Wow. If you've ever read any of the more cereberal comics that have been published over the past couple of decades, this one has the potential to be one of the best ever made.
The premise is fantastic, and long overdue. In a slightly altered future, a civil engineer named Mitchell Hundred finds a device under the Brooklyn bridge that malfunctions, giving him the ability to speak with machinery. With the prodding of an idealist friend, he takes up a costume and fights crime under the moniker, 'The Great Machine'. Jump forward, and due to his preventing the second world trade center tower's destruction, he has managed to win his bid for election as mayor of New York city.
But though the premise is great, it is not what makes this a great comic. Vaughan proved his chops with his previous comic, but the setting of it did seem to restrict him as a writer. Ex Machina could have easily played out its hook, but the characters are so brilliantly realized that you fast forget why you picked it up and start loving it for entirely different reasons.
Hundred himself is fantastic as an unlikely mayor of New York. And what makes him so interesting is that he is not the man for the job, and Vaughan realizes this. Hundred is a wonderfully naive politician, tackling problems that others wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. He leans on his staff constantly, despite the fact that they are heavily devided on every political issue. He wants to use the power of office to help people, but the beginning of the series shows him getting a hard lesson in the desires of the public. And though he continues to overcome the problems that have come his way, the reader can sense something even more dangerous on the horizon, be it political or paranormal.
The art is clean yet emotive. Tony Harris does an excellent job with what is largely a talking heads affair. Yet he manages to bring excellent setting and mood into all parts of the comic, even if they aren't expected. And when action does occur, he's still on the top of his game. Most of all, it's an extremely modern looking book, from the front cover to the interior panels.
Book 2 continues soon after the conclusion of the first collection. It delves more into the mystery of Hundred's powers, and sees him address gay marriage, a friend from his superhero days, and murderer on the loose in the city.
The book is smart, witty, and stunningly contemporary. And there is so much more than meets the eye, in terms of what the book is actually about. I hope Vaughan realizes what he has here, because something this good might not come around again for a long time.