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Alex + Ada #1 – Review

By: Jonathan Luna (story, script, illustration, letters) and Sarah Vaughn (story, script)

The Story: In a technological near-future, a young man named Alex is given an android named Ada.

Review (with minor SPOILERS): I’m very glad I bought this comic.  Even though I’ve never loved previous comics from the Luna Brothers, I decided to give this a try and see what happens.

It turns out that what Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn have created is a wonderful and classically-themed science-fiction story.  The sci-fi genre can get a bad rap sometimes, but it is almost without peer in its ability to make readers consider real-life social problems from a different point of view.  Sometimes just hitting us the in face with a story about slavery or exploitation would be blunt and direct, but when you use sci-fi to give us a glancing blow we actually think about what it all means.

The story set-up is pretty basic.  It is set in the near-future where day-to-day life is still mostly recognizable.  There are no spaceships; there is no traveling to terraformed Mars.  It’s just the same stuff we do every day, but with slightly better technology.  We meet Alex (the protagonist) and see him using this technology.  Basically, he has the uber smart house.  Everything is wired to react to his thoughts.  Nowadays, we can wire our homes to do most of these things, but we have to get out our smartphones to control the lights or coffee pot.  Alex just thinks “Lights” and the lights turn off/on.  We also meet some of Alex’s co-workers and learn that not everyone has this technology implanted in their brains.  In fact, lots of people are still managing household appliances the old-fashioned way and expressing mild concern for their friends who are too sucked in by technology.  We also learn that technology is starting to become sentient.  The AI isn’t at Terminator-levels, but it is becoming aware and isn’t always happy with the humans.  And we meet Alex’s grandmother who doesn’t have the thought-reading technology in her head, but has bought an android sex toy/household servant (Daniel).  Finally, along the way, we follow Alex’s sad love life: He’s been broken up with the girl of his dreams for a few months and just cannot get it into gear with the ladies.

And then he comes home to find that his grandmother has bought him his own android: Enter Ada.

Man, they can make such an interesting tale out of this if they want to.  There are all sorts of stuff about free-will, what it means to be human, slavery, etc.  The obvious central theme will be how Alex chooses to treat Ada, but some facts from issue #1 indicate that the creators want to talk about some deep stuff:

  • Alex is comfortable using all the technology in his head to turn on the lights or run the coffee pot.  That technology might be just as semi-sentient as Ada.  Does he only care about Ada because she looks like an attractive woman and not a pile of electronics?
  • Alex didn’t really care about his grandmother’s sex-toy android beyond being grossed out by her talking about sex with him.  It was more the reaction you’d give if your grandmother started talking about her vibrator.  “Ugh! Grandma!  WTF?!”  There was no concern for her sex-toy android.  Why should he feel differently about Ada?
  • The grandmother is comfortable using her sex-toy android for sex and household chores, BUT she doesn’t have the implanted technology in her head to control household appliances.
  • I wonder if Alex’s co-worker (the “bro” who calls everyone “Dude!”) will urge Alex to treat Ada like a sex toy, despite the fact that he himself doesn’t have his head wired with technology like Alex.
  • And what happens when the androids become self-aware?  That’ll certainly happen in this series.  I foresee a future issue where Ada has to decide whether to kill Alex or not when the robots are rising up.

Basically, I think this comic has a LOAD of potential and I’m optimistic because the creators seem familiar with how to tell these sorts of stories.  Of course, these stories are NOT new. Blade Runner, I, Robot, etc. have all addressed this story.  The ancient Greeks were talking about Pygmalion over 2000 years ago.  But they’re still great stories because they say so much about how we treat each other and challenge whether our perspectives warp the way we behave: Ada looks like a pretty girl and deserves protection; Daniel looks like a douche-bag, gold-digger pool boy, so to hell with him.  And these themes have real-life applications.  Even if you aren’t concerned about the treatment of the machines if/when they become self-aware, what should we do with animal species who we are learning are more mentally complex than we’d previously thought: Whales, porpoises, great apes, dogs, etc.

The art is capable.  In a story like this, the art needs to just cooperate with the story and generally be innocuous.  In fact, if the art was dramatically excellent, it might even distract from the depth of the story.  The art does what it needs to and shows that good storytelling is very different from superb draftsmanship.

Conclusion: A potentially great series.  We’ll have to see what the creators do with future issues, but this has potential to fill that void of thought-provoking comics that has been vacant since Fashion Beast and Punk Rock Jesus ended and since The Unwritten kinda went awry.  Definitely check it out.

Grade: A

-Dean Stell

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