‘Ex Machina’ Revisited Ten Years Later
by Frank Martin
It’s been over ten years since Brian K. Vaughn and Tony Harris‘s political sci-fi series Ex Machina was released, and the book hits very differently today than it did back then. The story follows Mitchell Hundred, a man who gained the power to communicate and even control machines after a strange device blew up in his face and deformed him. After a brief tenure as New York City’s only superhero, The Great Machine, Mitchell retired and ran for mayor of the city instead. He was considered a long shot until he saved one of the twin towers from being hit by a plane on 9/11. His popularity skyrocketed and Hundred was elected to office.
The story revolves around Mitchell dealing with various crises he faces as mayor while also flashbacking to his time as The Great Machine. The book tackles hot button issues of the time such as gay marriage and terrorism. But it also deals with bigger issues such as the nature of politics in general, as well as the responsibility of those with power — both in the real world sense and the supernatural.
I’m not sure if it’s because we live in a much more politically divisive time or if it’s me personally who has just grown and become more interested in politics, but the series’ political undertones and themes are definitely more prevalent on this read through. Perhaps those two are related. It’s almost impossible nowadays to separate politics from every mundane issue in our lives. Maybe it’s because of this that Ex Machina is even more relevant today, ten-plus years after it began.
Also, coincidentally, the superhero genre (outside of comics) has taken off since that time. Superhero movies were just starting to enter the mainstream consciousness, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe was in the early stages of development. Now, superheroes are big business, especially adapting them for the big and small screen. Comic book properties are getting picked up left and right. It’s only a matter of time before Ex Machina, a story that combines the superhero craze with the political one, gets the adaptation treatment. And it seems almost inevitable that controversy will come along with it.