“The First Hundred Days” collects the first five issues of Brian K. Vaughan’s Ex Machina, one of two brilliant series the writer has introduced to comics fans in the last decade, the other being the somewhat better known Y: The Last Man. While Y is a story told on a somewhat bigger scale, with a bigger concept and a more action-heavy story, Ex Machina may very well be the better tale. It’s part political thriller, part hero’s journey, part superhero adventure and part psychological trip, all told with Vaughan’s flair for playing with chronology, brilliant dialogue, and primal attachment to compelling characters.
Mitchell Hundred was once a simple civil engineer who loved comic books as a kid. He helped the city of New York in his own little way, repairing the machines that make the Big Apple run. But one day, an explosion triggers a strange new ability: Mitchell can talk to machines. He can hear what they say, immediately know how they work, shut them down with a single word. He can suddenly do everything from lower the volume on his TV to stop a gun from firing with a single word. With the help of Kremlin, a somewhat shady figure from his childhood, Mitchell crafts a jetpack and a few futuristic weapons and uses his abilities to become The Great Machine, a flying vigilante fighting evil in New York City.
Things take another turn in Mithcell’s life when he decides to unmask, reveal himself as The Great Machine and run for Mayor of New York. The people elect him, and why shouldn’t they? After all, he’s the guy who stopped the second plane on 9/11, and kept one of the towers standing…
Ex Machina is a richly layered, dense story filled with a host of interesting characters, overlapping storylines, strange shifts in time and mythologically proportioned themes. “The First Hundred Days” is our introduction to this, starting with a one-off first issue and then progressing into a four-issue story in which Hundred deals with an assassination attempt, a controversial (and publicly-funded) work of art in one of the city’s museums, a plucky new intern and a serial killer picking off city workers in the dead of night. It’s a lot of ground to cover, but Vaughan breezes through it with the help of Tony Harris’ crisp, resonantly real, often violence art.
Ex Machina is one of those next generation kind of comics that take the superhero concept in directions even bolder than the bold directions they’ve already headed in the last 25 years. Vaughan and Harris cement the story from the very beginning as one of the essential modern comics reads, and even beyond “The First Hundred Days,” the book doesn’t disappoint.