Ex Machina: Power Down by Vaughan and Harris – A Book Review

Ex Machina is one of those titles that should never work in the comic book medium.  Former and short-lived superhero abandons his super-persona to become mayor of New York.  And that happens before the start of the series.  Let’s be honest, if anyone but writer Vaughan and Harris were involved, this series simply wouldn’t have worked. 

 

Ex Machina: Power Down is a return to greatness for the creative duo.  The storyline deals with Mayor Hundred struggling against a city-wide power outage just as a mysterious visitor takes his mother hostage in order to deliver Hundred an important message.  That message has fascinated me and worked expertly as a bit of foreshadowing.  In addition, as always, we are given flashbacks to Hundred’s involvement with 9/11 as well as some back-story during his training days.

 

The Ex Machina series started with a bang, utterly captivating me with every panel.  However, the last storyline in particular focused a little too much on Hundred’s mayoral duties and not quite enough on the more fantastic elements of the series.  Power Down is back to what makes Ex Machina work best—an equal blend of the realistic world of politics and the surreal world of super heroics.

 

Furthermore, let’s not forget about the art!  Harris’ artwork is extraordinary and this series simply wouldn’t be as enjoyable as it is without him.  He gets better with every issue he draws, and he was excellent to begin with!  Moreover, Mettler, the often-ignored colorist, is truly responsible for giving this book in particular much of its flavor.  The colors demand your attention in such an unassuming yet powerful manner; it’s astounding.

 

Finally, Power Down also offers a “special features” section in the back of the book with some background information given by both Vaughan and Harris.  Very fun stuff if you’re into the production aspect of the book.

 

Ex Machina is a must-read series for all lovers of literature.       

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World War Z by Max Brooks – A Book Review

I’m not a zombie guy—no interest in them whatsoever.  I’ve watched the zombie craze in pop culture, observing from afar, and simply didn’t get it.  So when a hardcover came out a while back featuring a storyline about zombies overrunning the world, I quickly dismissed it.

 

Last week, my friend told me about an incredible book called World War Z.  I said, “Isn’t that a zombie book?”  He said yes, but then quickly fought to overcome my bias with reasons why I would love it.

 

It worked.

 

After just mere minutes of describing the book, he had me soundly invested.  I got my own copy the next day and had World War Z finished inside of a week (remember I work full time and write on the side, so a book in a week is pretty fast for me).

 

World War Z completely won me over because it was written as though it belonged to the nonfiction genre.  The author presents a narrator who conducts a series of interviews years after a pandemic global outbreak of a zombie virus that nearly drove humanity into extinction.  The interviews are typically only a few pages long and focus on military leaders, doctors, scientist, and regular citizens literally from all over the world.  The reader then has the pleasure of piecing all these interviews together in order to get a broader sense of an epic story.

 

The sheer imagination of the author, Max Brooks, is staggering.  He truly considered every possibility with World War Z.  The ideas he presented as fact were absolutely plausible, and at times you forget you’re reading fiction.  I caught myself thinking, “Okay, what would I do if I were in this situation?”

 

Furthermore, the zombies were almost secondary in the book.  Brooks focused more on the human reaction to possible extinction, and the power of fear that can overcome us all.  But he also emphasized the human will to survive, and the motivation to triumph in any sort of adversity.  And while I wouldn’t call this a political book, I believe Brooks made a few statements about our current geopolitical climate if you read between the lines. 

 

It’s not all roses, though.  I loved the book, and I literally could not put it down, but I must admit it was probably about fifty pages too long.  Near the end, things started getting a little repetitive.  Not enough to quail my enthusiasm for World War Z, but it could have stood a little trimming up.

 

To sum up, Brooks’ imagination and style have won him a loyal reader.  Remember, I’ve been telling everyone I know to read this book about zombies, and I hate zombies!

Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon – A Book Review

If you follow my reviews, you know that I ardently proclaim Michael Chabon as America’s greatest contemporary writer.  Sometimes he demands a bit more effort on my part as a reader, but he’s never outright disappointed me.

 

Until now.

 

I truly hate to say this, but Gentlemen of the Road was utterly incomprehensible and, worst of all, completely dull.

 

Forgive me, Mr. Chabon, but I do not recommend anyone read this book.