- Fables #79, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Peter Gross & Andrew Pepoy (DC)
- Ex Machina #40, by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris & Jim Clark (DC/Wildstorm)
- Tangent: Superman’s Reign #10 of 12, by Dan Jurgens, Carlos Magno & Julio Ferreira, and Ron Marz, Andie Tong & Mark McKenna (DC)
- Terra #4 of 4, by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray & Amanda Conner (DC)
- Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers vol 109 HC, collecting The Avengers vol 1 #69-79, by Roy Thomas, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Frank Giacoia, Sam Grainger & Tom Palmer (Marvel)
- Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes #2 of 2, by Warren Ellis, Clayton Crain & Kaare Andrews (Marvel)
- Beanworld Holiday Special, by Larry Marder (Dark Horse)
It’s been a while since I’ve written about Ex Machina – about a year, in fact. The comic’s tone is very low-key, consisting mostly of talking heads with the occasional action scene or fantastical occurrence. But for the most part it involves New York Mayor Mitchell Hundred blazing his own unique trail across the post-9/11 political scene, as the only person in the world (well, almost) with superpowers (he can talk to and command machines).
This issue is both a whole issue of talking heads, and yet something of a departure from the main arc: It involves the comic’s writer and artist going in to meet with Mayor Hundred to interview for the job of telling his life story in comic book form. Self-referential, with an amusing twist at the end. It’s interesting to see how writer Vaughan and artist Harris see themselves: Vaughan seems filled with self-doubt and looks to Hundred for guidance (even if he doesn’t come out and say it), while Harris is more flamboyant and self-assured. It’s a cute little aside.
Reportedly Ex Machina will conclude with issue #50, and Comic Book Resources has some info on what the final ten issues will bring. I’m glad to see that the explanation behind Mitchell’s powers will be revealed, but even with 80% of the series completed, I still don’t really know where it’s going. I worry that it’s just not going to have the payoff to justify the journey, and the journey’s been a little too laid-back to justify itself.
Terra wraps up this month, and it’s been a real rarity in comics these days: A fun adventure story that doesn’t have aspirations of being some big must-read event, but rather has the modest goals of setting up the new heroine’s background and plugging her in to the world around her. It also came out fast – the first issue came out in early November. Yowza!
In this concluding issue we learn a little more about Terra and the city she comes from, and she faces down the villain of the series, who turns out to be a less-than-compelling figure. But the series has treated Terra’s opponents as throw-away figures from the beginning, so I probably shouldn’t be surprised that the guy who shows up in all four issues is only slightly more significant.
The issue takes the very unusual tack of spending its final third with what’s mostly a talking heads sequence: Chatting with Power Girl about where she goes from here, and then the two of them going out shopping in their secret identities (a concept Terra doesn’t quite get). It’s funny and quirky, but it feels more like the lead-in to a regular series rather than the end of a mini-series. I guess Terra’s moving over to Terror Titans, a series I have absolutely no interest in reading, so I dunno if she’ll have any more solo adventures. But if Palmiotti, Gray and Conner produce them, I’d read ’em.
Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes concludes with two more stories showing alternate outcomes of the first “Ghost Box” story in Warren Ellis’ AXM run. Both issues have been good stuff, but not apparently essential; mainly they convey the fact that the interloper that the X-Men stopped in the main title was the spearhead of a potential invasion force from a parallel world, and the team is fortunate they were able to stop him, since we see how much worse things could have gone.
The mini-series has taken a lot of flak for its $3.99 cover price, given that about a third of the pages are Ellis’ scripts for the stories in the issue. I can understand that, and no, I don’t think I really got great value for my $3.99, although I don’t really regret buying them anyway, since what there was, was indeed entertaining. Food for thought given Brian Hibbs’ musings on mainstream comics likely jumping from $2.99 to $3.99 per issue across-the-board soon.
Larry Marder’s Tales of the Beanworld was one of the weirder independent comics from back in the day: Written in a fable-like style, with stick-figure art, it was still charming in its way. It main focus was to concoct a self-contained world with its own unique ecosystem, following the characters through their lives as various developments upset the status quo. Now, years later, we get the Beanworld Holiday Special, which I’ve heard is leading a new Beanworld series coming out next year.
Happily, it’s more of the same charm and weirdness, as the beans try to figure out why the next generation doesn’t seem to be interested in learning the trades necessary to keep their society running. It’s a good introduction to the concept, and is suitable for all ages. If you’re a comics fan who’s at all interested in stuff beyond superhero fare, you ought to check it out; you might be surprised.