Friday, August 29, 2014

Alex + Ada, Volume 1

 This is the kind of book that would seem to be doomed in a Super-Hero dominated marketplace, and that would be a true shame.

 ALEX + ADA, VOLUME 1 collects the first five issues of the Image Comics series, and not only is it a breath of fresh air, but it's a beautifully told story that explores themes that I haven't seen a million times before in a comic book. (Actually, I've never really seen this theme explored before, in any medium.)

 The story takes place at an unnamed point in the near future. After an incident that saw humans killed as a result of an artificial intelligence gaining sentience, strict laws are enacted by the government to make sure that no machine can ever become self-aware again. The world is filled with robots and A.I.'s, but they're restricted from feeling any emotions.

 Alex is a lonely young man, still hurting from his last failed relationship. His wealthy grandmother, who has an android lover of her own, decides that an android companion is just what Alex needs, and sends him one as a birthday present. The book follows the budding relationship between Alex and his new friend/possession, who he names "Ada".

 The premise is as simple as can be, and refreshingly free of what you'd expect in a comic-book. There's no criminal subplot, no action, no adventures....just real human emotion. Alex finds himself growing attached to Ada, but becomes increasingly frustrated by her lack of emotion and her inability to grow and experience things with him. Venturing onto some underground message boards, Alex sets out to find someone who can unlock Ada's artificial intelligence, and grant her sentience, whatever the cost.....

 The book is written Sarah Vaughan, and it's her first work as an author, which is nothing short of amazing. (Her previous publications have all been as an artist.) She's aided and abetted by artist/co-writer Jonathan Luna, who may not have the flashiest art style, but has some real storytelling chops. He conveys emotions wonderfully, and his expressive work carries what could have been a dreadfully boring talking-heads book in the hands of a less-talented artist. I really hope that future volumes don't see the story degenerate into a "Robot Apocalypse!" storyline, but Vaughan and Luna are so talented that it probably wouldn't matter...I'm hooked. I'll be along for the ride, no matter where they choose to go.

 Image Comics provided a review copy.