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.