Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gun, With Occasional Music and Ex Machina, Vol. 1

    Well, I'll say this about Allan Traylor; he assigns very readable books. Granted, Brian Vaughan's Ex Machina is a graphic novel and neither it nor Jonathan Lethem's Gun, With Occasional Music is particularly long, but it's the first day of the month and I'm already 2 books done. These books weren't a lot of work (and I don't mean that as faint praise), but they were a lot of fun.
    Let's begin with Ex Machina. I was already familiar with Vaughan's work, due to my love for his incredible series, Y: The Last Man. I've said before that it takes a series awhile to find it's groove, but Vaughan is the exception to that rule. Both Ex and Y start strong and I can only hope that Ex  is as consistently enjoyable as Y turned out to be. Mitchell Hundred is the mayor of New York and a retired superhero who called himself The Great Machine. The story opens as a look back on what was, ultimately, a disastrous term, though we reach the end of the first volume without knowing why. This book is just the right combination of dramatic and comic; the dialogue is sharp, the characters are complex, and the pacing is perfect. I'm looking forward to continuing this series.
    Gun, With Occasional Music marks the first time, since this project began, that someone has assigned me a book that I had already read. How glad I am that he did. I had forgotten what a pleasure this book is to read. Set in a not-too-distant future in which both babies and animals receive evolution treatments (leading to a mob boss with a kangaroo for muscle and "babyheads" in bars, trying to drink their lost childhood away), drugs are a part of the government program, and a loss of karma points can cost you your life. Conrad Metcalf is a private detective on a confusing case, and narrating events like the lead in a Raymond Chandler novel. Lethem mixes the dystopian setting and hard-boiled feel and creates something both old and new, often in the same sentence. 
    February begins with a bang. Both of these books are a ton of fun for readers, a lot of payoff for so little work.

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