Comic Book / Ex Machina

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Ex Machina was created by Brian K. Vaughan, the Eisner Award-winning brain behind series such as Y: The Last Man and Runaways and drawn by Tony Harris. It depicts the life of civil engineer Mitchell Hundred, who gained the ability to communicate with machines. He used his powers to become the world's first and only Super Hero, "The Great Machine". After using his powers to prevent the fall of the second tower in the 9/11 attacks, Mitchell has since retired from the role and is currently the mayor of New York City. The series contains the events of his term in office, with frequent flashbacks to his superhero days.

The series wrapped up with the planned 50 issues in 2010.

Has nothing to do with either the 2015 film, or with the 2005 post-apocalyptic truck driving game.


Tropes:

  • Another Dimension: Source of Mitchell's powers
  • Alternate History:
    • The second tower didn't go down.
    • Hundred ends the series as the veep for President John McCain.
    • Also, midway through the series it's revealed that other universes exist, with technological Eldritch Abominations systematically conquering them. One alternate universe is described as being a place where the Cold War never ended, the "son of Reagan" became president instead of George W. Bush, but American Idol and The Other Wiki still exist. That universe is later revealed to have been subsequently conquered, with an allusion made to the extermination of its native human population.
  • Animals Hate Him: A side-effect of Hundred gaining his powers is that animals are now extremely hostile to him. Pherson beleives it's because they can tell that he is failing to use his powers to help him, but his judgement is heavily skewed by his insanity.
  • Anti-Hero Substitute: Automaton is more unbalanced than the Great Machine, and at one point shoots a prostitute's client with a less than lethal round.
  • Arc Words: "The Stars are Down". First introduced as the title of a Nirvana song released in one of the Alternate Universes.
  • Arch-Enemy: Jack Pherson, the closest thing to a true "supervillain" Mitchell fought before retiring. He's a Posthumous Character whose story is told in out-of-order flashbacks, but his presence is still felt through most of the run.
  • Asexuality: One interpretation about why Hundred doesn't pursue anyone of either gender.
  • Author Avatar: Both Vaughan and Harris appear as themselves in "Ruthless." Doubles as Leaning on the Fourth Wall.
  • Author Filibuster: While most of Hundred's outspoken political views might or might not actually be shared by Vaughan, it's clear that the lengthy subplot involving Hundred's legalization of gay marriage is based on Vaughan's actual beliefs, and it's pretty easy to hear Vaughan speaking through his character.
  • Back from the Dead: Defied. Although Kremlin and even Mitchell believe that Pherson may have managed a true super-villain stunt and returned from the dead, he didn't.
  • Bat Signal: Poked at when Angotti puts a gear symbol on a searchlight (as a gesture of friendship, well after his 'retirement'), but Mitchell doesn't see it.
  • Because Destiny Says So: A fortune teller tells Mitchell he will become the Great Machine again. He also receives a vision from God telling him he will be President of the United States.
  • Big Applesauce
  • Blessed with Suck: Mitchell's power manifests itself as being able to command machines, and also to "listen" to them. He can't turn it off and lives in New York City, so the noise is constant. Also, his power comes from extradimensional invaders who want to eradicate humanity.
  • Body Horror: Mitchell's accident gave him glowing green flesh under his skin that looks like circuitry. It's revealed after the accident when he has a good chunk of his face blown off.
  • Bodyguard Crush: The final issue reveals that Bradbury has been in love with Mitchell.
  • Brought Down to Normal: The blackout.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Failsafe, the White Box
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Suzanne Padilla
  • Chest Insignia: And also possible leitmotif, a gear. All of Mitchell's alternate selves have variations of this insignia.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Both demonstrated by the series cast and Lampshaded as well.
    Mitchell: Candy do you really think I'm the first politician with a potty mouth? There are probably old recordings of Lincoln calling Congress a bunch of douchebags.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Hundred's green speech commands machines. There's also the "Violet" for animals wielded by Pherson and the drone, and the "White" for people wielded by Suzanne. The alien probe mentions that there's also a Red for plants.
  • Combo Platter Powers: Suzanne receives super strength, flight and Compelling Voice.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Subverted. Mitchell tries to help people by not using his powers.
  • The Commissioner Gordon: Mitchell tries to establish a police alliance, but it doesn't work out so well. It's not the first time this former comic-book geek wasn't more Genre Savvy.
  • Companion Cube: The fireman killer treats his oxygen tank, which he attaches to his penis, as a lover.
  • Compelling Voice: Mitchell's, Pherson's and Suzanne's powers.
  • Convenient Misfire: Just as Mitchell is telling his mother that the gun he confiscated from the local hick sheriff wasn't loaded, it goes off. It drives her point home.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The invaders from the other dimension seen in Hundred's dream are basically cosmic horrors, though it's unclear whether this is just a nightmare or a real vision.
  • Different World, Different Movies: One of the first clues that the green device is from another dimension is when it sends a broadcast of a Nirvana song that never existed. There is, however, a lot of crossover with some other dimensions. Also demonstrated with the series' own alternate timeline: apparently, Michael Moore made a documentary about the Great Machine at one point.
  • Double Meaning Title: A few examples.
    • "The First Hundred Days" is about Mitchell Hundred's first days in office as Mayor, but it also alludes to an old adage about politics (that a politician's first 100 days in office are the most important).
    • "Smoke Smoke" is about Mitchell and co. investigating a string of crimes apparently committed by a rogue firefighter, but also about the administration getting into a debate about marijuana legalization, ending with the revelation that Mitch smokes marijuana himself.
  • Downer Ending: It's implied in the final issue that Hundred rigged his own election. He then turns his back on Bradbury and kills Kremlin to protect his political career. The sudden reveal of villainy in our seemingly idealistic hero is a major downer. There's also the ambiguous threat of whether the extra-dimensional invaders will try again.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Mitchell's dreams. Few of them are pleasant, as many imply that his world will be invaded and destroyed by cross-dimensional legions of hell.
  • Empty Shell: Mitchell at the end. He's Lonely At The Top as the Vice Presidential candidate, has driven off or otherwise lost those closest to him, committed murder, and is haunted by the thought that the invaders will try again.
  • Enemy Of My Enemy: Jack Phearson tries to use this logic to recruit the commissioner to help him fight Hundred. It doesn't work.
  • Evil Me Scares Me: Hundred is confronted in a dream by evil versions of himself from other dimensions.
  • Face–Heel Turn: In the very end, Hundred coldly turns his back on Bradbury and straight-up murders Kremlin to protect his political career.
  • Failure Knight
    • How Mitchell feels about only diverting one of the 767 on Sept 11.
    • How Mitchell feels about not being able to save his handler and wife from the effects of the superpower shard.
    • How Mitchell feels about a lot of things, including his career as a superhero.
  • Fallen Hero: Hundred turns into one in the final issue. After a whole series of heroism and trying to do the right thing, it's revealed that Hundred wasn't as clean as he presented himself, and by the end he's just another ruthless politician doing bad things to further his career.
  • Flashback: Mitchell tells the story of his time as mayor as a flashback, so his flashbacks to his time as the Great Machine are flashbacks within flashbacks.
  • Genre Savvy: Mitchell was a massive comicbook fan, as was Kremlin, so they both anticipate tropes. The most relevant display of savviness is that Mitchell guessed that his Kryptonite Ring could be stolen from its safekeepers, so it's just a dud.
  • Gilligan Cut: Used frequently. In one instance, Hundred is described as a gentle soul. The next panel has Hundred angrily swearing about someone.
  • Glowing Eyes: A sign of someone using their powers. If they were gained any wounds when granted their powers, they glow too.
  • Gorn: Lots of characters both minor and major die horribly gruesome deaths, and the artist is not shy about showing them off.
  • Government Procedural: Much of Mitchell's day-to-day life is political minutiae, minutiae well executed according to the editors of Law and the Multiverse.
  • Gun Twirling: Mitchell Hundred does this in issue 35, even though he really should know better.
  • The Handler: An NSA cryptologist is assigned to be Mitchell's handler as his powers are regarded as a national secret. It doesn't work out well. Who knew keeping an alien artifact and source of Mitchell's powers would cause insanity? To be fair, his handler was also adversely affected about the Sept 11 attacks and blames Mitch for not stopping the Pentagon attack.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Bradbury. The amount of times he deliberately comments on women or acts homophobic start to add up after a while.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Asked by Mitchell to Kremlin regarding Suzanne's files. In a rare lack of genre savviness Kremlin admits that he hadn't.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Mitchell and Bradbury. Until it's subverted in the final issue, when Bradbury reveals that he's been in love with Mitchell the whole time.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Mitchell describes temporarily losing his powers as being cured
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: Hundred asserts this as his reason for not wanting to kill Pherson. Kremlin strongly disagrees with the trope, and Hundred eventually agrees.
  • Immune to Mind Control: Mitchell is immune to Suzanne's powers, and since his mother is similarly resistant it's implied this may be either genetic or a result of being taught by Martha to be strong-willed.
  • Jury Duty: Mitchell gets a summons at one point. While he could get out of it with ease, he figures doing his civic duty will get some good press. True to his luck, it turns into a hostage situation.
  • Kryptonite Ring: Mitchell invented two which scramble his powers, and gives one apiece to Kremlin and Bradbury. They're both duds.
  • Lampshade Hanging: "Ruthless".
  • Last of His Kind: Implied, but not confirmed.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Author Avatars of Vaughan and Harris appear as comic book makers applying to tell The Great Machine's story. Harris's alter-ego starts doodling the two of them, suggesting that they appear as side-characters in the comic book, but Vaughan's alter-ego nixes the idea, saying that he doesn't want to get into that fourth wall stuff like Grant Morrison.
  • Like Reality Unless Noted: Mitchell saving the second tower is the big reveal at the end of the first issue.
  • Logical Weakness: Mitchell is vulnerable to weapons which aren't machines. Knives and bows are too simple to communicate with, and basic bombs are just chemicals waiting to be mixed.
  • Magical Negro: Averted and Lampshaded by Dave.
    Dave: Sorry sir but if your looking for a magical negro to be all "lordy lord I can help the master speak to the spirits..." you're wasting the wrong terrible mind.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The juror who claims to have similar powers to Mitchell may just be insane, but in a much later issue it's confirmed that at least part of his story is true.
  • Married to the Job: Interpreted in-universe as a Transparent Closet for Hundred.
  • Meaningful Name: Mitchell describes his last name, "Hundred" as an "integer." It's displayed as "100" when spoken by members of the other dimension. The number, composed only of binary digits, fits with Mitchell's technological theme.
  • Mind Control: The White gives Suzanne this power, and this is possibly how Mitchell won the election through the White Box.
  • Mundane Utility: Frequently. Mitchell describes using his powers to change TV channels while holding the remote as a "new low in sloth."
  • Never Found the Body: Kremlin repeatedly insists that they can't write off Pherson as dead, even though he was last seen in an exploding building. In most comics, this would be Genre Savvy, but here no-one takes him seriously. When it looks like Pherson really might be alive, it turns out to be something else entirely.
  • Not in Front of the Parrot: Pherson uses his parrot as a spy, ordering it to follow Hundred and then commanding it to repeat what it heard.
  • Old Master: Kremlin
  • Only Six Faces: It's pretty clear that Harris draws from personally staged photographs of real-life models. Because he uses those models' faces as bases, and re-uses models, many characters look very similar. For example, the random junkie in "Fact or Fiction" happens to look exactly like a younger, brown-haired Kremlin.
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: Pherson's parrot granted him his powers, as it repeated one of the Great Machine's commands to him causing a seizure.
  • Power Trio: Kremlin, Bradbury and Mitchell.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Mitchell suffers these if he overexerts himself. It happened while redirecting the second plane, and when he had to plaster an SOS message across Times Square from across town.
  • Reality Ensues: While the Police Commissioner is walking from her gym, the Great Machine grabs her and takes her to a rooftop to talk. She reaches inside the bag and he says he could make her gun jam. Then she pulls out a baton. He has enough time for an Oh Crap! before she hits him in the head.
  • Religious Horror: Mitchell's 'benefactors' often present themselves through religious imagery.
  • Rogues Gallery: Mitchell notably lacks a true one, as the only true supervillain he faced was Pherson. Any other unusual criminals he faced tended to just be psychologically unbalanced one-time enemies.
  • Secret Identity: Mitchell went public when he ran for mayor. However, most of his abilities are still secret, as a matter of national security.
  • Shown Their Work: Vaughan, as a matter of style, peppers his dialogue with quotes and references to a wide variety of subjects, from popular to very obscure. He also goes out of his way to debunk a number of urban legends and common misconceptions. The obscurity of his references is occasionally lampshaded.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In a moment of Leaning on the Fourth Wall, Vaughn's Author Avatar states that he doesn't want to include an Author Avatar like Grant Morrison does.
    • Mitchell gives Journal the title of "Special Advisor on Youth Affairs". This happens to be the same title that Walter F. Starbuck held as part of the Nixon administration in the novel Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut, and BKV is known to be a fan of Vonnegut's work.
    • Mitchell's parents are called Thomas and Martha, like Batman's.
    • One of the alternate world Mitchells is clearly a version of the Rocketeer, and another has powers similar to Superman.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Constantly played with throughout the series, before hitting hard on the cynical side of things in the ending.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Jack Pherson, as the wielder of the "Purple".
  • Springtime for Hitler The Lincoln Painting in the first arc.
  • Stalker with a Crush / Villainous Crush: Trouble.
  • Stalker Without a Crush: Kremlin sees the Great Machine as Mitchell's true calling, and resents him trading it for being "just another cog". As the series progresses, his obsession grows to the point that he tries to sabotage Mitchell's career, all out of the belief that he knows what's best for Mitchell better than Mitchell himself.
  • Straight Gay: Bradbury
  • Strawman Political: Notable in its aversion. As with Vaughan's other work, such as Y: The Last Man, no point of view is reduced to a strawman. While Mitchell expresses strong support of his own agenda, it's interesting that some topics, such as school vouchers, receive such a spirited argument against Mitchell's views that the character doesn't always seem to be speaking Vaughan's personal beliefs.
  • Sucksessor: Automaton. Leon is a loser and mentally disturbed.
  • Surrogate Soliloquy: At first the fireman killer seems to be telling his philosophy to a lover, until it's revealed that he's speaking to the oxygen tank that he uses to masturbate.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Parodied in Mitchell's training exercise. The fight scene is filled with expository dialogue and Bond One Liners. Afterwards, Kremlin chastises Mitchell for taking the time to spout witticisms rather than finish the fight.
  • Technical Pacifist: Mitchell
  • Technology Levels: Played with. Mitchell takes an arrow from a would-be assassin, after trying unsuccessfully to "jam" it. His powers apparently have limits.
  • Technopath Mitchell
  • There Is Another: Two of the first few story arcs feature this as a plot point. It turns out that Connie Georges and Easy Benson can both control machines too, but neither of them can control their powers as well as Mitch can, and their powers end up driving them insane. There's also the revelation that Mitch's old enemy Jack Pherson was another man who got "speech powers", though he controlled animals instead of machines.
  • Toasted Buns: At least Mitchell has friends with fire extinguishers
  • Turned Against Their Masters: It's shown that machines have no qualms about lying to Mitchell, especially about the presence of any hypothetical bullets in any hypothetical chambers.
  • Ultimate Evil: The Makers
  • Unwinnable Training Simulation
  • The War on Terror: Alluded to. Mitchell states that he is "strong on defense," which, in spite of his liberal social views, estranges him from the Democratic party.
  • Vice President Who: Mitchell, at the end of the series.
  • Weekend Inventor: Mitchell.
  • Wham Episode: The last issue, in which Mitchell's character takes a sharp turn into villainy, and the threat of the Makers is implied to still be present.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/ComicBook/ExMachina