Art by: Jonathan Luna
Published by: Image Comics
“Alex + Ada #8” relishes the ground the series has broken so far and plays within the philosophical jungle-gym that Sarah Vaughn and Jonathan Luna have constructed. This is still a love story, and before you get all gruff and roll your eyes, know that there is plenty of rich social commentary and a relevant science-fiction premise at work here as well. But at the heart of this tale lie Alex and Ada, powerful characters whose relationship is the springboard for everything this book does well. The two characters provide the emotional charge needed to build a connection with the readers and have us engage in the questions the creative team is asking. With pesky exposition for the most part in the rear-view mirror, we’re free to focus entirely on the growing, evolving, and compelling relationship between Alex and Ada, as well as on the philosophical dilemma about whether Alex did the right thing in “waking up” Ada and whether it is something that should be fought for with respect to all androids.
Vaughn’s script is charming and strikes a chord with its honesty in representing the speech of everyday life. The book reads easily, and the characters seem like real people. There’s none of the verbosity so common in comics. Alex + Ada remarkably captures our mundane efforts to carry out meaningful conversations. The fluid transition for being in-sync with another person to completely misunderstanding them is brilliantly represented in this issue. We aren’t offered an explanation as to why it’s so difficult to have an open and honest conversation with a person you care about, but we’re exposed to a phenomenally scripted scene where neither Alex nor Ada seem to be able to say the right thing.
“Alex + Ada #8” ends on a terrific cliffhanger. If reading comics teaches you anything it’s to not trust what the last page of an issue tells you. But regardless of how things turn out next month, this installment has arguably the best ending to any single issue of the series yet. The story has become a complicated web of flourishing curiosity for Ada as she discovers for the first time the world around her. And she discovers that the world is not yet ready to accept her. The discussion of this theme shows the series at its philosophical best.
Is it better to live and hide or be dead and free? In Alex’s case he believed that he would rather take the risk and give Ada sentience than have her remain an android. To grapple with this question is to grapple with what it means to be human. What’s best for you? What’s best for society as a whole? And should those two things come into conflict, which should take precedence? Vaughn and Luna present the argument in an interesting way, having Alex and his grandmother take opposing sides. Also, evoking the emancipation of slaves and women in the previous centuries as well as the current struggle of the LGBT community, Alex + Ada effectively captures the beauty of freedom. But in Alex + Ada freedom has a horrific ability to destroy too. A world fighting against something that it fears and does not understand isn’t a new concept, but Vaughn and Luna provide a fresh spin on an old trope.
Luna adds a healthy dose of charm to the book and in particular the characters. His distinct style features a no-nonsense approach that doesn’t waste details and draws your eye to the subject at hand. Alex + Ada shows consistency as Luna faithfully portrays the characters he has created and makes so-called normal-looking people distinguishable, something that many artists struggle to do in books that don’t feature iconic capes and cowls. Intense, personal moments are presented with such gravitas that it seems more like watching a good film than reading a comic book. This series offers something different, a more toned-down and realistic version of the world than most comics on stands. But in that respect it hinders itself in an unfortunate way as well. The great writing and clever story will carry the book for most readers, but for those wavering on the fence, the art may not be enough considering it lacks the gut-punching, hair-pulling thrills that are offered by many other series. This isn’t a series that is going to give you massive, epic landscapes or beautifully choreographed battles.
“Alex + Ada #8” is a great piece that fits perfectly into the story so far, but its quality is very much balanced upon your past appreciation of the series and your future intention to continue reading. Since I have loved the series from the first issue and plan to see it through to its conclusion, this was a very satisfying read. It addresses some of the deep questions that I’ve been asked myself since I started reading the series, heralding back memories of the first time I read I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. This installment also succeeds on an emotional level as we achieve a hitherto unsurpassed level of drama between the two protagonists. This is a series at the peak of its story-telling powers and it successfully envelops the reader on many different levels.
“Alex + Ada #8 ” earns 8.4 / 10