Tag Archives: Jared K Fletcher

Vaughan and Harris Ex Machina

Brian K Vaughan and Tony Harris (creators), Tom Feister (inks), JD Mettler (colors) and Jared K Fletcher (letters), Ex Machina, Book One (Vertigo 2013) – originally published in 11 single magazines in 2004 and 2005

Having decided – several times – not to read any more superhero comics, here I am again. But this one is written by Brian K Vaughan, who was to go on to write the wonderful comic series Y: The Last Man, Paper Girls, and Saga (currently on hiatus).

What if the world’s first real superhero had been jetting around New York City on 11 September 2001, and had managed to intercept the second plane, saving thousands of lives? What if he realised that superhero vigilantism was of limited effectiveness and decided that he could probably do more good by running for Mayor of New York City? And what if he won the election as an independent candidate?

Ex Machina begins when civil engineer Mitchell Hundred, having decided to end his brief career as superhero The Great Machine, has indeed been elected New York’s mayor, bound by promises not to discuss publicly the origins of his superpowers (biggest of which is the ability to communicate with machines) an not to use those powers to do things best left to the police.

It goes without saying that things don’t go smoothly. Hundred inherits the New York mayoral burden of being blamed for everything. (Seth Meyers made hay with this tradition in his first Closer Look after Eric Adams became Mayor earlier this month.) He also has to deal with the burning issues of the early 2010s: terrorism, of course, but also same sex marriage, racism and the ongoing culture wars. And it wouldn’t be a superhero comic, even a retired one, without an overall arc involving mysterious possibly-alien graffiti and hideous serial killings … to be continued.

I don’t know that I’d recommend the book to serious lovers of fine literature, but I enjoyed it, and look forward to the subsequent five volumes. If nothing else, I enjoy Brian K Vaughan’s regular info-gems. For just one example, when his chief of staff points out that by officiating at a same-sex marriage he has alienated a huge segment of the population, he answers: ‘When Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, he turned to one of his aides and said, “I believe we’ve just lost the south forever.”‘ This isn’t the Marvel universe.

Brian K Vaughan’s Paper Girls Book 5

Brian K Vaughan (writer), Cliff Chiang (artist), Matt Wilson (colorist) and Jared K Fletcher (letterer), Paper Girls, Volume 5 (Image 2018)

So many books to read and, assuming I don’t live to much past 100, so little life left. Yet here I am writing about another instalment-compilation of a comic about a gang of young teenage girls taking on cosmic time-travelling forces. I plead in mitigation that this blog is a record of every book I read, however embarrassing or daunting the book. And this one has jumped to the front of the reading queue because it came as a birthday gift with invisible strings attached: the giver expects to be able to read it himself, soon!

The girls are in the future, dealing with time-travel paradoxes, particularly the ones generated by Tiffany having met her older self in Volume 4. The nature of their enemies is becoming clearer, and with it our hope that they will survive. There’s a terrible death, some incipient, awkward romance, and in the last pages a big twist that ensures that the story will continue for quite some time yet.

I didn’t warm to the artwork at all at first. In particular, the colouring seemed kind of drab. But I’ve not just acclimatised, but come to respect and even love the stylish near monochrome of much of the book.

Brian K Vaughan’s Paper Girls Book 4

Brian K Vaughan (writer), Cliff Chiang (artist), Matt Wilson (colorist) and Jared K Fletcher (letterer), Paper Girls, Volume 4 (Image 2018)

I wasn’t enthralled by Volumes 1 and 2 of this Girl-Goonies-meet-War-of-the-Worlds comic series, but when my Supplier gave me Volume 4 as a Christmas present I wasn’t unhappy.

Our time-travelling twelve-year-old girl heroes have left their newspaper delivering days well behind them, though there’s an occasional reminder that the skills and smarts acquired on their rounds come in handy when you’re caught up in a great war being fought wherever there are weird folds in the space time continuum. In Volume 3 the girls dealt with dinosaurs (I missed that instalment). Now it’s New Year’s Day 2000, and Y2K is a lot more dangerous and dramatic than it was in real life (always assuming that we haven’t all had our memories wiped, as happens to some of the characters here).

What can I say? I’m warming to it.

Brian K Vaughan’s Paper Girls Books 1 and 2

Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, Paper Girls, Volume 1 and Volume 2 (Image 2016)

Yet another comic series from the brilliant and prolific Brian K Vaughan, co-creator of Y: The Last Man and Saga. This time, working with an all-male team (Cliff Chiang on pencils, Matt Wilson colorist and Jared K Fletcher as distinctive letterer), he gives us lead characters who are all female: twelve-year-old girls who deliver newspapers in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio.

No sooner are the four bike-riding heroines introduced, doing their rounds early on the morning after Halloween in 1988, than weird, deadly dangerous things start to happen. It’s like a female Goonies or Stranger Things, only even more incident-packed and – at least at first – explanation-light. The word that came to mind as the first volume’s action progresses, complete with weird time-machines (note the plural) and pterodactyl-riding robots (I think), is ‘bonkers’, but in a good way. The second volume’s carnivorous grubs the size of four-story buildings don’t do much to restore equilibrium.

1632158957By the end of the second volume, most of the weirdness has at least a broadbrush explanation, but I have no idea what will happen next, or why these four girls are so important to the participants in the massive multi-generational multi-time-period battle that rages around them.

Any confusion doesn’t come from muddle in the artwork, which is wonderfully clear,  or for that matter in the story-telling. The teasing is deliberate. The girls are caught up in a hugely complex conflict. We are ahead of them in a couple of details – we recognise the Apple logo on an artefact dropped by an ‘alien’, for instance, and likewise a ‘Hillary for President’ poster seen on their visit to 2016 – but mostly we’re plunged into the action with hardly any more perspective than they have. For them of course it’s life and death. For us it’s fun.