“Alex + Ada” #2 by Sarah Vaughn and Jonathan Luna picks up immediately from the ending of the debut issue, which ended with the two leads meeting when Alex opened the box containing Ada.
How complex can a robot’s personality be, especially when they are designed to be compliant and to make the owner feel good? Ada is more like a pet than a girlfriend, and she expresses no real opinions except to agree with Alex and to reassure and comfort him. And yet, with her wide-apart eyes and gentle smile, she is easy to like and become attached to, even if there is still just a touch of creepiness in her submissiveness and her looks-human-but-not-human status.
Alex also remains sympathetic, even though he spends most of “Alex and Ada” #2 freaking out and being embarrassed. His interaction with Ada is so gentle, especially when he apologizes to her despite their being no need for him to do so. The scene in which he tests the waters of public opinion with his friend Jacob is a bit of clever storytelling. Given the series title, it’s a near-certainty the second issue won’t be the end of the Alex’s contact with Ada, and yet Vaughn and Luna are still able to create suspense about the details of whether Alex will initially return Ada to Tanaka or not. Already, the creative team is able to make the reader care about the characters and be invested in seeing how things turn out. Alex and Ada’s gentleness to each other is so sweet that it seems to be just on the verge of affection.
The character development throughout “Alex + Ada” #2 is subtle and deliberate but rapid, revealed primarily through actions which are realistic and ordinary but feel emotionally significant. Luna’s nuances in body language and facial expression build a feeling of intensity into the main characters’ conversations. The supporting cast isn’t fleshed out yet, but so far Alex’s outrageous grandmother is an excellent foil to her grandson in her friendly pushiness, her loudness, her joy and zest for life.
The pacing is just right, quick enough to keep the reader hooked and slow enough for contemplation. The action feels spacious instead of decompressed. As fellow reviewer Kelly Thompson noted in her review of “Alex + Ada” #1, Luna and Vaughn’s world-building feels effortless, even invisible. Alex’s world has a lot of futuristic technology, but it is easy to absorb and understand and never creates a barrier to believability. At this point, the reader also knows a lot about Alex without ever being told anything explicitly.
Alex’s life and the space in which he works and lives feels clean and uncluttered, but also lonely, and much of this is due to Luna’s spare style. Thus, Ada’s presence in “Alex + Ada” feels like a flower blooming, or a blush of heat in a cool room. Luna’s interiors have an Edward Hopper-esque feeling of depth. His color palette of pastels and neutrals is pleasantly subdued and balanced, calming to behold like an Agnes Martin painting. One of the great things about “Alex + Ada” is how quiet it feels in the spaces between Luna’s shapes, and how the storytelling is within the movements and feelings as well as words. Vaughn and Luna have followed up on a promising debut with an even better second issue.