Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn’s “Alex + Ada” #7 brings several new but very natural revelations about Alex and Ada’s world, and considerably ups the stakes with Ada’s newfound sentience and the government making it an even bigger crime.
Easily my favorite aspect of “Alex + Ada” is how naturally Luna and Vaughn tell the story, never falling into lazy voice over narration or large swathes of exposition. Instead they excel at showing instead of telling. When readers learn more about Ada or the book’s world, it’s through an interaction rather than an info dump or character’s awkward internal narration.
The most powerful peek into Alex and Ada’s world comes when they bump into a jogger in Alex’s neighborhood. The jogger refers to his own older model of robot — by her type (X3) rather than an actual name, no less — and it’s clear his use and interest in his robot is basically as a sex bot, which has never been so bluntly stated or crudely referred to during the course of the story. And it’s especially powerful as it’s a very opposite path from the one Alex and Ada are on. It’s a stark and well-managed reveal that feels like a bucket of water thrown onto Alex and Ada’s attempt to carve out something more nuanced and complicated from life.
Alex also finally goes to see his grandmother and her robot Daniel in this issue, taking Ada to meet them for dinner. Alex’s Grandmother, a rather fascinating character in her own right, can immediately tell something is “off” with Ada and tests her in subtle and unsubtle ways. Ada eventually fails one of these tests — in an intriguing way that says a lot about who she is and what is different about her now on a core level — and is outed to Alex’s grandmother as being sentient.
The writing, and even plotting, of “Alex + Ada” has this smooth hypnotic feel that works in the book’s favor and is well matched for the art. Life in Alex and Ada’s world is slow, clean, and very controlled, to which the art speaks perfectly. Luna and Vaughn’s style plays to the strength of the art in very clever ways and thus, for the most part, the art and writing feel perfectly in sync. However, the art does have its weaknesses and every once in a while they are badly exposed. In this issue, it’s a scene in which Alex speaks with his friend at work and the friend comments that Alex seems happy, and that he hasn’t seen him look happy in a while. But the visuals don’t sync with that at all. Alex looks exactly as he does in every other panel. What usually seems like a deliberate choice by the artist is suddenly exposed as a lack of range.
Exposed weaknesses aside, “Alex + Ada” #7 is a smart and very cool book telling a supremely engaging story that moves well despite being technically rather decompressed. We’ve all read stories that mine similar territory to “Alex + Ada,” but never quite like this. Luna and Vaughn have already proven that they have something interesting to say, and with time they might even be headed towards legitimately insightful.