What is love? Is it purely chemical, or can it be created, manufactured, programmed? This is the question raised by creators Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn in their new series, Alex + Ada. Set in the far flung future where androids have all the traits and attributes as their human counterparts, Alex + Ada offers a different view of how personal connection is made.
We meet Alex in the midst of a rut, his every waking moment still dominated by the end of his last relationship seven months prior. His life is a solitary one; he lives by himself, takes his meals and entertainment solo,then retires alone only to rinse and repeat the next morning. His friends try to bring him out but the sight of happy couples, unencumbered by loss, only serves to drive him further into the recesses of loneliness he’s come to accept. In a world where everything can be turned on with a thought, the one thing Alex can’t seem to turn back on is his heart.
At some point, we’ve all been Alex. Writers Luna and Vaughn do a wonderful job at making Alex inherently relatable, giving us a character who has long since given up and is simply going through the motions. There’s a great moment early on where Alex’s alarm goes off, telling him to “wake up.” The message is then repeated, as even when Alex is awake, he isn’t really. There’s a sadness to him, one that only comes from regret, and despite the well meaning intentions of his friends and family he just can’t seem to let go of what was. That is, until his well meaning (and TMI loving) grandmother gifts him a birthday present that could potentially change his life forever.
Alex + Ada is a lesson in simplicity. Much of the script has Alex by himself, we readers treated as flies on a wall, observing Alex in a remote and personal setting. Pages can go by with nary a word bubble, instead relying on tone and mood established by Luna’s art. Given that there’s no exposition to steer our own thoughts, it’s pretty amazing how investing the story is. Usually books set in the future are cluttered and glaring, focused on how different and advanced things will eventually be. In Alex + Ada, the technology is practically an afterthought, everything streamlined to be as efficient and effortless as possible without being over the top. Luna and Vaughn want us to focus on the characters, rolling them out in such a slow and deliberate fashion that you can’t help but relate. The end of the issue is obvious (otherwise the title would just be Alex) but the writing duo does such a nice job setting up the reveal that you can’t help but be excited for what comes next.
The art is typical Luna, a mix of simple designs and muted colors. The book has a very clean look to it, a byproduct of Luna’s style and the minimalist world in which the characters inhabit. At times shifts in character’s emotions can be a tad too subtle, but overall Luna’s art complements the story quite well. I particularly enjoyed the little touches–the holo-bot barely visible behind the video screen, the slight blue glow emanating from the temples during a mind chat–and Luna’s body language in particular is a standout. If you’re a fan of Luna’s previous works, there’s much to enjoy, but big and flashy it is not.
Luna and Vaughn bring a stripped down approach to a high end concept, the result a thought provoking and emotionally stirring tale. Though issue one is a bit slow, it works, setting the stage for what has the potential to be quite the love story. They say happiness isn’t bought, its made, and Alex + Ada dares to ask if it can’t be both.