I'm not a graphic novel person, or I wasn't-- I didn't grow up on DC & Marvel, and I've only started reading the Marvel comics as a result of the movies. Call me a pretender, call me a reverse fangirl, whatever, but as much as I have always been able to say that graphic novels can well indeed represent an art form in their own right, they just weren't for me.
I still throw half the Avengers comics against the wall, and the reboot Trek comics are horrifically bad. I only read them so I have any idea what might be going on in the movie universe.
But. There are comics out there, I'm learning, that are not all Ka-Boom and Ka-Pow, and that mesh visually stunning pictures with narrative stories that draw me in and don't leave me feeling like I'm not getting the whole story. Too many "old-fashioned" comic books felt not just narratively truncated but emotionally stunted for me. But now I'm discovering Unwritten, Fables, Daniel Clowes and more, in addition to the well-written, clever comics like Hellboy which combine the Ka-Pow with real feeling and story arcs.
So when a friend suggested I try Brian Vaughan's Ex Machina series, and promised the writing was good, I gave it a try.
I'm glad that I did, even though reading it this week in Boston was hard. What happens when an ordinary engineer gets dosed with some weird luminescent river bacteria and ends up being able to talk to machines? Among other things, he becomes a vigilante superhero and stops one of the planes from crashing into the World Trade Towers... then grows up to become Mayor of New York, one with a case of serious snark and even more serious survivor's guilt. It's only the start of his challenges, and Vol. 1, The First Hundred Days, is a beautifully finessed look at how useless superpowers can be in the face of mere human stupidity, greed, desperation, and frailty, not to mention other uncontrollable things like weather.
What's the world's only ex-superhero and New York's mayor to do?
Damned if I know, but I'll keep on reading.
(N.B., I read this on my Nook HD+, and the resolution and ZoomView were great so that I could really gawk at all of the panels in minute detail. So far, vol. 1 is the only edition out in e-book for Nook. I have gone and clicked furiously on the rest of Brian Vaughan's work on B & N's website to demand e-editions, but I may have to read the rest in paper for now. It'll be worth it.)