Publication date: July 16th, 2014
Publisher: Image comics
Illustrator: Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn
Targeted audience: People
Genre: Graphic novel/ Sci-fi/ Futuristic/ with a bit of romance
Blurb: From JONATHAN LUNA (GIRLS, THE SWORD, ULTRA, Spider-Woman: Origin) and SARAH VAUGHN (Sparkshooter) comes ALEX + ADA, a sci-fi drama set in the near future. The last thing in the world Alex wanted was an X5, the latest in realistic androids. But after Ada is dropped into his life, he discovers she is more than just a robot.
There are a lot of things I like about this graphic novel series. One of them is how this series does something that you don’t see much in graphic novels and comic books, that is, it sets the pace of a normal life, gives the story and characters space and time to develop and that coupled with a simple, not uncommon but heartfelt story, works extremely well.
Alex is a normal guy, going through his day to day life, going through all the little things, every boring and treacherous necessity of life, quite unremarkable-y. He has a job that he hates, gadgets of the future world, ex-girlfriend that he is not fully over and friends throwing parties he isn’t really into. Quite basically, he’s in a slump. (O’ life!)
Comics usually rely on action and happening and a lot of time makes them feel rushed, especially for a reader who is used to reading words and words and words to be action, surrounding, dialog, and thoughts.
Comic reading is a lot like wine tasting, to fully enjoy it, you need to savor every single aspect of it and take it in and let it mingle with your senses. They need to be appreciated for all the aspects- the color, the art, the drawing, the placement, angle, background, and all the tiny little details including the facial expressions and the creation of a real looking surrounding. This is a little hard for someone whose primary means to fiction is getting carried away by words with a bout of imagination in your pocket (I’m still learning).
This makes Alex + Ada a very good comic for newbies to get into. What i loved in particular was the spacing in the panels because it gives a lot of breathing room and combined with the setting pace of his life, it sets a synchronous hum in our minds as well.
In terms of plot, Alex + Ada is quite unoriginal and predictable. I didn’t think that this was a bad thing and on the contrary, I loved how we got to know these characters in small ounces and bouts that felt very genuine and real.
Like I mentioned, Alex is a normal guy who is living a pretty tired life. He finds no joy in life. Then 0n his birthday, his grand mother surprise gifts him with a X5, the latest realistic android, very much to his displeasure.
Never the less, he goes along with it and powers up the robot. The robot is… disappointing, to say the least. The robot, who he names Ada, puts artificial intelligence to a shame. And Alex is yet again disheartened.
In the next turn of events, Alex discovers that inside, Ada is a person with tastes and opinions. However, that person is simply asleep, disconnected from the actions of Ada the body.
So Alex, who wants a little more than this shell of a person, decides to make Ada a sentient i.e. wake up the person she is deep down inside. The person with opinions. The real person.
Obviously, creating sentient robots is against the law (due to incidents). And what happens next, is for you (or not you) to read on.
One very interesting angle this book plays with is who we give the privilege of being a person. As Alex gets to know the real Ada, he is faced with the question of whether she is just a collection of machines with a conscience and if so, does that count as an actual person, with no boundaries attached? In the outside world, governments are banning sentient robots to avoid incidents and some people are fighting for the rights of a robot- they deserve to be free too!
The obvious parallels are the on going and existing discrimination against different people- whether it be religion, race, gender, sexuality and even acquired things such as wealth, status and education. There is an unconscious bias in all of us, whether it’s that girl in class who gets poor marks on all her tests, or that stereotypical blond bombshell with boobs and boys, or that frivolous cousin who despite encouragement and endless help from his parents keeps doing drugs and sleeps in all days.
Don’t we at some point, assign them a role and maybe think that that popular person with tons of friends doesn’t really have true friends because how can someone be friends with a fake person (pun intended)?
Don’t we strip people of the right to be fully functioning, thinking people with thoughts when we judge their decisions with our thoughts? After all, we aren’t them, we don’t see the world through their eyes, and so don’t we, sometimes, strip them of being an actual person behind our perception of them?
Take the simple act of people watching, a very popular activity portrayed in books, movies and television of the protagonist judging peoples choices based on the protagonist’s judgement. The idea that that other person has an equal and rational thought for choosing what-you-think is a hideous top is positively puzzling, because how could anyone find that top you find so repelling, actually, genuinely nice??
It is hard for us humans, who live our entire lives through our eyes, our mind and our thoughts, with us being the absolute center of our world, to understand the thinking of a different mind.
This went in a very different direction than how I was planning to take it…
Never the less, this book highlights inequality and discrimination and our definition of a person. And it has a pretty good story which is entertaining and engaging and makes us feel, while keeping it very simple and grounded.
I give this book a full four stars and I recommend it to people who want to expand their reading and want to welcome graphic novels and people who like simple yet touching story lines and themes and people who don’t mind cliche human-bot stories and fans of minimalist story telling art.
Additionally, I have not finished reading the entire series as I have not got my hands on the 15th issue yet, which is splendid because the 14th issue ends on very much a cliff hanger. What is actually splendid though, is that in my distressed state after finishing the 14th issue, I sent a tweet to Mr Luna himself highlighting my state and he liked it!
Here’s to a book you should probably read…