Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Tony Harris (pencils and inks), Jim Clark (inks), JD Mettler (colors), and Jared K. Fletcher (letters)

The Story: With his political career teetering on the edge as the threat of Jack Pherson looms, will Mitchell Hundred don the helmet and jetpack one last time?

What’s Good: The greatest thing about this final story arc has been that it always leaves you craving for more.  This month’s comic is no different; with a cliffhanger ending that’ll have you chomping at the bit.  In fact, so potent is the ending that it legitimately feels as if next month’s issue will be the last in the series, despite there being six more after it.  Also, it makes Mitchell come across as a total badass, which is pretty cool, given that he has spent almost the entire series as a self-deprecating, likable, wisecracking everyman.

Considering how deep the mystery was last month, I didn’t think that Vaughan could ratchet up the tension any further.  Regardless, he does so this month by dropping these little hints that, right now, are unintelligible and yet promise so much.  What the heck happened on “November 6, 2001?”  What’s with “Jack Pherson” (if that is him) and his biblical language?  Who is he talking to and where did he come from?  And once again, though we actually see it this month, what in God’s name is the white box?  The mystery borders upon unbearable, showing that Vaughan is doing something right.

Not content with merely creating a thoroughly engaging final arc and conflict, however, Vaughan shows himself to be tireless in his development of Mitchell as a character.  His relationship with Kremlin deepens and softens and we finally, out of nowhere, get an answer regarding Mitchell’s sexuality in a manner that is sure to hit home.

Drawing this all up, of course, is Tony Harris who, despite a rocky start in issue 41, has really started to hit his stride again.  I didn’t spot any flagrantly static, “posed” frames this month, which is often a problem for him.  Furthermore, I really, really liked how dark the colors and how heavy the inks were.  It delivered a shadowy feel that really fit the sense of impending doom and enshrouding mystery.

What’s Not-so-Good: Despite a really cool ending, there are no revelatory moments this month and though those afore mentioned unintelligible hints are dropped, nothing is made sense of or explained.  Vaughan, while not at all treading water, doesn’t give you any answers this month.  He’s clearly working to suck you in, but this also means that he’s moving at a relatively leisurely pace; though the ending promises next month’s issue will be, at the very least, action-packed.  Though great, this month’s comic is a clear set-up issue.

Conclusion: Yup, this is definitely an Ex Machina comic.  A smart blend of the everyday and the weird with fantastic character-work and one hell of an ending.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans