By: Sarah Vaughn (story/script) and Jonathan Luna (story/script assists, art, letters)
The Story: What will Alex do with his new android?
Review (with minor SPOILERS): This issue wasn’t quite as aces as the first, but that’s more a consequence of where it falls in the dramatic arc rather than any weakness in the issue itself. The first issue showed tremendous promise that it wanted to tackle a LOT of the deep, thorny issues around ownership of sentient androids: How do we care for them? What do we subject them to? When does it veer into slavery?
That first issue also seemed willing to tackle many of the questions of perspective of the reader or the characters: Maybe we care more about the plight of an attractive android that looks like a young woman than we do about the boxy robot that fetches our slippers? Maybe the only reason we care is that one is humanized and the other is a metal box? Heck, do we care more for the plight of an android that looks like a demure young woman than an android that looks like a stripper?
Well, the second issue didn’t dive right into those questions, but it is really too early in the story to really wrestle with them. We readers need a little more time to get to know Ada the android and care about her before we can be upset at some of the things that happen to her.
Perhaps the most important thing about this issue is that it reconfirmed to me the type of story that Vaughn/Luna want to tell. It really is deep type of humanity/slavery story that I’d hoped. You can see it in little moments of the story like when Alex returns home from work and Ada is standing right where he left her and she is about to collapse from lack of energy. All of a sudden, Alex is full of concern and even has Otto (his boxy, metal house robot) helping to prepare food for Ada. The point is that Alex reacts with concern probably just because of how Ada looks. I doubt he would have reacted the same way if he’d forgotten to plug in Otto. Heck….he doesn’t even check Otto’s energy levels; he just commands Otto to help feed Ada. Maybe Otto is on 10% energy himself. The point is that Otto is just a futuristic Romba; Ada is – maybe – a person?
The whole food thing is pretty interesting. The androids can eat anything that is edible to power their operations. Alex prepares Ada real food. But, Alex’s mother drops that you could just as easily feed them cat food. Hey….cat food is edible to humans, right? And, while you’re at it, why bother with plates and forks….just have them lick the cat food out of the can. To be clear, the mother doesn’t go beyond the suggestion that cat food is a possibility, but she doesn’t have to and the implied point is clear. An android like Ada will have only as much dignity as Alex affords her.
The big event of the issue is that Alex wants to send Ada back to the store, but can’t quite do it. It’s a little like saying you don’t want a dog – SWEAR TO GOD, I DON’T WANT A DOG – but when it comes time to call animal control to pick up that stray dog in your yard…well…it’s pretty hard to actually do it because you know what will probably happen to the dog and the dog is kinda cute. Suddenly you have a dog and your life is changed. If fact, you can even see some of that dog analogy in Alex + Ada. There is a lot of real-life literature coming out about how some animals exhibit a LOT more complex emotion and self-awareness than we’d given them credit for. Consider a dog. Some dogs (not all) are pretty clever and emotionally complex animals. They’re not little humans, but they aren’t ficus trees either. Yet, you can take that smart, emotionally complex creature to the pound and have it destroyed if it poops on your rug. It’s legal. We do animal research on dogs. What we’re seeing with animals is that they aren’t humans, but on a scale of 0-100 they aren’t a zero either. How do you ethically treat creatures that are less than humans like a dog or chimpanzee or Ada?
We even get a moment of judgement from Alex’s friend who drops by and see’s that he owns an android (because they’re branded). It’s the kind of reaction you might get if someone found out you had a mail-order bride from a third-world country.
The art is perfectly appropriate for the comic. It isn’t glamorous art, but that’s really not the point. The most important thing the art must accomplish is to make Ada look sweet and vulnerable. The comic really wouldn’t work if she looks like an empowered pornstar-type superheroine. She needs to look like someone’s younger sister and Luna nails that. No complaints about the storytelling and lettering either. This is a complex book with many complex themes. You can’t get there on words alone and the art is more than up to the task.
Conclusion: A very solid second issue. This is a series to keep an eye on if you like comics that make you think.