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Comicbook: Ex Machina

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.


This comic book series provides examples of:

  • Another Dimension: Source of Mitchell's powers
  • Alternate History:
    • The second tower didn't go down.
    • 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.
  • 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 / Breaking the Fourth Wall.
  • Bat Signal: Poked at when Angotti puts a gear symbol on a searchlight, 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. To top it all off, he lives in New York City. Think about it.
    • Also, sometimes, the machines lie. Which is kind of important when a gun tells you it's not loaded and it is...
    • He was also given these powers as a means to pave the way for an otherworldly invasion. And it's implied there are parallel universes when he joined their cause.
  • 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.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The "Green" controls machines, the "Red" plants, the "Violet" animals, and the "White" people.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Subverted. Mitchell tries to help people by not using his powers.
  • The Commissioner Gordon: Mitchell tries to establish a police alliance. It doesn't work out so well. It's not the first time this former comic-book geek wasn't more Genre Savvy.
  • 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 final issue strongly suggests that Hundred has only delayed the invasion.
  • Different World, Different Movies: The main character considers hiring actual creators Vaughan and Harris to make a graphic novel based on his life, but decides to go with Garth Ennis and Jim Lee instead.
  • Downer Ending: Bordering on Shoot the Shaggy Dog.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come / Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Mitchell's dreams. Few of them are pleasant.
  • Empty Shell: Mitchell at the end. He's Lonely at the Top as Vice President, has driven off or otherwise lost everyone who was close to him, committed murder, and the invaders have made it clear they intend to try again.
  • Evil Me Scares Me: Also made worse by the multiple "me"s in this case.
  • Face-Heel Turn
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 You Told Anyone Else?: Asked by Mitchell to Kremlin regarding Suzanne's files.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Mitchell and Bradbury.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: Kremlin strongly disagrees.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: In the last issue, Kremlin melodramatically points a loaded pistol at his own head while ranting to Hundred about the evidence Suzanne had collected about his actions:
    Hundred: That file. Did...did you share it with anyone else?
    Kremlin: Of course not. I was just —
    Hundred: BANG.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal
  • 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, and gives one apiece to Kremlin and Bradbury. They're both duds.
  • Lampshade Hanging: "Ruthless".
  • Last of His Kind: Implied, but not confirmed.
  • Law of Conservation of Normality: Averted.
  • Like Reality Unless Noted: Mitchell saving the second tower is the big reveal at the end of the first issue.
  • Married to the Job: Interpreted in-universe as a Transparent Closet for Hundred.
  • Mundane Utility: Frequently. Mitchell describes using his powers to change TV channels while holding the remote as a "new low in sloth".
  • Old Master: Kremlin
  • Only Six Faces: Harris is a talented artist, but he only has so many models. For example, a random junkie in "Fact or Fiction" happens to look exactly like a younger, brown-haired Kremlin.
    • He uses personally staged photos of real-life models to set up panels. And by real-life models, I mean friends and acquaintances.
  • Plot Hole: It's revealed that the power nullifiers given by Hundred were fakes all along. That'd be fine, except in the first story arc it's shown that Kremlin reversed engineered his nullifier to be make a hidden mic that Hundred couldn't detect, and Kremlin's device worked perfectly. Of course, it's also possible that the device was lying to Mitchell much like the loaded shotgun did.
  • 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 communicate with the police from across town.
  • Reality Ensues: While she's walking from her gym, The Great Machine grabs the commissioner of Police 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.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Averted
  • 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: Comes with the territory for BKV.
  • Shout-Out: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 / Bodyguard Crush: Bradbury
  • Strawman Political: Averted at every step.
  • 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
  • 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 detours the second airplane during the Sept 11 attacks, while he was (pathetically) still campaigning on election day. It is instrumental in his unprecedented landslide victory as mayor of NYC. And later, his ascension to Vice President
  • Vice President Who: Mitchell, at the end of the series.
  • Weekend Inventor: Mitchell.
  • Wham Episode: Pretty much all of the last issue.

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alternative title(s): Ex Machina
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