnate… what surprises remained? Yet here they were and without a doubt the issue was excellent as always! Yet still it managed to be disappointing and, perhaps, that too is a strength.
When the series started Hundred was sad and alone, prepared to confide his great sorrow, the story of Ex Machina. The last few years have been building to a return to that momentous beginning that forewarned the ending would always be sad… and now we know why. Hundred dedicated his life to serving others from the time his mysterious accident first gave him the ability to speak to machines, initially as a rocket-wearing superhero and then as a politician. Yet despite his effort his friend are distant or gone entirely.
Let’s discuss the book’s events and, in doing so, be prepared for spoilers.
It’s a great strength for a writer to create a changing world where neither relationships nor people are static in their status. That people like Hundred’s father-figure Kremlin and best friend/bodyguard Bradbury are so very different from the people they were when the series began makes each page more compelling as the reader races to discover what’s new. But in some regards it was less sad than disappointing.
To see Bradbury is miserable with his life in the years since Hundred days at Mayor is sad. His wife doesn’t have any patience for him and wants to keep their kids away from him. That he hit her? That’s disappointing, but it’s okay because human fail. We all have weak moments that we’re ashamed of and seeing those in characters gives them dimension.
That Bradbury then confesses his love for Hundred before striking him in rejection? That was disappointing without qualification. Bradbury, for the escapist reader, is the best friend who has your back no matter what. You don’t want to think of that person being someone who will hit his wife or hit you if you don’t make out with him. You don’t want to think your best friend really wants to be your husband. That’s not a gay or straight issue, it’s a trust issue. It means someone you believe to be dedicated to you has been misrepresenting themselves, can’t be trusted, and the foundation that you’ve built your friendship on is gone.
Kremlin’s shift from his initial role in Hundred’s life came early in the series. Not only did he help raise Hundred, he helped him become The Great Machine. When Hundred cast aside his superhero identity, perhaps Kremlin felt rejected or maybe he truly believed that what the world needed most was Hundred keeping it safe at the point of a laser gun. From the very beginning Kremlin worked to stop Mayor Hundred and resurrect The Great Machine, and his efforts resulted in the death of Hundred’s mother, countless New Yorkers and a near invasion by another dimension.
Long after those days have passed, Kremlin is now trying to prevent Hundred’s bid for President of the United States. Holding Hundred at gunpoint he tries to convince Hundred the world needs him to protect it, but Hundred counters saying the invasion he stopped will come again and only as President would he have the power to prevent it. Sad and depressed, Kremlin turns the gun on himself, a seemingly empty threat to bluff Hundred out of office. “Bang,” commands Hundred and the gun fires into his father figure. Betrayed by the only living person who still cares for him, Kremlin is dead for days before anyone notices. Kremlin certainly caused a great deal of trouble, but to see him betrayed by such a gentle person and someone he loves deepens tragedy of his death and brings another painful note to the conclusion.
It would also be easy to lament an absence of explanation of the Nirvana song “The Stars are Down”. For those of who don’t remember it, it was discovered when the device that triggered Hundred’s powers began picking up radio signals. Was the song from another dimension’s Nirvana? Could it pick up sounds lingering in time, songs that were performed but never recorded? “That Stars are Down” was one of the first things that told the readers there was more to the event that gave Hundred his powers than what we were being told and because it generated so much more interest in what was going on with Hundred’s powers it deserved explanation. In the same regard, the returning invasion of Hell and Hundred’s quest to stop as President of the United States is another story begging to be told.
However to focus on those things overlooks the tradition of Ex Machina. The story involved, but was never about, his powers and his history as a hero. It was a story of an incredibly unique man who truly wanted to serve his city as best he could and it has successfully done that.
Though this finale contains things fans don’t want to see happen to their heroes these disappointments may be strong-suits as it creates the power and emotion that was absent from the first issue, when all that was offered was mystery. Certainly it would have been nice to see things end some other way but there was an understanding at the beginning that this would be a tragedy and so there’s no room for complaints. Ex Machina has been an amazing series with an unforgettable conclusion.
For a full album of Comic Con pictures check out Ascension Comics!