(SPOILERS, PROBABLY) Ex Machina is over and


Man, I was hoping for something really cool.

But I think BKV and Co. kind of lost their shit here. And by “kind of,” I mean “really fucking outrageously.”

Maybe I was too hasty in pre-ordering it and they sent me the wrong book by mistake. This is the conclusion to some other Ex Machina, made by people who don’t give nearly as much of a crap.

Remember in District 9, when Wikus goes from a bumbling incompetent to a Rambo-esque supersoldier in as much time as it takes him to pick up a gun? I’m not saying Ex Machina is Wikus, but the jarring shift in literally everybody’s character, plus the enormous leap in story logic, is just as ludicrous.

Come on, guys. Do some kind of meta-fuckery that reveals that the real ending hasn’t happened yet and that this all happened on Earth B or something like that. You know you want to.


I started rereading the whole thing from the very beginning a few days ago, and finally finished the last book in the series last night.

When I finished, I was like, “What did I just read?” I really don’t know what to make of those final six issues. I don’t think the story went anywhere near what I sort of expected. The direction it took in those last issues was something totally different.

I think it’s unfair to say that BKV and Harris didn’t give a crap about the readers, though. I also don’t think that the ending took a leap in story logic. I’d say it’s more of a shift in tone, a shift that occurred right around the page where Suzanne levitates in the air in January’s apartment. Right around that point, the story shifted heavily towards the science fiction aspects and kind of put the grounded realism away for a while.

I admit, when I first saw that page where she’s floating, I was like, “What? Why?” As though flying, perhaps the most blatant and iconic superhero power there is, somehow is also the most unrealistic power there is. But after I calmed down a bit, I started wondering why I had a problem with flying. I mean, pragmatically, if I can accept that I’ve already seen a guy who can talk to machines and fly around on a personal jetpack, why couldn’t I accept someone flying around with superstrength? I accepted Pherson and his ability to talk to animals, I accepted the whole alternate dimension thing, the freaky automaton in the sewers, etc. So I guess it doesn’t really matter if I can believe a woman can fly.

In rereading all of the previous issues in a short span of time, I feel like the conclusion isn’t that far out there. There are hints in very early issues about the alternate dimension, and the gravity of that information gradually gets revealed bit by bit until we see that crazy stuff in the last couple issues. In a way, that aspect of the story was like the slow raising of a curtain. I just didn’t expect to see the curtain raised, I guess.

And that’s not to say that the conclusion answers all the questions. I think there’s still a fair amount that’s left to the imagination. But that’s okay, to me. It isn’t always necessary to know the (to steal a line from BKV’s other seminal work) “Whys and Wherefores” of everything. I can live with that. The whole endgame subverted my expectations in a dizzying way.

I feel like BKV pretty much spells out the ending for us with the first three pages of issue 50. This series was a tragedy, and I don’t mean that in some snarky, “They went batshit at the end when it could have been something else”-way. I think we’re meant to look at it as some sort of tragedy, superheroic fantasy that ends.

There’s a lot more to say about Ex MAAAAAAACHINA!!!11 but I need to get going. We’ll discuss more later. I don’t think anyone else on SRK has read it, though. (Those unwashed pigs only care if the comic has Batman or Wolverine or Spider-Man.) (I feel quite safe knowing that they will not even see my “unwashed pigs” insult in this Ex MAAAAAACHINA!!1 thread.) (Or maybe I’m just trying to master bait.)

Oh yeah, and Tony Harris’ art in the last TRADE, BABY is totally spectacular. Inking himself, he really brought his A game. I could see certain pages where he was maybe channeling J.H. Williams III and John Paul Leon. It was gorgeous stuff, even the stuff that was grotesque.


I don’t think it’s the sci-fi stuff or the action-packed climax that really bothered me, though they are a little jarring compared to earlier times when they were kept on the DL. If earlier Ex Machina was 90% political intrigue and 10% sci-fi, the pendulum definitely swung the other way in this volume.

What followed irked me far more, when things settled down to what might reasonably be called the denouement, the cool down, the “where are they now,” or whatever. It was then that I think BKV and Harris ran out of ideas, time, pages, or whatever.

I understand what it’s supposed to do, which is to make a point about the supposedly incorruptible heroes, but I think they cheated in order to get there. It’s the wrong kind of melodramatic. It has the whole “I figured out what the idea was supposed to say before I had the idea” syndrome that Ex Machina has otherwise avoided. If it was ever going to work, it needed a lot more development than it was given.


Really? Hmm, I didn’t feel that at all. I liked how all the characters ended up. Which parts made you feel like the creators cheated? The whole “I love you”… “Fuckin’ ******” part between Bradbury and Hundred? Or was it when Hundred said, “Bang”? Because I think I could see why people could read that stuff and feel upset or betrayed or whatever.


Both of those things bugged me–not because I don’t think the characters could plausibly do those things, but because the story doesn’t sufficiently indicate that they would. It feels like there’s a big chunk of stuff missing that links the characters of previous issues to the characters as they are at the end.


I don’t know, I felt pretty satisfied with all the character epilogues. Like the whole thing with Bradbury, I could see that ambiguously gay scene happen. Dude was drunk off his keister and Hundred’s never outright stated his sexuality during the series so the scene worked to me.

The thing with Kremlin was some tragic stuff that I felt BKV built up to. I mean, I always got the idea that Ex MAAAAACHINA!!1 was supposed to be this tragedy, and what could be more tragic than the hero pretty much winning all his victories, only to kill the man who was like a father to him? Throughout the series, it was implied that Hundred was truly set on using his political career to help people. Kremlin sought to undermine Hundred’s efforts and tried to make Hundred go back to being a crimefighter/superhero. Eventually, when Hundred learns about the alternate dimension/parallel Earth/whatever you wanna call it, and of the potential invasion force, he decides that politics is the best way for him to build a power base to safeguard humanity. Kremlin tried to undo it, and I think the “Bang” scene was a plausible response for Hundred.

I think it’s interesting comparing this ending with BKV’s endings from some of his other longer-form works, too. He sort of did a similar trick in the final issue of Y: The Last MAAAAAAAAN!!1, setting the main action in the future and using flashbacks to explain certain character epilogues. Compared to Y, Ex MAAACHINA!!!1 has, I feel, a much more tragic ending. It’s one of those endings where it feels like the protagonist won, only from a certain point of view he actually lost in a major way. Y felt like the opposite to me–it felt like Yorick lost everything that mattered, but in the end it presented a pretty optimistic and hopeful worldview.

I can’t think of anything astute to say about Runaways’ ending. But that might have more to do with the fact that it didn’t really end. It just got continued by lesser writers.


I never bothered following through with Y. I think I powered through two or three volumes before conceding disinterest.

I’m not trying to frame these things as implausible, per se. I think they’re woefully underdeveloped. It has a feeling of cleaning house, of realizing that the fantastic ending–Hundred unveiling the plans for the rebuilt tower–left too much dangling.

I would argue that as bad as things ever got in Ex Machina, it was always optimistic at the end of the day. You knew from square one that Hundred wasn’t really destined to be the Great Machine or the mayor of NYC, but at every turn, he is reaffirmed as someone at least slightly better than the average politician and his supporting characters are revealed as nothing more or less than people doing their jobs as best they can. The epilogue, to me, seemed to be a jarring shift from ambiguous optimism to cynicism.

And that might be the most disappointing thing. It’s so easy to write cynicism. It’s easy to reduce Bradbury to a broken-down wife beater. It’s easy to make Hundred pull the trigger on his oldest friend. It’s easy to demolish heroes, to sweep aside everything the readers thought they knew and validate the fear that it’s all just a crock of shit. It’s hard to resolve things in a way that suggests that the problems in the world not only can be solved, but should be, and that it doesn’t require giving up the ideals that make it all worth fighting for in the first place.

It might sound like pie-in-the-sky superhero nonsense that would never fly in today’s world where politicians can’t be idealistic, but that’s why Hundred is radically both. Up until the end, that was Ex Machina’s message.


Funny but I felt the same exact way about Y. I enjoyed what I read but for some reason I just didn’t feel the need to stick with it. Maybe I’ll jump back in at some point.


I get your point, goody, about how sometimes the harder story to write is often the optimistic one. I definitely agree that cynicism is often the cheap, easy route. It’s like they say… Drama is easy, but comedy is hard.

But in fairness, I think the downbeat, or tragic, (I don’t know if I’d call it “cynical”) ending was telegraphed from the first page of the first issue. So it isn’t right, to me, to say that there was a jarring shift in the tone of the work. Even in those early issues, there were moments when we saw a hardness in Hundred’s actions. (For example, threatening to short out the governor’s flunky’s pacemaker.) I don’t know if that makes it any easier to enjoy the ending, but I think it’s worth noting. In fact, I think it would have been more dishonest to the reader to not end the story where the beginning promised us it would end.

I feel that BKV was always honest in Hundred’s characterization. He was consistently portrayed as a guy with good intentions, but it’s not like he wasn’t above manipulating or using people to achieve his goals. He wasn’t able to please everybody but he did whatever he thought was right and lived with his choices. (Actually, that sounds kind of like what a real politician is like.) I really don’t think that BKV demolished or deconstructed the hero of this tale. I think if we go back and look at individual storylines, a lot of them end up being about compromise in some way. So, too, the ending, albeit on a grander scale. If anything, it’s uplifting to see the honesty that’s inherent in Hundred’s intentions throughout the course of the series even if the outcomes aren’t always cleanly solved.

Or I don’t know, maybe I’m already a pretty cynical person so this ending didn’t feel as cynical to me as it would to a normal, Superman-loving person. I also wonder exactly how much of these posts Sano has read, and how badly we’ve spoiled the ending for him.


Breezed the posts so I can still do my job and avoid spoilers as much as possible. Then I decided not to take a bath. :rofl:


I’m probably repeating myself at least partially here, but while I understand where it was supposed to go, that’s exactly what the ending felt like–a last-ditch, whipcrack attempt to steer the story where (as promised) it was supposed to go from the start. It’s like in movies, when the resolution is taking too much time and the filmmakers tie it all up by telling the audience, in text, what eventually becomes of the characters. It’s not that they’re necessarily taking the story where it couldn’t, shouldn’t, or wouldn’t go. It’s that they breeze from one point to another so quickly that you have trouble buying it.

For 53 issues, the story progresses fairly logically, and in a single issue, we start getting things in fast-forward. We get the thing that happens with Guy A, the thing that happens with Guy B, the phone call with Guy C, and so on. (Names and events are obscured for Sano’s well-being.)

It’s like you’re supposed to take it on the authors’ authority that this is how it all turns out. But when you start having to take things on the author’s authority, the story isn’t doing its job. Maybe if that single issue were three, five, or ten issues, I wouldn’t be so resistant to the way things play out in the story’s endgame.


I agree to a point, but I also respectfully disagree as well. Damn near anyone can write a Wolverine story where he grits his teeth while chomping on a cigar and waxing poetic about killing. However, it takes true skill to paint a morally gray world where the characters are neither heroes or villains, and yet they are all the more interesting for it. This isn’t really a tasteful analogy, but it’s like watching the aftermath of a car wreck. You know more or less what happened, but you can’t bring yourself to look away. As someone who enjoys cynical stories, particularly from the noir genre, I think this is what makes such stories so arresting. More than likely a character is doomed to fail, though they may not, but that’s not what’s important. It’s more about how they reach their final destination. And I guess in that light, it’s similar to the means vs. ends debate.

My apologies for straying from the topic, but I saw optimism vs. cynicism comparisons and had to get that off my chest. I haven’t read Ex Machina, although the political aspect of it definitely has me intrigued. And yeah, I have to say that Wikus going Rambo like that pretty much ruined District 9 for me.


I don’t think moral ambiguity and cynicism are quite the same thing, though they are often used together. Cynicism is an underlying attitude in a story that all the characters’ efforts are ultimately stupid and pointless. Morality in any sense doesn’t have much of an impact on cynicism. Moral ambiguity is a certain style of characterization, which–as you’ve pointed out–can be very appealing when it’s pulled off well.

I do have to admit, though, that moral ambiguity has become standard enough in popular storytelling that I think it takes just as much creative fortitude to tell a good story with carefully defined morals.


Yeah, I definitely worded that poorly. I’m rarely as articulate and eloquent as I’d like to be. After I posted that, something didn’t sit right with me, and that’s clearly what it was. I was a bit confused, because like you said, moral ambiguity and cynicism are often paired together. What I should have said is, often times a cynical tone is a direct result of a character’s moral ambiguity. That’s basically what I was driving at. Either way, I can agree that leaving issues unresolved and radically succumbing to a fatalist attitude seems like a tidy cop-out.


Goody, have you checked out this guy’s critiques of the series? It was fun to read what this guy had to say. It makes me wanna reread the series myself.